No wonder Daniel Ellsberg withdrew from participation in this biography. Although the author declares himself "sympathetic politically" to the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, Tom Wells bluntly depicts a very flawed personality. Almost from his birth in 1931, according to Wells, Ellsberg was shaped by his domineering mother into a brilliant narcissist, arrogant about his unquestionable intellectual gifts but so unfocused that he never really fulfilled his early promise. At the time he passed along the top-secret study of America's involvement in Vietnam, which revealed that the government had frequently misled its citizens about a war many of its own experts felt could not be won, Ellsberg was certainly and commendably convinced that the truth must be told. But he was also frustrated by his failure to achieve the prominence he felt he deserved at the RAND Institute think tank and eager for public recognition. Wells traces the trajectory of Ellsberg's life fairly but unsparingly, drawing on the many interviews Ellsberg gave him before their break in 1995 and extensive (often directly contradictory) comments by his friends and colleagues to portray someone who habitually exaggerated his importance and overstated his role in various projects. (Wells concludes, for example, that Ellsberg's claim that he prompted Robert McNamara to order the Pentagon Papers study "is almost certainly untrue.") It's not a pretty picture, and the author doesn't gloss over Ellsberg's compulsive womanizing or his carelessness about security classifications. Nonetheless, he also paints a nuanced portrait of a man who began his career as a convinced cold-war hawk but was prompted by both research and his firsthand observations to conclude that the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake. --Wendy Smith In March 1971, Daniel Ellsberg gave The New York Times access to a classified government report revealing the secret history of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg, a former Vietnam Marine, said he violated national security to protest an illegal war. The release of the Pentagon Papers exploded in controversy. Ellsberg was indicted for espionage; charges were dropped when it was revealed that Nixon operatives burglarized the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist in order to discredit him. Wild Man is the first biography of the man at center stage in one of the most remarkable periods in American history. What drove this cold war intellectual to break the law? A richly detailed tale of the times, this indelible portrait of the hawk-turned-dove who tried single-handedly to end the war will stand as one of the great American stories.
|Book:||Wild Man: The Life And Times Of Daniel Ellsberg|
|Number of Pages:||704|
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