His truth revealed outcomes that pitted him against the White House, MACV and even senior leadership within the CIA.
What also made Sam unique was his inability to backdown to the highest offices in the government. Sam created a point of great turmoil by discovering and confronting repeated MACV intelligence failures. His analysis was not supported by CIA Director Richard Helms. Nobody wants to make their boss look bad.
War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir was published after the death of Sam Adams. He spent his career working in CIA intelligence during the Vietnam War. He leaves behind a memory of dedication to country and an unbending legacy speaking truth to power. Sam graduated from Harvard and began a CIA intelligence career in the Congo. Adams won high praise for accurately predicting changes to the Congolese government in 1966.
His initial Vietnam war research focused on the moral of Viet Cong troops in 1967. He wrote a larger Viet Cong order of battle. This began a long clash with CIA, MACV, the Joint Chiefs and the White House over the size of VC forces before the Tet Offensive.
His initial reports never made it out of the CIA. His experiences in chapter 4 “Bulletin 689” changed everything. Adams was able to discover errors in the MACV order of battle. Insights from CIA interrogations allowed Sam to separate deserters vs. defectors regarding guerrilla troops at the hamlet, village and district levels. His order of battle data revealed MACV underestimating VC guerrillas by 120,000 by 1967. Continue reading “Latest read – War of Numbers”
Regarded as one of the CIA’s premiere Vietnam intelligence experts George W. Allen wrote a 2001 memoir None So Blind: A personal account of the intelligence failure in Vietnam that remains an alarming insight of intelligence failures that forecasted both France and America’s defeat in Vietnam. Allen’s contributions set the stage regrettably for the Pentagon and White House to also follow France’s misplaced goals for the next twenty-five years. My interest in Allen’s memoir developed from reading a series of confidential reports by the US military and CIA from the 1950s.
Declassified in the late 1990s the documents address the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
Many of those documents point to Allen’s intelligence reports and analysis. Naturally this peaked my wish to better understand the American intelligence analysis of the French defeat.
Allen holds a unique, deep understanding of the Indochina Wars (France 1945-1950) and the coming failure of America’s intervention on behalf of South Vietnam 1960-1974. The lessons in his book leave deep, haunting impressions today on the White House and Pentagon leaders who ignored our intelligence community. Continue reading “Latest read: None So Blind”
Key stakeholders on campus should easily state their reasons for data collection and reporting. No Sure Victory benefits campus units by revealing an early, dare I say Big Data approach to unstructured data reporting and delivering actionable data.
Universities can thrive with diverse reporting teams. Working with Institutional Research and striving to improve enrollment and retention efforts are key goals. Yet important roles are filled with student workers. Here unstructured data often fragments over mismanagement. Many ad hoc Microsoft Excel documents are created without data governance and become silo’d from the campus data warehouse. Key stakeholders on any campus including CIOs, IR Directors, Research staff, Program Directors, campus data reporter writers and student workers. Even seasoned campus data report writers are not leveraged to streamline actionable data insights.
No Sure Victory brings to light a tragic failed data reporting implementation by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in addressing a war in Vietnam. The was his reputation as one of The Wiz Kids, the World War II Statistical Control unit that analyzed operational and logistical data to manage war.
In many ways my desire to understand the US failure in Vietnam has been a long difficult road stretching many years. No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War by Gregory Daddis answers many long held questions. After digesting so many resources in reading, watching documentaries and listening to interviews with veterans, politicians and social leaders during the long duration of the war I believe No Sure Victory brings together strong indicators regarding our nation’s failure in Vietnam. The focus is the failure of MACV to gather and process data against an established set of goals (KPIs) over the long stretch of this war.
Daddis documents McNamara’s injection of data gathering when LBJ increased the American commitment to South Vietnam. McNamara’s experience as one of The Wiz Kids set the stage in his role as Secretary of Defense.
Our enemy was determined and battle tested. America was fighting a larger, strategic cold war with an emerging China and established Soviet Union in both Europe and Asia.
Daddis sheds light throughout No Sure Victory not only on the lack of White House direction but how MACV leadership could not adapt to fighting a war of counterinsurgency. Johnson, McNamara nor Westmoreland were able to establish measurable KPIs for reporting progress in the war. The impact of this television war confused the US government, media and population. At the same time Daddis points to key failures in not understanding the affects of the French Indo-China war regarding counterinsurgency. This lack of understanding established a crippling third leg the US consistently fought to balance against the cold war political spectrum.
In chapter two “Measurements without Objectives” Daddis reveals how President Eisenhower and the US Military failed to establish clear objectives in supporting South Vietnam following the 1954 Geneva Convention that split the country at the 17° parallel. This apparent lack of establishing key, measurable objectives remained unchanged even after sending military advisors. Daddis also sheds light on the apparent same inability to reach an attainable focus by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon never changed even after General Westmoreland was replaced by General Creighton Abrams. Why no changes to data collection or reporting after Abrams took control of fighting the war?
At just 87 pages into the book I feel that this is one of a very few books that finally helps learn how and why we failed not only win but an obvious inability to adapt fighting a war that was not improving over a long time. How was the impact of Body Count and Kill Ratio and Search and Destroy impacting the change to Hearts and Minds that emerged later in the war as we moved to pacification efforts after 1966.
It is very frustrating to see how our legacy military and political leaders were unaware of their need to adopt counterinsurgency following the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu, especially as Daddis reveals US Military learned much from the French approach to counterinsurgency in Algeria.