Five Lessons Learned from “the Ugly American”

Better Essays

There are tens of thousands of “how-to” books, but “The Ugly American” is unique in that it’s actually a “how-not-to” book. Published in 1958, the action takes place in the early 1950s at the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union 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 and political events riddled with “Ugly American” social faux pas.

In Lederer’s and Burdick’s book, the day-by-day business of American policy implementation and foreign aid to other countries is described. Central to The Ugly American is the historical reality of …show more content…

It is interesting to see how foreign culture is seen through different eyes in each of the personal mini-stories that comprise this book.

• Issue No. 3
Just as the character of Louis Krupitzyn takes many smart and savvy actions in The Ugly American, he takes many unethical actions too. The one that stood out the most was when he changes the wording on the labels of bags of American aid rice to read “Gift of Russia”—in other words, he takes credit for aid that isn’t Russia’s.

Almost everybody does his or her job with a goal in mind, and in a very tangible way, Krupitzyn’s action helped him get closer to his goal. But that doesn’t make it right. Simply because his main goal was to spread communism to Sarkhan within 30 months, taking credit for work that isn’t yours is unacceptable, even if it furthers your agenda. The ends do not justify the means.

• Issue No. 4
One of the books most obvious arguments is that we spend billions on the wrong aid projects while overlooking the almost costless and far more helpful ones. Sears undermines a Wisconsin dairyman’s self-started project to raise nutrition levels in the Sarkhan country­side, thwarts a band of anti-Communist irregulars formed by a militant Massachusetts priest, and orchestrates the dismissal of his more capable successor, who fails to convince Washington of an impending coup. He does this all because these efforts get in the way of his big, self-serving plans that do not benefit

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