RAND in Southeast Asia

RAND in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era

Foreword by James A. Thomson
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 694
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  • Book Info
    RAND in Southeast Asia
    Book Description:

    This volume chronicles RAND's involvement in researching insurgency and counterinsurgency in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand during the Vietnam War era and assesses the effect that this research had on U.S. officials and policies. Elliott draws on interviews with former RAND staff and the many studies that RAND produced on these topics to provide a narrative that captures the tenor of the times and conveys the attitudes and thinking of those involved.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4915-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. iii-iv)
    James A. Thomson

    I celebrated my 20th anniversary as president of the RAND Corporation in August 2009, and this is my 29th year at RAND. But I joined the organization well after RAND had concluded its work in connection with the Vietnam War.

    I certainly knew of that work, and when I joined the organization I had many colleagues who had worked on analyses of the war. Some had worked in Vietnam, where RAND opened and operated an office in a villa at 176 Rue Pasteur, Saigon. Today one would be hard pressed to find someone with this firsthand experience walking the hallways...

  3. Preface
    (pp. v-xii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Photos
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Maps
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xix)
  8. RAND Corporation Organization Charts
    (pp. xx-xxii)
  9. INTRODUCTION RAND: The Beginning
    (pp. 1-6)

    RAND is one of the nonprofit corporations staffed with civilian researchers and strategists that emerged in the years following World War II to advise the U.S. military, on a contractual basis, on a wide range of important issues.¹ Modern science and technology had rendered warfare so complex that the services recognized that, to remain on the technological cutting edge, they needed to enlist the advice of civilian scientists and technologists on planning, operations, and weapon development.²

    The services began to seek the advice of civilian scientists and technologists in World War II, when the military undertook operations research, mostly in...

  10. CHAPTER ONE A Remote Corner of the World: The Beginning in Vietnam
    (pp. 7-44)

    The story of RAND’s involvement in the Vietnam War is bound up in RAND’s search for influence and funding beyond the Air Force, still its main sponsor and source of funding in the early 1960s, when the war began to emerge as an important foreign policy issue for the United States. It is also bound up in America’s shift in strategic thinking from the 1950s’ massive thermonuclear retaliation against the Soviet Union, the main adversary of the United States during the Cold War, to a more “flexible response” to counter what was perceived as the communist insurgency threat in Third...

  11. CHAPTER TWO “What Makes the Viet Cong Tick?”
    (pp. 45-90)

    It was with the rank of general that Joe Zasloff arrived in Saigon with his wife Tela in summer 1964 to run a new RAND research project called “Viet Cong Motivation and Morale.” Harry Rowen in the Pentagon had agreed to fund the project. As did other civilians attached to the Defense Department in Vietnam, Zasloff had to carry a military rank roughly the equivalent of what he would have qualified in civil service status. Before Zasloff’s departure, an aide to Harry Rowen telephoned RAND and asked what rank Zasloff should have. Since Zasloff was going to depend on the...

  12. CHAPTER THREE Escalation and Airpower
    (pp. 91-148)

    By the time Frank Collbohm tapped him to go to Southeast Asia with Amrom Katz and Bill Graham to look for research opportunities, Leon Goure had become known not only within the American government but also to the U.S. public. Goure was born in 1922 in Moscow, where his father was a member of the Mensheviks, socialists who were allied with the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. After Lenin liquidated the Mensheviks, Goure’s family went into exile in Berlin in 1923, only to have to flee to Paris when the Nazis took over Germany. When Paris fell to the Nazis...

  13. CHAPTER FOUR Controversy
    (pp. 149-204)

    At 176 Pasteur, with the bigger budget granted by McNamara, Leon Goure enlarged the staff to meet the needs of the expanded project. Back in September 1965, Douglas C. Scott had joined the Saigon team to take over administrative and editorial responsibilities, and to act as interim manager whenever Leon Goure and Chuck Thomson made their periodic visits to the United States. Scott was a speechwriter and an aspiring musicals composer, with an outgoing personality, a keen sense of humor, and pride in his creativity. Joe Carrier was astonished by Scott’s hiring and could not fathom why RAND had to...

  14. CHAPTER FIVE The Many Aspects of the War
    (pp. 205-248)

    The near-demise of the Viet Cong Motivation and Morale Project ended whatever cohesiveness Vietnam research had achieved. With the shifting of analysis to Santa Monica, more researchers dove into the data and the many aspects of the conflict, either in pursuit of their own interests or in response to clients’ requests, most of which dealt with the immediate requirements of the war. More analysts of the Vietnam situation emerged, supplementing or replacing the interpretation of Leon Goure, who had more or less served as RAND’s major voice on Vietnam.

