The Ugly American by William J. Lederer
Nationality 1: American
Nationality 1: American
William J. Lederer was born on March 31, 1912, in New York City, the son of William Julius and Paula (Franken) Lederer. He attended the United States Naval Academy, from which he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1936. Lederer’s main career was in the U.S. Navy, from 1930 to 1958. He retired as captain. During wartime he served in Asia and with the Atlantic Fleet. From 1950 to 1958 he was special assistant to the commander-in-chief, Pacific.
After Lederer retired from the navy, he went into journalism, becoming Far East correspondent for Reader’s Digest, from 1958 to 1963. He was author-in-residence at Harvard University, 1966-1967.
Lederer has written many books, including novels, short stories, and nonfiction on a variety of topics, during his long career. His best known work is The Ugly American (1958; with Burdick). His other novels include Sarkhan (1965; with Burdick) and I, Giorghos (1984). Ensign O’Toole and Me (1957) is a humorous look at life in the navy; A Nation of Sheep (1961) discusses how the United States could be more successful in its foreign aid projects. The Mirages of Marriage (1968; with Don D. Jackson) is an analysis of marriage in the United States. Other works include The Last Cruise (1950), All the Ships at Sea (1950), Timothy’s Song (1965), The Story of Pink Jade (1966), Our Own Worst Enemy (1968; published in England in 1969 as The Anguished American), and A Happy Book of Christmas Stories (1981).
Lederer married Ethel Victoria Hackett in 1940. They were divorced in 1965. In the same year, Lederer married Corinne Edwards Lewis. They divorced in 1976. Lederer has three sons.
Eugene (Leonard) Burdick was born in Sheldon, Iowa, on December 12, 1918. He was the son of Jack Dale, a painter, and Marie (Ellerbroek) Burdick.
Burdick gained a bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University in 1942. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy and became lieutenant commander. He was awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Cross. After the war he studied in England and received a Ph.D. from Magdalen College, Oxford University, in 1950.
Burdick became assistant professor and then professor of political theory at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1950 to 1965. In addition to his scholarly writings, which included a book on voting behavior, Burdick wrote novels. His first was The Ninth Wave (1956), about a California politician who exploits fear and hatred. This work was followed in 1958 by The Ugly American, which he co-wrote with William J. Lederer. The book became a bestseller. Burdick wrote several more novels: Fail-Safe (1962; with Harvey Wheeler) is about the accidental triggering of a nuclear war; The 480, about the selection of a Republican presidential candidate, followed in 1964. In 1965, Burdick collaborated again with Lederer on another novel set in southeast Asia, Sarkhan (1965), which was published as The Deceptive American in 1977. Burdick’s final work was the novel Nina’s Book (1965).
Burdick married Carol Warren in 1942; the couple had three children. Burdick died on July 26, 1965.
Summary and Analysis
The Ugly American begins in the fictional Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan, in the office of U.S. ambassador Louis Sears. Sears is upset because a hostile cartoon of him has appeared in the local newspaper.
Meanwhile an American named John Colvin is recovering in the hospital after being beaten up. Colvin has been trying to help the Sarkhanese learn how to use milk and its by-products, and he set up a milk-distribution center outside the capital city, Haidho. But he is betrayed by an old friend named Deong who has turned communist. Deong tells a group of Sarkhanese women that Colvin is trying to put a drug in the milk that would enable him to take advantage of Sarkhanese girls. Colvin denies it, but the women beat him. He is left unconscious on the steps of the U.S. Embassy.
The ambassador complains about the cartoon to Prince Ngong, the head of the Sarkhanese government. Ngong fears that a large U.S. loan may be in jeopardy and instructs the newspaper to print a flattering cartoon and editorial about Sears.
The second story introduces Ambassador Sears’s Russian counterpart, Louis Krupitzyn. Unlike Sears, Krupitzyn has had long preparation for his position. He can read and write Sarkhanese and understands Sarkhanese culture. He is also cunning. During a famine, the Americans send 14,000 tons of rice. However, Krupitzyn arranges for every bag of American rice to have stenciled on it in Sarkhanese that it is a gift from Russia. The Americans protest, but the Sarkhanese continue to believe the Russians were their benefactors.
