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STAT Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/15: CIA-RDP90-00965R000706820001-1 SECRECY AND DEMOCRACY Covert Action: The Limits of Intervention in the Postwar World by Gregory Treverton i Basic Books, 293 pp., 519.95) One of the more remarkable revelations of last summer's Iran-contra hearings was just how wrong the conventional wis- dom was on the "problem" of covert ac- tions in a democratic society. Far from proving that rogue operations by Ameri- can intelligence agencies were still out of control, and therefore in need of greater congressional and press oversight, the sessions showed just the opposite. It turned out that John McMahon, the CIA's deputy director for operations, and much of the rest of the professional CIA bureaucracy either did not know of, or were opposed to, the plans that took shape in the National Security Council. The problem, of course, was not an in- stitutional bias on their part toward se- crecy and covert action. It was the CIA's unwillingness to cooperate that led its own director to work around his bureau- cracy and assist a group of political ap- pointees in the White House in running the operation themselves. As far as insti- tutional arrangements for controlling the CIA's covert operations are concerned, our system (as it was modified in the late 1970s) worked perfectly well-recogniz- ing, of course, that the system was never meant to correct the bad judgment of high officials in the White House. I think, after reading Coc~ert .-lcrion, that Gregory Treverton believes this, but he does not altogether resist the temptation to interpret the Iran-can:-.a affair as an extension of the old CIA bogey. Draw- ing heavily on the author's experiences on the staff of the Senate Select Com- mittee on Intelligence in the mid-1970s, the issues and analysis in this book have a slightly dated quality to them, concen- trating on well-known covert actions of the past, including Guatemala and Iran in the early 1950s, the Bay of Pigs, Chile in the early '70s, and support for the non-Marxist factions in the An- golan civil war. While the book discusses the Reagan administration and the Iran- :ontra affair, it was obviously begun be- fore the imbroglio was revealed and completed before the author had time to incorporate the information provided by last summer's hearings. His analysis of the CIA and its limitations as an institu- tion thus apply primarily to a period of history that has been over tor some time now. Coaerr Act,on's historical account pro- vides a useful and readable primer on the uses and abuses of covert interven- tion. The book argues that the CIA was a victim of its own early successes. Owing ~o its origins in the wartime OSS, the CIA always gave pride of place to covert operations over the more mundane func- tion of intelligence analysis. By 1952 the Directorate of Plans (forerunner of the current Operations Directorate) con- sumed 74 percent of the CIA budget and three-fifths of its personnel, nearly 6,000 people in 47 overseas stations-though much of this effort was directed at espi- onage rather than covert action. The ear- ly 1950s saw two stunning successes, at least in terms of the CIA's own objec- tives, in Iran and Guatemala. Both had common features: they were relatively cheap and small scale, relying more on psychology and wits than on brawn, and they were kept low-key and relatively secret (even though news of the Guate- mala plans leaked out ahead of time). B UT THE circumstances that led to these successes were not repeatable, according to Treverton. Most important was the changing nature of the Third World itself. The days when the United States could get its way through simple intimidation are now clearly over. In the Iran of 1953, Ambassador Loy Hender- son turned the tide against Mossadeq by simply threatening to withdraw all Americans living there; in Guatemala, Arbenz grounded his air force because of a single propaganda broadcast that led him to believe his pilots had started to defect. Already by 1961 the discipline and control of the revolutionary Cuban regime was evident when the expected uprising against Castro failed to materi- alize. While many Iranian emigres con- tinue to believe that the CIA can pull strings behind Khomeini's back, Ameri- ca's inability to influence the internal politics of revolutionary Iran has been painfully evident for a decade now. Covert operations are problematic for other reasons as well. Policy-makers fre- quently plan covert operations thinking Newsweek Time U.S. News & World Report The IUb3Re.ftb& 33 Date 2/ Dec . 'S9 that they will remain small and deniable, but such actions tend to acquire a mo- mentum of their own. Dissident groups in Third World countries are notoriously difficult to control: we frequently have to work with unsavory characters whose purposes do not coincide with our own, and who have a stake in misrepresenting their goals to gain our support. There is ample opportunity, moreover, for misin- terpreted signals: witness the case of Chile, where collecting information on possible coup attempts in the military may well have been taken by the actual plotters as a signal of American backing. These sorts of observations lead Tre- verton to rules of thumb that "amount to setting a higher threshold for the use of covert action." He agrees with Cyrus Vance that the language of the National Security Act of 1947 authorizing covert activities in areas "affecting national se- curity" is too broad, and argues along with Vance that they should be permit- ted only in cases "absolutely essential" to national security. Treverton comes down squarely in favor of the remedy from the 1970s, that Congress needs to be a partner along with the executive in the discussion and approval of intelli- gence operations. He also concludes that much of what traditionally has been done covertly, such as financial support for democratic groups like labor unions and churches, can be and in many cases is better done out in the open. Yet settling for Vance's test that an ac- tion be "absolutely" essential to Ameri- can security begs precisely the questions Treverton has raised in his critique of covert operations. For the difficulties he singles out as obstacles to effective co- vert intervention in fact apply to foreign policy as a whole, covert and overt. De- fining priorities among competing inter- ests and assessing the means of protect- ing them are challenges that go far beyond covert operations; you don t solve them by affixing the label "abso- lutely essential," or by making them overt. TAKE THE problem of expanding commitment, which Treverton iso- lates as a problem of Third World covert Page T. Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/15: CIA-RDP90-00965R000706820001-1 Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/15: CIA-RDP90-00965R000706820001-1 intervention. The inability to call it quits of the assistance was military, but deal- an opportune moment has been the ing with the political sensitivities of the at central difficulty bedeviling the United Pakistani authorities and the different States in two rather overt interventions, insurgent groups required a deft political the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as touch, and also the ability to provide un- the more recent debacle in Lebanon. In conventional items such as Soviet-bloc most respects, the problem is more se- military hardware, Like aid to the vere in overt cases Only then are presi- the Afghan effort was one of Washing- dents tempted to make high-minded ton's worst-kept secrets. Still, it bids fair statements like the Truman, Eisenhower to be an undeniable success of two ad- or Carter doctrines, that such-and-such a ministrations, substantially driving up country or group is vital to the security the costs of Moscow's Afghan adventure of the United States. Democratic politics as well as spurring the Soviets in their inclines us toward trenchant distinctions reconsideration of the Brezhnev legacy between friends and enemies, and a pub- in the Third World) and possibly paving licly sworn friend tends to develop the way for a real Soviet withdrawal strong domestic constituencies. from Afghanistan. By contrast, an ally covertly supported Contrary to Treverton's assertion that is much easier to sell out when the going operations like Afghanistan are becom- gets tough, as Treverton admits occurred ing less common, they are a phenome- in the cases of the Kurds in Iraq and the non new to the 1980s-a response to the Montagnards in Vietnam. The same ap- expansion of the Soviet empire that took plies to the problem that our allies' pur- place in the previous decade. Given the poses are not our own: we did not declining utility of conventional military choose to ally with Joseph Stalin during force in the contemporary world, sup- the war for the lovely color of his eyes, port for democratic revolutions not just nor were we particularly happy with the against Soviet client states but against various Rhees, Diems, Marcoses, Sala- other oppressive Third World regimes zars. and Chuns with whom we had very has the potential to become a very im- open and explicit agreements But even portant instrument of American policy democratic allies such as Israel have at in the future. times led us down paths of their own choosing. This is hardly a characteristic unique to covert action: it is a staple of international life. i THE TRUTH IS that almost nothing n United States foreign or defense policy is,irsc,u:rv essential, including the defense of NATO Europe. And yet there is a large category of operations that are quite important to our interests, which have traditionally been run by the Oper- ations Directorate of the CIA and which cannot be carried out by any other gov- ernment agency. The best illustration is perhaps the most important CIA under- taking of the 1980s, support for the At- ghan -nuzanzdeen, which Treverton fails to discuss at any length. (He also skips over a number of important CIA successes supporting democratic forces in Western Europe in the late 1940s, as well as Edwin Lansdale's help to Philippine Defense Minister Ramon Magsaysav and other Southeast Asian leaders in the early 50s. I While the support operation in Af- ghanistan was never truly covert, it was quiet, so as not to embarrass the Paki- stani government and embroil it unnec- essarily with the Soviets. It was not a program that could have been easily ad- ministered by the military services or the parts of the Defense Department con- cerned with security assistance: the bulk I T IS NEVER clear whether the focus of Corer, Action is the generic category of covert-type operations in American foreign policy or the way they have been implemented by one specific institution, the CIA. If it is the latter, there is not much to write about, since the agency's Directorate of Operations was defanged over a decade ago. Yet as an analysis of the former, Treverton's book is less a di- agnosis than a symptom of the disease afflicting contemporary American for- eign policy. In calling for more openness as the cure for the problems of covert operations, he fails to confront more im- portant requirements for the conduct of American foreign policy as a whole. As a great power, the United States must base its policy on a fairly broad sense of national interest. Since the United States is a very secure nation, we don't need to spend much time de- fending vital national security inter- ests. Rather, we must assign a just and prudent value to the vast majority of our foreign policy concerns, which are non-essential. A great power also has to be able to see shades of gray among friends and enemies, which can be a similarly subtle enterprise. In the Third World in particular, there are only shifting and temporary conver- gences in the interests of foreign pow- ers and our own. Assessing means is as problematic as settling on ends. A great power has to be able to accept setbacks and tactical re- treats, and also be willing to stick to the game over the long haul rather than suc- cumb to swings between euphoria and discouragement. Such a stable but agile policy often means seizing opportunities when they arise and betting on causes that don't have an immediate payoff Treverton rightly points to many of these challenges to U.S. foreign policy and its failures to meet them. But he mistakenly attributes those failures to covert operations when they are in fact exacerbated by the open nature of our policy-making process. It is the need to mobilize public support that tends to en- courage the simple, shortsighted strate- gies; public opinion likes clear lines be- tween friends and enemies, is seldom tolerant of short-term failures, and often fails to see the point of salting away cap- ital to build toward long-term success If American foreign policy is to evalu- ate stakes and objectives prudently, make tactical adjustments, and adhere to principles consistently over the long run, then what it may need is less rather than more exposure to the influence of domestic American politics. I do not mean this in any narrow sense of ex- panding the scope of responsibilities of the Directorate of Operations of the CIA, or stamping more "Top Secret" la- bels on documents. Obviously American foreign policy must rest on a broad pub- lic consensus over our national purposes But the question is whether the US . government as a whole, acting within that consensus, can formulate and carry out foreign policy with some degree or buffering against the vagaries of domes- tic politics. Vance's test of "absolute"" es- sentiality-or Caspar Weinberger s six conditions for military intervention-are rules of thumb more appropriate for a giant Switzerland than for the United States as it has conceived itself in the postwar period. Our failure to diagnose ourselves properly spells trouble in the future, not only for the United States but for all the other countries that de- pend on us as well. FRANCIS FL'KL- A-MIA Francis Fukuyama is a senior staff mem- ber in the political science department or the RAND Corporation. 24. Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/15: CIA-RDP90-00965R000706820001-1