VIETNAM

General

Thomas L. Ahern Jr.

Ahern, Thomas L., Jr. Vietnam Declassified: The CIA and Counterinsurgency. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

For Cohen, Washington Post, 6 Dec. 2009, this work by a former CIA operations officer is "balanced and well-researched." The author "describes the agency's role in Vietnam. But, like so much history of that war, it barely deals with the Vietnamese; it's all about us. And herein lies the greatest weakness of the COIN literature: It often lacks deep knowledge of the other side."

Goulden, Washington Times, 29 Jan. 2010, notes that Ahern "details the myriad programs aimed at winning the proverbial 'hearts and minds' of the Vietnamese masses. A diligent reader must be excused for feeling at times that he is swimming in a swirling vat of alphabet soup as Mr. Ahern ticks through the various programs and offices." RHT, Parameters 40.1 (Spring 2010), says that "[t]his account of the CIA's role in pacification programs in Vietnam should be required reading for officers and agency representatives participating in counterinsurgency operations."

To Peake, Studies 53.4 (Dec. 2009) and CIRA Newsletter 35.1 (Spring 2010), "Vietnam Declassified is narrowly focused on operations related to 'the struggle to suppress the Viet Cong and win the loyalty of the peasantry.' ... The story is told from perspective of the CIA officers involved...[,] the insurgents they battled, and the peasants they labored to enpower.... The story is not one of unremitting failure, however. The success of the People's Action Teams (PATs) ... is an example of what could be achieved." In his final chapter, the author "discusses what he believes to have been the fatally flawed assumptions of the war in Southeast Asia."

Ahern, Thomas L., Jr.

On 13 March 2009, the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence released "six volumes of previously classified books detailing various aspects of the CIA's operations in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the '60s and '70s. The works were distributed and discussed at a conference hosted by Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center and Archive." The documents were written by "CIA historian Thomas L. Ahern Jr.," and "draw on operations files as well as interviews with key participants." Cory Chandler, "CIA Releases Newly Declassified Assessments of Vietnam War-era Intelligence," Texas Tech Today, 16 Mar. 2009. The materials are available as six PDF files at: http://today.ttu.edu/2009/03/cia-releases-documents-of-vietnam-war-era-intelligence/.

CIA and the House of Ngo: Covert Action in South Vietnam 1954-63. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, [2000].

From Gerald K. Haines, "Foreword": "Based on a thorough examination of CIA's records and on in-depth interviews of key participants, Thomas Ahern presents an authoritative review and assessment of CIA's evolving relationship with [Ngo Dinh] Diem, first as he struggled to consolidate his power and then as his increasingly authoritative regime faltered and collapsed when the South Vietnamese military seized power in a coup favored by the United States" in 1963.

CIA and the Generals: Covert Support to Military Government in South Vietnam. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, [1999].

From Gerald K. Haines, "Foreword": This work "traces the tortuous course of events in Saigon following the fall of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Ahern strikingly illustrates Saigon Station efforts to work with and understand the various military governments of South Vietnam which followed Diem, and carefully details CIA attempts to stabilize and urge democratization on the changing military regimes."

CIA and Rural Pacification in South Vietnam. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, [2001].

From Gerald K. Haines, "Foreword": "Convinced that the export of democracy and economic prosperity would solve South Vietnam's problems, despite the lack of democratic traditions or institutions, US leaders began an experiment in nation building in that small country. The CIA played a key role in these efforts.... Ahern tells this ultimately tragic story from the perspective of the CIA Saigon Station and the field operations."

Good Questions, Wrong Answers: CIA Estimates of Arms Traffic Through Sihanoukville, Cambodia, During the Vietnam War. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 2004.

From "Foreword": "Sihanoukville as an analytical problem arose in a welter of raw reports, some of them alleging an arms traffic that did not exist for a full two years after the first claims for it. As an analytical failure, however, it emerged only after the bulk of the empirical evidence, gradually increasing in volume and improving in source authenticity, began contradicting Agency estimates. Understanding a failure to modify conventional wisdom, rather than assigning responsibility for not seeing the pattern in a chaos of dots, is thus the main object of this study."

The Way We Do Things: Black Entry Operations Into North Vietnam. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 2005.

From "Introduction": This "story of the agents and black teams inserted into North Vietnam[] is offered as an object lesson in what happens when eagerness to please trumps objective self-analysis, when the urge to preserve a can-do self-image delays the recognition of a failed -- indeed, archaic -- operational technique."

Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laos, 1961-1973. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 2006.

From "Introduction": "[U]ltimate failure, in Laos at least, is an inadequate criterion by which to judge the quality of the effort devoted to a lost cause. CIA's performance there was certainly not without flaws, but the story of the 'secret war' in Laos reveals an admirable record of flexible, economical management and sound tactical judgment. An even more remarkable aspect of that record is the Agency's steady, pragmatic accommodation of cultural sensitivities and of amorphous, competitive command relationships." (p. xvii)

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