Academic journal article Military Review

NO SURE VICTORY: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War

Academic journal article Military Review

NO SURE VICTORY: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War

Article excerpt

NO SURE VICTORY: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War, Gregory A. Daddis, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2011, 334 pages, $34.95.

Measuring effectiveness over time is a challenging problem, particularly when the subject is counterinsurgency, with its focus on highly subjective factors, such as the population's support for a government. Thus, even if one has the correct objectives in mind, it may be difficult to develop objective means of measuring their achievement.

Colonel Gregory Daddis, a history professor at the U.S. Military Academy, has examined this problem at length as it applied to our involvement in Vietnam. He traces the use and misuse of a wide variety of metrics, ranging from a simple "body count" of enemy dead to the 157 questions of the 1969 "System for Evaluating Effectiveness of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces."

Daddis's conclusion is that the U.S. military drowned in overwhelming amounts of data, which it used selectively to justify policies ranging from vindicating the airmobile concept to "proving" the success of Vietnamization.

The most common tendency was, of course, to use objective kinetic factors such as body count and downplay attempts to measure the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese populace. The author attributes this to American inability to understand insurgency, but is careful to explain other factors. For example, he describes the logic of General William Westmoreland, the overall U.S. commander from 1964 to 1968, who believed that he had to attrit large enemy units before addressing the needs of the population. However, Daddis also notes that figures such as body count were often the only way for officers to show progress during the brief tenure of their unit commands, whereas progress in pacification might well be measured in decades. …

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