Vietnam Declassified: The CIA and Counterinsurgency


Vietnam Declassified is a detailed account of the CIA's effort to help South Vietnamese authorities win the loyalty of the Vietnamese peasantry and suppress the Viet Cong. Covering the CIA engagement from 1954 to mid-1972, it provides a thorough analysis of the agency and its partners. Retired CIA operative and intelligence consultant Thomas L. Ahern Jr. is the first to comprehensively document the CIA's role in the rural pacification of South Vietnam, drawing from secret archives to which he had unrestricted ...

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Vietnam Declassified: The CIA and Counterinsurgency

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Vietnam Declassified is a detailed account of the CIA's effort to help South Vietnamese authorities win the loyalty of the Vietnamese peasantry and suppress the Viet Cong. Covering the CIA engagement from 1954 to mid-1972, it provides a thorough analysis of the agency and its partners. Retired CIA operative and intelligence consultant Thomas L. Ahern Jr. is the first to comprehensively document the CIA's role in the rural pacification of South Vietnam, drawing from secret archives to which he had unrestricted access. In addition to a chronology of operations, the book explores the assumptions, political values, and cultural outlooks of not only the CIA and other U.S. government agencies, but also of the peasants, Viet Cong, and Saigon government forces competing for their loyalty. The depth of Ahern's research combined with the timely relevance of his analysis to current events in the Middle East makes this title an important addition to military literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A major contribution to scholarship because it is the first one to be written entirely from the perspective of the major U.S. agency involved in the program, as well as the only one to be based primarily on inside sources — almost all of them still secret."—John Prados, author of Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Co" —

"A former operations officer with the CIA... and still a consultant to it, Ahern describes the organization's participation in rural pacification in South Vietnam during the 1960's and 1970's against an evolving understanding of the insurgency and of the political environment in which it took place."— Book News Inc." — Book News Inc.

"It relates years of intensive efforts by the agency to convince the rural masses of Vietnam that their best interest lay with the Saigon central government, and not with the communist Viet Cong."— The Washington Times" —

"He also deconstructs many little-known and almost forgotten counterinsurgency projects such as Operation Switchback, the Mountain Scouts, Force Populaire, Combat Youth, and Revolution Youth."—VVA Veteran" —

"As a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, counterinsurgency is once more a front-burner issue in national security studies. Ahern's analysis of the CIA's role in 'pacification' operations in Vietnam is based on his own experience there and on agency documents. Comprehensive in coverage and critical in its analysis, the book advances sober conclusions that should be an invaluable corrective to some of the facile arguments now being made about past U.S. successes in counterinsurgency. Should be required reading for practitioners and interested observers." —George C. Herring" —

"This long-awaited volume, finally cleared for open publication and filled with fascinating detail, insider perspective, and controversial judgments, is a must-read for all students of the Vietnam War." —Lewis Sorley" —

"At long last Ahern's authoritative and penetrating study of the CIA and counterinsurgency has been published. His book is indispensable to understanding the Vietnam War." —Richard A. Hunt" —

"Impressive. Ahern's work is timely, as there are more than a few challenges facing us on the ground today from which we could learn a lot if policy-makers and strategists paid more attention to Vietnam 'lessons learned.' Will we head down this same path in Afghanistan, as we almost did in Iraq? By sharing with future generations an inside look at controversial programs like Phoenix and the Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs), Ahern has produced a first-class (warts and all), authentic account of agency programs in Vietnam." —Stuart A. Herrington" —

"[Ahern] provides a unique narrative based on his personal experience in Vietnam and secret archives to which he had unrestricted access.... provides new perspectives on the CIA's role in the American effort to win the hearts and minds in Vietnam." —Vietnam Magazine" —

"Vietnam Declassified is a unique addition to the growing body of contemporary Counterinsurgency (COIN) works available today." —LTC Robert L. Menti, USF-I Special Troops Battalion Commander, Baghdad, Iraq" —

"[Ahern] has produced a significant work of history and historical analysis that will constitute the definitive account for some time to come of the CIA's effort, and ultimate failure, in the counterinsurgency conflict in the countryside of what was for a time South Vietnam." — Journal of Military History" —

"Balanced and well-researched."— Washington Post" —

"Sheds light on some of the fundamental shortcomings of the U.S. government and CIA policies that directly contributed to the communist victory, while also providing critical insight into an organization that lacked a complete understanding of its opponent."— McCormick Messenger" —

"A noteworthy addition to the scholarly literature on the war."— American Historical Review" —

"It is impossible to read Thomas Ahern's magisterial account of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Vietnam wihthout the mind wandering to America's present-day wars in Iraq and, especially, Afghanistan. Ahern clearly intended for the book to be read against the backdrop of today's conflicts, even though he seldom addresses the obvious parallels directly. When the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) commissioned Ahern, a retried career CIA officer who served around the globe (including Iran, where he was amont the U.S. hostages held for 444 days during the Islamic Revolution), to write an official history of the agency's counterinsurgency programs in Vietnam, it did not intend for the book to be for posterity alone. Ahern writes with urgency to inform the agency's critical efforts in countering a new wave of insurgencies, and he effectively highlights many of the key problems that bedevil the U.S. counterinsurgency efforts abroad to this day. — Journal of Cold War Studies" — Brian M. Burton, Journal of Cold War Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813136592
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 1/12/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 1,409,648
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas L. Ahern Jr. is a former CIA operations officer with service in East Asia, Indochina, Africa, Iran, and Europe. He currently serves as a CIA consultant.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations

Foreword Donald P. Gregg Gregg, Donald P.

Introduction To Build a Nation 1

1 "The Effort Must Be Made" 7

2 "Get Them before They Get Us" 21

3 Counterinsurgency in the Central Highlands 39

4 Sea Swallows and Strategic Hamlets 71

5 Operation Switchback 91

6 Experiments in the Lowlands 111

7 The Kien Hoa Incubator 127

8 The People's Action Team 149

9 Another Chance in the Countryside 169

10 Growing Pains 191

11 CORDS 221

12 Phoenix 255

13 The 1968 Tet Offensive and Accelerated Pacification 281

14 Disengagement 309

15 A Matter of Running City Hall 343

Conclusion: The Limits of Pragmatism 357

Notes 377

Selected Bibliography 433

Index 437

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