The Tet Offensive

By Marc Jason Gilbert; William Head | Go to book overview

10
Don't Bother Me with the Facts; I've Made Up My Mind: The Tet Offensive in the Context of Intelligence and U.S. Strategy1

Larry Cable

In recent years, much of the debate over the origins and impact of the Tet Offensive has focused on whether or not Tet caught American strategists by "surprise" due to a so-called failure of intelligence. This debate is often placed in a revisionist framework: if American evaluation of the intelligence data available before Tet had been more effective, the damage done to the allied war effort could have been obviated or better contained.

Both this debate and its revisionist implications are, however, scarcely relevant to the subject. American strategic thinking in Vietnam was so flawed as to prevent any effective evaluation of the enemy's strategic intentions. These flaws not only blinded American strategists to the intelligence data before them, but also helped produce a strategic posture that invited the enemy to launch a general offensive under circumstances that would be as devastating to the American and Republic of Vietnam's war effort as it was unexpected in its size and scope. In sum, flawed American strategic evaluation of the ways, means, and ends of American and Vietnamese political intentions and military operations in Vietnam precluded effective intelligence exploitation and made the debacle that was Tet Mau Than inevitable.2

The concept of historical inevitability, though unfounded and unjustifiable, nonetheless has a compelling reality when applied to the dynamics of policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation as a result of several phenomena. Among them are a shared intellectual heritage on the part of decision makers and senior-level implementors; the power of institutional imperatives, including those arising from the domestic political culture; and a pervasive unwillingness to accept intelligence that runs counter to personal predilections, prejudices, and beliefs such as to constitute a variant

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The Tet Offensive
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms ix
  • Preface xiii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • Notes 15
  • 2 - The Tet Offensive 17
  • Notes 43
  • 3 - The Tet Offensive and Sino-Vietnamese Relations 45
  • Notes 59
  • 4 - The Nlf and the Tet Offensive 63
  • Notes 69
  • 5 - Giap and Tet Mau Than 1968: The Year of the Monkey 73
  • Notes 85
  • 6 - The Tet Offensive and Its Aftermath 89
  • Notes 119
  • 7 - My Recollections of the Tet Offensive 125
  • Notes 134
  • 8 - The Tet Offensive and Middletown: A Study in Contradiction 135
  • Notes 141
  • 9 - The Warning That Left Something to Chance: Intelligence at Tet 143
  • Notes 163
  • 10 - Don't Bother Me with the Facts; I've Made Up My Mind: The Tet Offensive in The Context of Intelligence and U.S. Strategy 167
  • Notes 179
  • 11 - Tet Beyond the Wire: TCK/TKN, the General Offensive/General Uprising 181
  • Notes 189
  • 12 - The Battle of Khe Sanh, 1968 191
  • Notes 210
  • 13 - President Johnson and the Decision To Curtail Rolling Thunder 215
  • Notes 228
  • 14 - The Myth of Tet: American Failure and The Politics of War 231
  • Notes 249
  • Selected Bibliography 259
  • Index 269
  • About the Authors and Editors 283
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