The next character to be introduced is Father Finian, a Catholic priest from Boston who has been assigned to Burma. A fierce anti-communist, Finian recruits nine local Catholics who also want to fight communism. They publish a small anti-communist newspaper and then trick a Russian expert by secretly recording and then broadcasting disparaging things he has said about the local peasants. It then becomes clear to the local people that the Russians do not have their best interests at heart.
Joe Bing, a flamboyant American public relations officer in the Southeast Asian city of Serkya, gives a presentation in Washington about employment opportunities abroad. He paints a rosy picture of luxury travel, an excellent salary, low expenses, with no need to learn a foreign language. A young American, Marie McIntosh, is recruited. She writes home about the pleasant and luxurious life she now lives in Sarkhan.
Sears makes another diplomatic blunder over a rumor that the United States is about to evict the Sarkhanese Air Force from land lent to them. But Sears soon gets what he wants when he is recalled to the United States to take up a federal judgeship. The new ambassador is Gilbert MacWhite, a professional foreign-service officer. Unlike Sears, MacWhite learns the local language. MacWhite is eager to combat communist influence, but he makes the mistake of trusting his old Chinese servants, Donald and Roger. Li Pang, a visitor and friend of MacWhite, interrogates Donald and tricks him into revealing that he has been passing information to the communists. MacWhite tries to learn from his mistake by traveling in the Philippines and Vietnam so he can understand how to combat communism. In the Philippines, he hears about Colonel Hillandale, an American who embraces local culture and is known as “The Ragtime Kid” because of his love for jazz and his ability to play the harmonica.
Major James Wolchek of the U.S. Army visits Major Monet, a Frenchman, in Hanoi, Vietnam. The French are losing the battle against communist insurgents; at Dien Bien Phu, French forces are encircled. Monet invites Wolchek to parachute with French troops into the besieged fortress as a foreign observer, but before they can do this Dien Bien Phu falls to the communists. In subsequent skirmishes with the enemy, Monet and his legionnaires are defeated again and again. Wolchek explains to Monet and MacWhite that the communists are winning because they are practicing a new kind of warfare. As the communists press their assault on Hanoi, Wolchek and Monet are slightly wounded. MacWhite acquires a pamphlet by Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung that explains his concept of guerilla warfare. Monet uses these new tactics and wins a skirmish with the communists. But then the French evacuate Hanoi and a communist army enters the city.
In Cambodia, Tom Knox, an American, helps the local people improve their chicken and egg yield and is greeted with enthusiasm by villagers wherever he goes. At a conference that appraises the results of U.S. aid to Cambodia, Tom makes practical proposals for further increasing chicken and egg yield, but he is overruled because the Americans want to develop mechanized farms. When French government diplomats and a wealthy Cambodian landowner provide Tom with a series of luxury trips, he forgets all about his good idea.
In Sarkhan, Colonel Hillandale attends a dinner party given by the Philippine ambassador. Hillandale entertains everyone by giving palm readings, which is a respected practice in the country. He is given an opportunity to read the palm of the king, but the appointment is sabotaged by the hostility and incompetence of George Swift, MacWhite’s deputy. The king is insulted, and MacWhite gets Swift transferred.
In Hong Kong, a meeting of the Special Armament section of the Asia conference is discussing the prospect of placing U.S. nuclear weapons on Asian soil. The Asians become suspicious when the Americans refuse to discuss classified material about the safety of the weapons. Solomon Asch, leader of the American delegation, feels let down by Captain Boning, one of his negotiators, who gives the impression he is deliberately holding back information. As a result, the Asians decide to oppose the installation of nuclear weapons on their soil.
In Vietnam, Homer Atkins, a retired engineer, meets with Vietnamese, French, and U.S. officials. He has been asked to give advice on building dams and military roads, but he tells the Vietnamese that they should start with smaller projects they can do for themselves, such as building brick factories and a model canning plant. MacWhite is impressed by Atkins and invites him to Sarkhan, where Atkins teams up with a local man named Jeepo to design a water pump. They go into business together, hiring workers who manufacture the pumps and then sell them.
