1. Anonymous says:

    I’ll start. But just to be fair, I’ll start with one of the biggest successes.

    What if the US had never gotten involved in Czechoslovakia?

    Now, from what I know, most of the soft power that the US brought to bear in Czechoslovakia was overt. Our ability to take dissident writings smuggled out of the country and broadcast them back into the country via Radio Free Europe provided a way to extend opposition (or, at the very least, heightened awareness of the regime propaganda) beyond the small circle of dissidents. I know there were other covert operations in Czechoslovakia. But here’s something funny. A colleague of mine participated in a CIA conference in the months leading up to the Velvet Revolution; the CIA didn’t have a good idea of the leaders on the ground and they needed to ask the academic experts. My colleague was surprised at the think knowledge of the CIA about the individual dissident leaders, at a time when there was clearly unrest (and when so many of the leaders had been involved in 1977 or 1968). (FWIW, I believe the CIA did a lot more to support Solidarity, which then had an influence in Czechoslovakia, so my question is not entirely fair.)

    In any case I guess I’d have to conclude that whatever covert ops we didn in Czechoslovakia empowered the indigenous dissidents. But it wasn’t until the endgame when the US started picking favorites.

    I’d say the world would be much worse off if the overt and covert things we did hadn’t helped to bring about the Velvet Revolution. Now I’m biased (because I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in Prague, one of the most beautiful cities on earth). But I think you can argue for benefit just in the way that 1989 and 1991 led to warmer relations in cenral and eastern Europe, to standing down some of our military tension.

    But then again, a lot of what was effective was overt; Russia objected to our commuications policies, but we had that fight in public, even if it was one of the reasons we pulled out of UNESCO.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If the CIA had not supported the 1963 Ba’athist coup in Iraq, Saddam might never have come to power.

  3. Anonymous says:


    Geez, I hadn’t even considered that. Two wars and more than $200 billion here we are again.

  4. Anonymous says:


    Is that a good thing or a bad thing? And what would have happened if they were socialist, as opposed to communist (though I think all may have easily fallen into communism).

    Also, I think Italy counts as covert there, Germany and Japan as overt.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What if we’d left Iran alone in 1951? The Iranians wouldn’t have had the Shah or SAVAK from 1951 till 1979. Bad for the English, neutral to us then, in the long run probably better for us all–most of the Iranian anti-U.S. xenophobia starts there and, who knows? If we had let Mossadegh alone, he might have set up some sort of modernizing non-Islamist government.

  6. Anonymous says:

    a very good question.

    a question like your question a few months back about the opportunity costs of the iraq war

    jacob arbenz in guatemala in the 50’s.

    mohammed massadegh in iran in the 50’s.

    patrice lumumba in congo(?) in the 60’s.

    larry johnson at no quarter likened the chaney/white house iraq-war propaganda to the kind of propaganda the cia employed in places like greece (maybe italy and a couple more countries i can’t remember of the top of my head) in order to influence elections there.

    my personal view is that clandestine info gathering makes a lot of sense.

    clandestine killing or meddling with another country’s politics i consider of questionble value, despite the many brave narratives one reads about the importance of these interventions.

    my reason for this is that

    we are no better at controlling all the variables that come into play when a leader is forced out, a government overthrown, or a form of government changed

    than soviet economists were at running the soviet economy from moscow.

    nothing demonstrates this better than the blind optimism of the bush administration as they motored into baghdad in april, 2003.

    it’s a little off topic but speaking of clandestine operations, there is an absolutely chilling piece in this months’s atlantic about two of the (irish) men who spied on the ira for the british gov?

  7. Anonymous says:


    Is that IRA online? Not sure if you saw it, but Gerry Adams had some difficulties last weekend travelling in the country. Seems he’s on a flight watch list. Not a surprise, I guess, seeing has how he really DOES have terrorist connections. But if you’re going to invite him to the WH for St. Paddy’s, then you ought to make sure he can fly to Buffalo for his next stop.

    John Shreffler

    Iran’s the big one. Because, at worst, it would have raised petroleum prices at a time before we became utterly depended on it, probably slowing down growth (and globalization) in the process. Better to have a soft crisis in the 1950s than a hard oil crisis in the 1970s.

    Arguably, though, it may have changed the balance of power toward Russia, though that’s not clear.

    One more question. What would have happened if we didn’t get involved in the military crackdowns in Latin America in the 1970s-80s? As I undestand it, the new book Illicit talks a lot about how Latin America is the source of most illicit goods in this country. How much of that is because we spent decades delegitimizing governments?

