William Rust, author of the excellent book, Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961, has now extended his account to cover American policy toward Laos during the John F. Kennedy Administration. Deeply researched, filled with much that is entirely new, So Much to Lose details the gripping, often frustrating, Cold War story of how the United States dealt with an incredibly complex and difficult situation in Southeast Asia. Taken together, Rust's two volumes about American policy toward Laos will be the definitive diplomatic account for years to come.

Kenton Clymer, author of Troubled Relations: The United States and Cambodia

since 1870

Rust’s diplomatic history provides plenty of details for speculation about what JFK would have done in South Vietnam (and Laos) had he lived…If you want to learn about how wars get started—and wobble out of control—this book will tell you.


John Mort, author of Soldier in Paradise: A Novel and Dont Mean Nothin: Vietnam War Stories, in The VVA Veteran, July 2014

With a broad body of source material Rust describes the development of the Geneva Declaration and how and why it went wrong. All of this is exciting to read.

Rolf Steininger, professor emeritus, head of the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Innsbruck from 1984 through 2010, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 25, 2014

So Much to Lose is a marvel of research and detail...


George Fetherling in the Fall 2014 issue of Diplomat & International Canada

Anyone seriously interested in U.S. foreign relations during the Cold War, and especially American involvement in Southeast Asia and the origins of the Vietnam War, cannot afford to ignore this fascinating book. As Rust skillfully demonstrates, Laos–and American behavior there–was far too important and consequential to remain buried in the footnotes of history.


Jessica Elkind, San Francisco State University, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews, October 2014

From the Publisher: “In So Much to Lose, William J. Rust continues his definitive examination of U.S.-Lao relations during the Cold War, providing an extensive analysis of their impact on US policy decisions in Vietnam. He discusses the diplomacy, intelligence operations, and military actions that led to the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos, signed in Geneva in 1962, which met President John F. Kennedy's immediate goal of preventing a communist victory in the country without committing American combat troops. Rust also examines the rapid breakdown of these accords, the U.S. administration's response to their collapse, and the consequences of that response.”

So Much to Lose is a well-crafted, exceptionally researched, and most welcome contribution. Rust provides a wealth of otherwise unavailable material on a largely unexplored and misunderstood chapter of America’s Southeast Asia history.

Timothy N. Castle, author of One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam

Rust’s excellent earlier book, Before the Quagmire, showed how both President Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy hoped to stop communists in Laos. Now he gives us a later and even more important book: So Much to Lose: John F. Kennedy and American Policy in Laos. The small and mostly quiet nation of Laos turned into the much greater and chaotic war with Vietnam, Cambodia, and eventually the United States. What the Johnson administration called a 'key to success in Southeast Asia' turned out to be a failure. With these two important books, Rust now has become one of the most significant scholars of Laos.

Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

In his carefully researched and very readable book, William Rust has focused on U.S. policy towards Laos during the Kennedy administration. Although strategically important, Laos has received far lesser attention and relatively peripheral treatment compared to Vietnam and Cambodia in the study of American role in the Indochina War. This is the much-awaited continuation of his equally commendable book on U.S.-Laos relations during the Eisenhower Administration.

Ang Cheng Guan, author of Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War

So Much to Lose is a fine book and a worthy sequel to Rust’s previous work. This diplomatic history brings the story together in a way that advances the record on United States activities in the land of a million elephants. He lays down the panorama of U.S.-influenced events very well, and so illuminates John Kennedy’s meanderings on Laos policy in a way that goes beyond the 1962 Geneva agreements to show the re-ignition of the Laotian war the following year.

John Prados, author of Vietnam: A History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975

Using a wealth of recently declassified documents, Rust reconstructs the diplomatic and military debates swirling in Washington, Vientiane, Bangkok, and various European capitals that culminated in the neutrality agreement signed in Geneva. In an admirably impartial narrative, Rust offers the best and most complete account of this controversial but often misunderstood topic…[a] meticulous and very readable work of diplomatic history…Rust has delivered another superb study of American policy in this area of Southeast Asia.

Richard A. Ruth, Journal of Military History, October 2014

The work is well organized and Rust’s prose makes it an enjoyable read…Given that much of the literature on the series of wars in Southeast Asia from 1945 to 1975 focuses on the North vs. South conflict in Vietnam, Rust’s continued emphasis on the role of Laos brings a welcome and needed view on the many issues and fronts on that 30-year war and adds greatly to our understanding of the era.

Lt. Colonel Robert R. Mackey (USA, ret.) in the December 2014 issue of Vietnam magazine

Rust's sequel to Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961 is another excellent book that propels him into the first rank of scholars of the sparsely covered Laos theater in the Southeast Asian conflict.  Drawing on meticulous archival research, the author details the diplomatic, intelligence, and military activities that led to the 1962 Geneva Accords, the breakdown of the agreement, and the implications for the wars in Vietnam and Laos...Highly recommended.


Joe P. Dunn, Choice, December 2014

William Rust, in his history So Much to Lose: John F. Kennedy and American Policy in Laos does a great service in shedding light on the less well-known, but highly contentious, Cold War struggle for the small, landlocked nation…This is an excellent, very readable book.

Robert M. Brown, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in Military Review, November-December 2015