Atkins’s wife Emma notices that all the old people in the village of Chang ‘Dong have badly bent backs. She realizes this pervasive condition is due to the short-handled brooms they use for sweeping, so she invents a long-handled broom using sturdy reeds as a handle. The local people soon learn to make their own long-handled brooms.
Jonathan Brown, a tough U.S. senator, visits Vietnam to find out for himself what use is made of U.S. aid. He wants to meet local people, but the U.S. Embassy staff tries to control the information he has access to. On a visit to an ammunition depot, Brown questions a Vietnamese man, but Dr. Barre, the interpreter, alters the man’s answer in a way that he thinks will please the senator. The same thing happens when Brown visits Hanoi and tries to find out what the real military situation is there. As he goes home to the United States he realizes that he has talked only to military men and government officials, although later on the Senate floor he claims that he understands the situation in Vietnam because he has been there.
MacWhite is rebuked by the secretary of state for his testimony to a Senate committee about the situation in Southeast Asia. MacWhite replies that he fears the Russians will win the cold war unless the Americans act in the real interests of the countries whose friendship they need, not in the interest of propaganda. He makes many practical suggestions, all of which are rejected. He resigns as ambassador, and the State Department decides to replace him with Joe Bing.
The Ugly American ends with a “Factual Epilogue” in which the authors explain that although their stories are fiction, they are based on fact.
The Ugly American by William J. Lederer
Chapter 1, “Lucky, Lucky Lou #1” Summary
The novel, published in 1958, takes place in the early 1950s at the height of the Cold War between the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America. Set primarily in the fictional Asian country of Sarkhan, the struggle between Russian Communists and American Foreign Service personnel plays out battle by battle through examples of military, political and social events.
In 1953, Louis “Lucky” Sears, previously a three-term United States Senator, accepts the role of Ambassador to Sarkhan as a holding position while he waits for a Federal judgeship to become available in the States. Sears is thoroughly unqualified to be an Ambassador. He has no aptitude or interest in diplomacy and privately refers to the Sarkhanese people as “monkeys”. He does not speak or read more than a few words of Sarkhanese and refuses to learn the language. Though incompetent, he is rewarded with an entertainment allowance almost as large as his salary. He buys liquor tax-free and he lives in the ambassador’s mansion free of charge.
As the story opens, Ambassador Sears is seething over a political cartoon in the Eastern Star newspaper that pictures a fat American leading a Sarkhanese man by a tether to a sign that reads “Coca Cola.” Beneath the cartoon is the name “Lucky”. Sears earned the nickname “Lucky” during his three political campaigns. He won the first because Democrats were in favor. In the second campaign, his opponent died ten days before the election. In the third campaign, the opponent’s wife stirred up a scandal. The political cartoon infuriates Sears: not because it insults America, but because it depicts him in a negative fashion.
The American Embassy’s press attachy, Margaret Johnson, arrives at Sears’ office with news that an American businessman named John Colvin was beaten and left naked on the steps of the Embassy with a note accusing him of molesting local girls. Ambassador Sears dismisses the news as a simple boy meets girl affair. Press Attachy Johnson warns that the news could hurt the embassy politically, so Sears orders her to contact the man in charge of protocol, Prince Ngong.
John Colvin wakes up in the hospital. Through his pain, he recalls his relationship with his attacker to understand why his friend Deong attacked him. Colvin had met Deong ten years earlier in 1943 after Colvin parachuted into the country to fight off the Japanese. Colvin, trained as an OSS agent, spoke Sarkhanese. While he fled the Japanese, he ran into Deong, who hid him until the Japanese patrol left. In the following eight months, Colvin and Deong sabotaged Japanese trains, bridges, and patrol boats. Once they hid in a monastery and one of the priests was killed by a Japanese soldier because he refused to help the Japanese. Deong was in it for the excitement. Meanwhile, Colvin fell in love with the Sarkhanese people and their gentle culture. The last mission Colvin and Deong performed enlisted the help of Sarkhanese cooks to serve the Japanese food laced with ipecac before the American Marines landed. By the time the Marines arrived, the Japanese soldiers were too weak from vomiting to resist.
