The Tet Effect: Intelligence and the Public Perception of War

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Psychology Press, 2005 - History - 212 pages
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A close examination of the role of intelligence in shaping America’s perception of the Vietnam War, looking closely at the intelligence leadership and decision process.

In 1967, intelligence was called upon to bolster support for the Vietnam War and allowed America’s leaders to portray a ‘bankrupt’ enemy ready to quit the battlefield. The audacious Tet Offensive of 1968 shattered this image and although it ended with an American military victory, it is remembered as the juncture when American support turned against the war. Public opinion on the war was a primary concern for the Johnson Administration, and US intelligence played a decisive role in providing an overly optimistic view of the enemy’s demise. As the "bankrupt" enemy attacked with a ferocity and intensity that shocked the American public, intelligence had set-up the American public for a fall. How, Americans wanted to know, could an enemy whose numbers had been so decimated now launch such an all-out offensive?

From this examination and an understanding of how the enemy viewed itself, the conclusion is made that four severe breaches of intelligence etiquette occurred during the period leading up to Tet.

This phenomenon is the ‘Tet effect’ – the loss of credibility when leaders portray a situation based upon intelligence that is shown to be disingenuous.

This book will be of great interest to students of the Vietnam war, intelligence and strategic studies in general.

  

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Contents

The Tet Effect
3
Still valid
9
The surprise
13
The reality
19
Public opinion 19651967
20
Communist strength totals through April 1967
29
Communist strength totals through August 1972
30
Communist combat strength through October 1967
34
Communist strength totals if selfdefense forces included for August and October 1967
65
The enemys war
71
The Viet Cong Force Pyramid
77
Relationship of the communist political and military organizations
90
Vietnam intelligence in 1967
92
A threeact tragedy
113
Intelligence principles
127
PART
151

Public opinion 19651968
42
A loss of trust
44
Intelligence and the public perception of war
58
Communist combat strength for August and October 1967
63
Communist strength totals for August and October 1967
64
On intelligence and objectivity
174
On intelligence and the measure of success
181
Bibliography
201
Index
208
Copyright

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