The Gift: Foreseeing the Future

My search of early posts to this blog unearthed another one worth repeating. This one also comes from January 2017. The Chuck referred to is the protagonist of my novel Last of the Annamese:

A blog reader questioned me about Chuck’s gift for foretelling what the North Vietnamese would do next. How could that be? How did it work?

In Last of the Annamese, I describe Chuck’s ability to foresee the future with the sentence “. . . he’d let his consciousness rove over patterns and trends and the flow of events until he knew what was going to happen next.” That depiction is derived from my own experience. How does it work? I have no idea. I discovered how to let my consciousness blur while I studied events. I’d let my mind wander over the data. Then, sometimes suddenly, I’d know what would happen next. I don’t know how I did it. Others with the same gift were equally puzzled.

One result was that we developed over the years a series of indicators. When the North Vietnamese did x, y followed. The system was too vague to be called scientific; it was intuition at work. I’ve always thought that the best analogy was the sense of smell: it was almost as if when a certain combination of scents appeared, I’d foresee the next event. My guess is that the gift springs from an ability to be in touch with one’s unconscious. That ability dominates my writing.

End of quote. Looking back, it now seems to me that the magic of foretelling the future was true only with respect to the North Vietnamese. It didn’t work with every day life or happenings in the news. I now see that a major aspect was my intimate knowledge of the North Vietnamese and their communications. I spoke the three languages of Vietnam (Vietnamese, Chinese, and French). I had been exploiting Vietnamese communist communications since 1960. And I had spent so much time in Vietnam tracking the enemy—each year between 1962 and 1975, I was in Vietnam at least four months. In sum, I knew the enemy like the back of my hand.

That depth of knowledge was rare. I knew a handful of other intelligence analysts who shared it, but ignorance of the enemy—his tactics, his way of thinking, his beliefs, the patterns of his activity, his dedication to winning the war—was commonplace among both military and civilian U.S. leaders. Our inability to understand the enemy was one of the principal reasons we lost the war.

More tomorrow.

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