    One area of immediate concern to the Pentagon was infiltration and...

  15. CHAPTER SIX The Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands
    (pp. 249-284)

    The Mekong Delta, the rice basket of South Vietnam, was the locus of what became an in-depth study of the insurgency in Dinh Tuong Province. Crisscrossed by streams, canals, marshes, and swamps, the Delta is a low-lying region with an average elevation below 50 feet. During the rainy season, which lasts from June to November, about 70 percent of the terrain is inundated, making the dry season the preferred time for offensive operations. Besides being the main rice-producing area, with over 5.4 million inhabitants, the delta was also the population center of South Vietnam. The Viet Cong and the GVN...

  16. CHAPTER SEVEN The Tet Offensive
    (pp. 285-348)

    Yogi Ianeiro was a RAND security guard in Santa Monica when Steve Hosmer recruited him in May 1967 to go to Saigon for two years. Ianeiro hesitated, but two colleagues told him that he should stop being a guard and go do something different. It was a decision he did not regret. According to Jim Digby, Ianeiro had been a bartender at a bar that he and some RAND security guards owned in Westwood, “so he was very affable and a very active person.”¹ Ianeiro said that, in Saigon, he “helped a lot of people get things done.”² Essentially, he...

  17. CHAPTER EIGHT Pacification and Vietnamization
    (pp. 349-414)

    Just as, with the waning of the Johnson Administration, Vietnam was receding in importance at RAND, the advent of the Nixon presidency revived interest in it for a short while as an issue worth pursuing. The appointment of Henry Kissinger as National Security Advisor seemed to promise access to the White House and a chance to influence Vietnam policies at the highest level. Cold since RAND criticized him for advocating “limited nuclear wars as instruments of U.S. policy” in 1957, Kissinger’s relationship with RAND had warmed as a result of efforts by Fred Iklé.¹ Following his appointment, Kissinger paid a...

  18. CHAPTER NINE The Pentagon Papers
    (pp. 415-498)

    During a visit to Harvard in fall 1966, at the invitation of Professor Richard Neustadt, McNamara discussed an idea with him and some other faculty members that would later be transformed into the Pentagon Papers. As he recounted in his memoir, he told them over dinner that, since the war was not going well, scholars would undoubtedly want to know why. He thought that their scholarship ought to be facilitated, to help avoid similar errors in the future. By mid-1967, McNamara had reached the conclusion that U.S. policies in Indochina had failed, and the realization led him to wonder why...

  19. CHAPTER TEN The End of the War
    (pp. 499-540)

    A year before the Pentagon Papers affair erupted, another controversy embroiled RAND in a heated public debate about an issue often referred to as the “bloodbath theory.” To stave off critics who were urging faster or unilateral withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Vietnam and to rally support for his policy, President Nixon repeatedly warned that precipitous disengagement would lead to communist massacres of South Vietnamese. As Robert J. Donovan of theLos Angeles Timeswrote in his column, “Bloodbath—Fantasy or Realistic Fear?” on Sunday, June 28, 1970, which recapped the debate, this question was fraught with emotion. It...

  20. CHAPTER ELEVEN Laos and Thailand: Sideshows
    (pp. 541-614)

    Laos, the sleepy, landlocked kingdom bordering Vietnam and Thailand, emerged as a crisis early in the presidency of President John F. Kennedy. The crisis began in 1959, when the cease-fire between the communists and noncommunists, negotiated at the Geneva Conference in 1954, broke down. By December 1960, supplied by the Soviet Union and backed by neutralist forces and North Vietnamese troops, the communist Pathet Lao were on the verge of taking over half the country. Prior to leaving office, President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower told President John F. Kennedy that “Laos was the key to the entire area of Southeast Asia,”...

  21. EPILOGUE Diversification
    (pp. 615-626)

    The RAND Corporation that emerged at the end of the Vietnam War looked very different from the one that entered it. In 1965, when RAND expanded its presence in Saigon, it was an organization dedicated to serving the needs of the Air Force and to planning for Cold War confrontation with the Communist Bloc. By the time the war ended in 1975, RAND had become less dependent on the Air Force for support and had turned into a diversified organization, as much devoted to domestic issues as to national-security issues.

    RAND’s diversification occurred with the advent of Harry Rowen’s presidency....

  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 627-652)
  23. Author Biography
    (pp. 653-654)
  24. Index
    (pp. 655-672)