Three weeks later, Colvin returned to work on the family dairy farm in Wisconsin. In 1952, he read about the rising influence of Communism in Sarkhan. Colvin decided that cows would save the Sarkhanese from Communism because a certain breed of Texas cow could eat the tough thick grass that made the hillsides of Sarkhan unusable for farming. First, Colvin introduces powdered milk to the Sarkhanese. His plan is to bring in cows and teach the Sarkhanese to market the milk and by-products. Colvin is executing the first part of his plan when Deong appears and demands that Colvin put ipecac in the powdered milk machine. Just outside, the village women line up for milk. Deong holds a gun to Colvin’s back and argues that changing the economy of Sarkhan through milk and cattle would make the Sarkhanese believe that America was their savior. Deong is a Communist who sees America as the enemy. Colvin refuses to poison the milk, so he and Deong fight. Deong shoots Colvin in the right arm. They wrestle and Colvin holds Deong in a scissors grip with his legs. Deong shouts to the women outside the door that he shot Colvin because he caught him trying to put Cocol, a powerful aphrodisiac, in the milk. The locals fear the drug because of stories that it changes virgins into prostitutes. Colvin argues that Deong wants him to put ipecac in the milk. In the end, the women believe Deong and turn on Colvin, beating him unconscious.
Prince Ngong meets with Ambassador Sears and listens to his complaint about the political cartoon. Ngong explains that the people are suspicious about the plan to receive foreign aid in trade for allowing the Americans to build air bases in Sarkhan. After Sears leaves, Ngong meets with an advisory committee of the Sarkhanese Cabinet and tells them that the Ambassador may be petty and stupid but he could interfere with the twenty-million-dollar loan from the United States. Cabinet member U Nang offers to ask his brother-in-law, the publisher of the Eastern Star newspaper, to run a flattering cartoon and editorial on the Ambassador. All agree to the plan.
That afternoon Ambassador Sears gets a call from the publisher of the newspaper about an upcoming flattering editorial. Appeased, Sears moves on to other issues. He visits Colvin at the hospital and offers to send him back to the States as soon as possible. Colvin refuses to go.
Chapter 1, “Lucky, Lucky Lou #1” Analysis
Simple dairy farmer Colvin understands the real needs of the people of Sarkhan better than the official ambassador. Whereas Ambassador Sears separates himself from and mocks the people of Sarkhan, Colvin risks his life to help the people. Ironically, it is the failure of the embassy to combat communism that divides Colvin and his native friend Deong, and this division thwarts Colvin’s efforts to improve the lives of the Sarkhanese through dairy farming. Ambassador Sears is more concerned about the insult to his image than the life-threatening attack on an American dairy farmer and its broader, political implications.
Chapter 2, “Lucky, Lucky Lou #2” Summary
The Russian Ambassador to Sarkhan is Louis Krupitzyn, a career diplomat. Krupitzyn embodies Russian loyalty to the state. He was orphaned by the state when he witnessed his parents being shot to death by soldiers. As a child, he decides he wants to be the one holding the gun instead of facing it. In school at the Orphans’ Educational Center at Murmansk, at age 18, he wins the Lenin Prize for Komsomol Literary Achievement for his political essay. The next year he begins training for diplomatic service as a chauffeur in New York. The Russians employ only Russians at their embassies by hiring servants from the Foreign Service Apprentice Corps. The Russians work for the embassy while they study.
While working at the Russian embassy in New York, Krupitzyn studies American unions and takes a course at Columbia University on the Psychology of the American Elite. He serves two years in Prague and then two years in Moscow at the Foreign Institute Academy. He spends three years in China as an observer on the staff of Mao-Tse Tung. He marries Nada Kolosoff, a Foreign Service colleague, and then returns to Moscow in 1949. He and his wife work on a survey ship hired by the Sarkhanese government to chart the Southeast Asian coast near Sarkhan. They study the Sarkhanese language, religion, and culture for two years. Krupitzyn molds himself into the Sarkhanese standard by losing 40 pounds, learning to play a nose flute, taking ballet, studying Sarkhanese literature and drama, and attending Buddhist lectures.
Krupitzyn arrives in Sarkhan a week after the American Ambassador; but when he arrives, he speaks the language and pays his respects to the Chief Abbot with a personal visit. The Chief Abbot and Krupitzyn discuss philosophy for hours.
