Balanced Deep Trustworthy View of Policy-Intelligence Gaps,
February 8, 2002
George W. Allen
This book is destined to be a classic. There is no other person who spent over 17 years focused on intelligence about Viet-Nam, and very rare is the person who can say they have spent over 50 years in continuous intelligence appointments, 20 of them after retirement. It is a personal story that I consider to be balanced, deep, and trustworthy. While it has gaps, these are easily addressed by reading, at least on the intelligence side, such books at Bruce Jones' “War Without Windows”, Orrin DeForest's “SLOW BURN”, Douglas Valentine's “The Phoenix Program”, Jim Witz's “The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War”, Tom Mangold & John Penycate's “The Tunnels of Chu Chi”, and the Viet-Nam portions of Jim Bamford's “Body of Secrets.”I mention these books in part to emphasize that George Allen has produced a book that will stand the test of time and should be regarded as an exceptional historical, policy, intelligence, and public administration case study. It is truly humbling and sobering to read such a calm, complete, and broad treatment of the history of both American intelligence in relation to Viet-Nam, and the consistent manner in which policy-makers refused to listen to accurate intelligence estimates, while their Generals and Ambassadors steadfastly “cooked the books.” The manipulation of truth from the Saigon end, and the refusal to listen to truth on the Washington end, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Vietnamese, Loatian, Cambodian, and American, as well as allied nationalities.
This book is gripping. I could not put it down. It is one of the most serious personal accounts I have ever read where the vivid realities of intelligence, ignorance, and policy come together. The author excells at painting the details in context, and his many specific portraits of key individuals and situations are superior.
This book is relevant to today's war on terrorism. Many of the same issues prevail–rather than enumerate them, I will give this book my very highest mark, and simply say that you cannot understand intelligence, or the intelligence-policy relationship, without having absorbed all this author has to say.
He's hit it out of the park. Every voter who wonders what it will take to hold politicians accountable for “due diligence” in decision-making, needs to read this book.