John Ganz at The Baffler:
Lansdale’s early interventions in Vietnam during the 1950s were instrumental in installing and supporting the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam. Lansdale helped rig a phony plebiscite against the emperor Bao Dai where Diem received 98.2 percent of the vote. Diem was, by most accounts, a weak leader who tolerated the repressive tactics of his brother Nhu and his sister-in-law Madame Nhu. Lansdale was put in close liaison with Diem, even living in the presidential palace for a time, and he developed a friendly rapport with the man, who was often perceived as cold. But after Lansdale helped Diem fend off his rivals for power with a combination of force and bribery with money provided by the U.S. government, Diem distanced himself from Lansdale, saying “Lansdale is too CIA and an encumbrance. In politics, there is no room for sentiment.” In trying to tease out the complexities of the relationship, Boot fails to state clearly the obvious conclusion: Diem used Lansdale and the U.S. government for his own ends, believing he could manipulate them both.
Diem pretty consistently ignored Lansdale’s advice to take the country in a more democratic direction, instead favoring the ideology of Personalism that his brother Nhu espoused. “I like the guy, but I won’t buy fascism,” Lansdale said.