A typhoon strikes the south of Sarkhan before harvest, and within months, a famine follows. A translator and a chauffeur at the American Embassy tip off Krupitzyn that the United States is shipping 14,000 tons of rice to the area that will arrive in two days. Krupitzyn buys a few tons of rice and brings it immediately to the famine zone. He delivers it on behalf of the Russian government and apologizes that it is so small. He also promises more rice soon and tells the people that it is a gift and that, unlike the Americans, the Russians expect nothing in return.
When the American shipment arrives, the Russians have people in place to mark on the rice sacks in Sarkhanese “This rice is a gift from Russia”. American trucks unload the rice in the south and communists there tell the people that the Russians hired the Americans to bring the rice because the Americans would do nothing without profit. The Americans and Ambassador Sears stand for photos during the distribution. Sears does not understand the loudspeaker announcing in Sarkhanese that the rice is from Russia. Weeks later, Sears realizes he has been fooled and rice shipments that follow are carefully guarded. Sears has flyers distributed that credit America with the rice shipment.
Krupitzyn reports to Moscow that Ambassador Sears is a valuable tool in the effort to convert Sarkhan to Communism because he is stupid, offensive, and unaware of Sarkhanese culture. He urges local newspapers to praise Sears. He urges Pravda to criticize Sears to trick the United States into believing Sears is an effective Ambassador. In a final note of his report, he asks Moscow to send a dossier on a priest named Father Finian who has won favor among the locals.
Chapter 2, “Lucky, Lucky Lou #2” Analysis
In stark contrast to the American Ambassador’s lack of preparation for Foreign Service, the Russian Ambassador receives intensive education and internship. The Russians receive thorough political training on how to promote the policies and programs of Russia abroad. Russian diplomats, like Krupitzyn, have to earn their positions of power and influence and prove their effectiveness to remain there. They seize opportunities to take advantage of the stupidity of Americans and they win many battles for the loyalty of the natives by simply infiltrating society at many levels. The Americans, by contrast, are like fools armed with knives in a gunfight.
Chapter 3, “Nine Friends” Summary
Father Finian holds a doctorate of philosophy from Oxford University, and later serves as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. His fight against communism begins during the war when he encounters a hardened and bitter Marine whose devotion to communism resembles religious devotion. Finian launches himself into the study of communism and the tactics used by the communists to convert people into believers. In Burma, Finian asks the Archbishop for supplies to go into the jungle to do his mission. The Archbishop helps, though he has reservations that Finian will succeed. Father Finian applies his Jesuit training to lead a movement to undermine communism in Burma. He studies the language and customs and enlists the aid of nine local men to form a plan. Father Finian offers to help the men, who are led by U Tien, to establish goals and a plan of action. He warns the men that the Communists demand absolute loyalty over the individual’s soul and will. U Tien says he wants Burma to be as it once was–a safe place to worship as Buddhists or Baptists or even to be non-believers. The Communists, he says, are the enemy because they forbid the worship of anything but Communism. Father Finian challenges the men to answer a question: “Why do we not now have the freedom to worship or live as we please?” The men answer that the communists will not allow it. Finian asks why the Burmese believe what the communists say.
The group agrees that they must study the communist propaganda to reveal the lies in it. They agree to gather intelligence on the extent and types of power used by the communist party. When they return and share their information, they are stunned at the scope of communist influence in every village and organization. For two weeks the men debate about what they can do. They form an eight-point report that outlines the steps to show the Burmese people the true nature and danger of communism. They begin by publishing a newspaper innocuously titled ‘The Communist Farmer.’ The first two issues feature advice on farming interspersed with writings by Karl Marx in which he calls the peasants stupid and backward. Another article quotes Stalin’s speech that justifies the slaughter of farmers to create farming collectives. When the communists try to suppress the paper, they look ineffective and silly.
The Russians send in an expert on Burma named Vinich to squash the rebel paper. Toki, one of the men working with Father Finian, infiltrates the communist network. Toki secretly tapes a private meeting of the communist leaders. The paper invites people to listen to a radio announcement on June 10 at 2 p.m. At the appointed time, the radio announcement names Vladimir Vinich as an official spokesman for Russia and the Communist Party. The radio then plays a recording of Vinich privately addressing the communist leaders in Burma. In the recording, he instructs the Communists to bear down on the peasants and to stop promising them tractors because they will not be given. The Communists’ promises are exposed as lies.
