This sprawling and fascinating study was drawn chiefly from the papers of the Studies and Observation Group (SOG), which ran America's covert war against North Vietnam. Torn between scholarly detachment and an understandable admiration for the courage and ingenuity of America's operatives and their Vietnamese allies, the author draws up a discouraging balance sheet. According to Shultz, every agent who infiltrated the North either ended up dead or turned back against the United States. Most diabolical psychological warfare schemes fizzled; bureaucratic rivalries and complications stifled many good ideas.
And the basic military targets, including the all-important Ho Chi Minh trail, were attacked but never dealt a mortal wound. In the end, Shultz's respect for the agents involved does not compromise his dispassionate assessment of their accomplishments.