The nine men meet in the jungle to celebrate their first major victory. They vow to spread the effort to nearby Sarkhan before communism gets a foothold there. Father Finian reports in his diary, “The evil of Communism is that it has masked from native peoples the simple fact that it intends to ruin them”.
Chapter 3, “Nine Friends” Analysis
In the larger battle between good and evil, Communism plays the role of evil and freedom (or American ideals) plays the role of good. Father Finian, a man of God, is pitted against the Communist leader Vinich in this symbolic war. Like the Devil, Communism lures people with lies and false promises, but nine good men recognize the evil nature of Communism as a threat to their way of life. They join forces with Father Finian to expose the Communists through their own words. Father Finian and his group show evangelistic devotion in promoting freedom of speech and exposing the evils of Communism through their underground newspaper. In this chapter, Communism is treated as a religion in direct opposition to all other beliefs because it quashes other beliefs. Whereas Communism centralizes governmental power and suppresses the individual, the American way emphasizes that the purpose of government is to support the rights and desires of the individual.
Chapter 4, “Everybody Loves Joe Bing” Summary
Ruth Jyoti, editor and publisher of the Setkya Daily Herald, documents Father Finian’s trip to Burma. Her father is Anglo-Saxon and her mother Cambodian, so she enjoys the unique position of mingling in European and Eurasian cultures. In 1952, she is invited to the United States to learn about the American press. She reads local newspapers for information about the South Asian Bloc meeting, a meeting that will determine the future of Asian-American relations, and finds no news reports. Her State Department escort, Joseph Rivers, arrives and they discuss Father Finian and Joe Bing. Jyoti extols the efforts of Father Finian while Rivers raves about Joe Bing, the fat, six-foot-tall chief of information for the ICS in Setkya. Jyoti describes the offensive behavior of Joe Bing through his parties in which only Europeans are invited and alcohol is served, which is forbidden to Moslems and Buddhists. She also reports that when Father Finian asked Joe Bing for pens to give to the natives for distributing the anti-Communist underground newspaper, Joe Bing refused by citing policy regarding the private use of commissary items.
At a press dinner for Ruth, she is asked to say something about Americans stationed in Asia. She skewers the behavior of the incoming Americans as isolationist, elitist, ineffective, and offensive. They socialize among themselves and rarely venture into the culture or society around them. She then praises Bob Maile of the United States Information Service (USIS) for learning the language and for entering with a servant’s heart. He placed his children in local schools instead of the separate school for Europeans and Americans. Bob Maile, Jyoti reports, also defused a potential disaster when an American was accused of raping a local girl at a temple. Maile asked the editors of the local papers to investigate the accusation. The editors trusted Maile, and when they investigated the accusation, they found that the American had refused to pay a woman at a brothel and got into a fight. Jyoti says that good deeds get reported on the “bamboo telegraph”, or by word of mouth. She admires Maile and says that if more Americans behaved like him the Communists would not have much influence in Asia. In contrast, the chief American public information man in Setkya responded to the rape accusation against the dairy farmer Colvin by hiding in his office and doing nothing.
Chapter 4, “Everybody Loves Joe Bing” Analysis
Clueless, fat, and drunk is Jyoti’s assessment of the average American diplomat. Jyoti symbolically is, like her newspaper, the voice of Asia. She honors the listeners with her frankness and she points to the successful, un-official ambassadors as the model to emulate. She sees the same problem with the American press that she sees in the American Embassies abroad–isolationist superiority that rates all things American as more important than events abroad. The Ambassadors that serve in Asia rarely bother to even learn the language, as if everyone should learn English to earn the attention of America. Joe Bing manifests style without substance; he poses as the great diplomat, but he is so clueless that he does more harm than good.
Chapter 5, “Confidential and Personal” Summary
Ambassador Louis Sears sends a long letter to Dexter Peterson at the State Department in Washington, D.C. about the situation in Sarkhan. In the letter, he brags about how skillfully he handled the Colvin scandal. He includes newspaper clippings that praise his own effectiveness as an Ambassador. He warns that Father Finian is trouble for starting a rebellion in Burma and asks if the Catholic Church supports him. He also brags about how he corrected the misunderstanding about the source of the rice by distributing handbills crediting the USA. He tells the State Department that he has things under control and that the threat of Communism is all bunk. He complains that Maggie Johnson, the press attachy, brings in news reporters too often. He asks for Joe Bing to be reassigned to Setkya and he asks for pretty secretaries to help morale.
Chapter 5, “Confidential and Personal” Analysis
Ambassador Sears is so superficial that he sees and hears only those things that support his own version of reality and he asserts his version both up and down the chain of command. He is like a man who holds a mirror to his face and likes what he sees so much that he never bothers to look around at the rest of the world. Sears and Bing are two of a kind and so they naturally admire one another.
Chapter 6, “Employment Opportunities Abroad” Summary
Lured to a meeting at American University to hear about Foreign Service jobs, candidates hear from Joseph Bing and Hamilton Bridge Upton, a man who served as a consul in seven countries. Upton talks for fifteen minutes, inviting the students to serve their country to fight the spread of a malignant (communist) conspiracy abroad. He then introduces Joseph Bing as an expert at treating natives as equals. Bing describes the first-class lifestyle of living abroad and how little contact with natives is actually required. For twenty minutes, he praises the comforts and benefits of life abroad and adds that no one need be inconvenienced by having to learn the language of other countries. Marie MacIntosh and her friends become enticed by the promise of first-class housing and servants abroad. Immediately after the talk, seventy-seven people apply. A retired engineer, Homer Atkins, and a newspaperman named Kohler also apply for jobs in Asia. Upton observes a week later that the applicants would make more money abroad than they would at home, except for the engineer. They dismiss the engineer’s application as a joke.
Chapter 6, “Employment Opportunities Abroad” Analysis
Out of the seventy-seven applicants, none are expected to bring skills or aptitude to the job in trade for high pay and a luxurious lifestyle. The one qualified applicant, an engineer, is dismissed as an aberration. This chapter describes exactly how ineffective the Foreign Service is from the very beginning, from the way that people are brought into service. This chapter offers a counterpoint to the assessment of Joe Bing by Asian Editor Jyoti in chapter 4. Bing is despised by knowledgeable Asians but praised by his colleagues.
Chapter 7, “The Girl Who Got Recruited” Summary
Marie MacIntosh is a bored 28-year-old woman who believes her future lies in finding a husband abroad. She accepts an assignment in Sarkhan. A month after she arrives, she writes home to her ex-roommates about life in Sarkhan. Bragging about chauffeurs, live-in servants and how the thousand Americans stick together and enjoy parties every night, she lives rent free with a basic salary of $3,400 with a $680 increase because Sarkhan is listed as a hardship post.
Chapter 7, “The Girl Who Got Recruited” Analysis
A young worker at the American Embassy brags to her friends. At the highest and lowest levels of diplomatic service, mediocrity is recruited and rewarded. Ambassador Sears is as unqualified to lead an embassy as MacIntosh is to work in one as a support staffer.
Chapter 8, “The Ambassador and the Working Press” Summary
In 1954, a year into his Sarkhan Ambassadorship, Louis Sears receives news that a federal judgeship in America has opened up for him. Then a scandal spreads in the press that land purchased fifty years earlier by the United States is about to be developed into high-priced housing by American speculators. The land was leased to the Royal Sarkhanese Air Force and developed into a training and flight base. The land is on high, dry ground surrounded by fashionable suburban housing. The Asian press publishes the rumor and raises concerns about the land. An American editor begs Ambassador Sears to deny the rumor. Sears defers responsibility to Joe Bing, the new public affairs officer. Bing is in Hong Kong, so Sears reluctantly agrees to meet with four Asian newspaper editors. When asked about the land, Sears says, “I have no comment to make.” The Asian editors take the statement as confirmation since it is not a denial. In his last few days in Sarkhan, Sears does three things: 1) he refuses protection for Father Finian; 2) he recommends that the Sarkhanese Government refuse a visa to John Colvin (the man who wants to develop dairy farming); and 3) he declares that Sarkhan is firmly on the side of America. His last act in Sarkhan is to throw the biggest boozing party in the history of the city of Haidho.
Chapter 8, “The Ambassador and the Working Press” Analysis
Sears does everything wrong and gets rewarded with a judgeship. It is ironic that someone with such seriously impaired judgment is appointed to judge federal cases in America. He moves from one job in which he is completely unqualified into another. At the time when Sears needs Bing to help, Bing is not there for him. Symbolically, Joe Bing is absent even when he is present because he is as substantial as a vapor or a shadow. He, like Sears, usually makes the wrong decision anyway.
Chapter 9, “Everyone Has Ears” Summary
The new Ambassador to Sarkhan is the Honorable Gilbert MacWhite. Princeton educated, athletic, and red-haired, MacWhite is an expert on Soviet theory and practice. He learns Sarkhanese, and reads every book he can find on Sarkhanese history and politics. He consults experts from many fields about Sarkhan. MacWhite plans a strategic assault on Communism in Sarkhan with native leaders.
In a meeting with the Honorable Li Pang, a representative of Chiang Kai-shek, MacWhite seeks help with the Chinese leaders in Sarkhan. As they discuss communism, two Chinese servants overhear them. Li becomes quiet until the servants leave, then he chastises MacWhite for talking in their presence. MacWhite says that the servants don’t speak or understand English. Li proves otherwise by interrogating the servant named Donald in Chinese. Li accuses him of stealing a watch and whiskey. In English, Li tells MacWhite that he will ask Donald later about the missing briefcase and typewriter.
MacWhite has not had anything stolen but he plays along with Li. Li intimidates Donald with rapid-fire questions. Donald argues that the typewriter and briefcase are in the study, proving that he understands English. Li then gets Donald to confess that he has been giving information to the Communists because they have his children in custody. MacWhite is rattled by the realization that his home and his embassy are so vulnerable to spies. Native servants and workers serve in both.
MacWhite asks for permission from the State Department to go to the Philippines and Vietnam to study how their governments are handling Communism. With the approval of the State Department, MacWhite meets with the Minister of Defense, Ramon Magsaysay, of the Philippines. Magsaysay advises him that Americans would be better Ambassadors if they avoided the cocktail circuit and other bureaucrats and followed their consciences. He praises one such natural ambassador, Colonel Hillandale. He also advises MacWhite to go to Vietnam to watch the battle around Dien Bien Phu to learn the connections between warfare, statesmanship, diplomacy, and economics.
Chapter 9, “Everyone Has Ears” Analysis
Whereas Ambassador Sears was incompetent and ignored problems, Ambassador MacWhite makes mistakes and humbly learns from them. MacWhite’s appointment promises great improvement and positive change.
Chapter 10, “The Ragtime Kid” Summary
Air Force Colonel Edwin Barnum Hillandale comes to Manila in 1952 as a liaison officer. He embraces all things Filipino: the food, the culture, the Tagalog language, and the people. By 1953, he assists Magsaysay’s presidential campaign in the tough Communist-held area north of Manila. In this area, the Communists spread word that the Americans are rich snobs and that anyone who associates with them (such as Magsaysay) is out of touch with the people.
Hillandale drives up to that area and parks his motorcycle in a crowded area. He then sits on the curb and plays Filipino tunes on his harmonica. He asks in Tagalog for others to sing along. After 300 locals join him in song, he finishes by asking them where he can find ‘adobo’ and ‘pancit,’ native dishes. Announcing that he is broke, he says he hopes someone will invite him to lunch. He demonstrates his poverty by opening his wallet to reveal a mere sixty centavos. All his money goes home to feed his family in America where things cost more than they do in the Philippines. The locals are silent, doubting that an American can be poor. Hillandale then says he has never met Filipinos who would turn down a hungry man. Shamed, the locals invite him to their homes. Over the next few weekends, he returns to the province to play music, eat, and talk with the locals. Based on their personal witness of meeting an American Air Force Colonel, the villagers denounce the Communist propaganda. Magsaysay wins ninety-five percent of the province in the election.