  8. Anonymous says:

    If the CIA hadn’t fought the Soviets in Afghanistan: would the USSR have collapsed anyway, would Muslim extremists be less organised, would the middle east be more democratic, would Osama have gone into construction, would a nuclear Pakistan still be a US ally, would AQ Khan have started his Walmart, would Afghanistan be more stable today, would Iranian fundamentalists have even less support, would the US have been free to disrupt things elsewhere (Iran instead of Iraq)?

    I’d say yes to all these. An interesting assignment ew, the questions just keep expanding.

  9. Anonymous says:

    EW, Mossadegh started out pro-American but, like Nasser, was pushed into opposition by the CIA. The Brits were everyone’s enemy in 1950 in the Middle East. Now, thanks to stunts like the 1951 coup, we are. I think that if we’d been more aboveboard we might have had a much stronger position in the long run. I think we could have done business with both Moassadegh and with Nasser but Ike and Allen Dulles had a whole ’nuther world view. As for the oil, it was in oversupply in 1951, except for Britain, who had the Anglo-Iranian concession in Iran and meant to keep it. It’s useful to keep in mind that the region was so marginal at that time that the entire Western military presence in the Iraq-Persian Gulf region was confined to a smattering of Brits armed with obsolescent cast-off equipment. By the way, Devil’s Game by Robert Dreyfuss is very good on how our covert ops consistently favored Islamist movements over secularists from 1945 on. Another hit for Tom Engelhardt’s American Empire Project.

  10. Anonymous says:


    Those are really good questions. A lot of people say the shoulder launched missiles that could take down Russian helicopters were decisive, which is something that probably wouldn’t have happened without our involvement. But what if he had defended Pakistan rather than taken the offense against Russia?

    Though, documents from the start suggest Zbigniew thought of the plan (which was not at all fleshed out) partly in response to the Iranian Revolution. In which case, we go back to the questions of 1953 in Iran.

  11. Anonymous says:

    That â€Devil’s Game†book looks interesting, I wonder how much of the US motivation for the CIA in Iran 1953 had to do with opposing the USSR, controlling Iran’s oil, or just the good old US religious crusade?

    Does it seem like US fears about Iran post-revolution get deflected onto its unfortunate neighbors, Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s, Iraq in the 90s and today (BTW, has it ever been determined if Saddam was actually encouraged to invade Kuwait by April Glaspie)?

  12. Anonymous says:

    What if we hadn’t pushed Castro into the arms of the Soviets? If Cuba had stayed democratic-socialist, there wouldn’t have been a Cuban missle crisis. Or, for that matter, a Cuban exile community in Miami.

    Don’t guess that counts as a strike against our covert ops though; we were shoving Castro around in public, if I recall that history right.

    Mossadegh seems like the great big huge example from here.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There are a lot of theories about the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of the most prominent is the US arms build up under Reagan and the US induced defeat in Afghanistan. But another theory that I find most plausible is the collapse of commodity prices. The Soviet Union then and Russia today is fundamentally a resource based economy. Oil, Natural gas and metals prices dictate the strength of their economy. As commodity prices in real terms collapsed to the lowest levels in modern history the Soviet Union collapsed. As commodity prices have increased Russia has strengthened. Their stock market index has gone from 50 in 1998 to 1400 now and they have a trade surplus and large dollar balances sufficient to finance the US. I believe in the end economics rule.

    The power of the US traditionally has been its Constitution and the value of liberty it espoused. This was always a beacon for peoples in more oppressed societies. The best examples of success have been overt operations by the US where we helped focus the spotlight on constitutional values of liberty and the primacy of the individual over the state. Eastern Europe and the overt support beginning with Solidarity is the best example.

    Every time we have focused against the principle of liberty and used covert operations for supposedly economic gain there have been unintended consequences that have not always turned out as the strategists anticipated. Mossadegh in Iran and the coup against Chavez in Venezuela are some examples.

  14. Anonymous says:

    There is some interesting political theory about the pattern of aftermath when colonial occupations ended, variously, Brittain, France, Portugal, Spain. I would be interested in hearing EWheel on Argentina’s storied transitions; we have rescued their national debt from near civil revolution several times, though the spy stuff is outside my curiosity.
    Take the Czech Republic and Slovakia; my view was only that of a racconteur who, having a house guest CZ MD tossed that independent minded intellectual a preVelvetR challenge by framing CZ’s condition in terms contrasting colonialism with a prior Prague Spring. I doubt there was a language barrier there, but the VRev ensued in short order.
    On secret ops I think not so much now of nation grabbing, rather the misaligned argument in Gore v Bush, utilizing a Microsoft bashing attorney instead of one more adroit on voting and electoral matters. And I think of voter registrar Sancho’s plight in Leon County FL last week where conservatives are trying to force flawed electronic voting devices upon him in the name of HAVA.
    I guess I am a process guy, though there are important moments when a well thought comment advances an idea or aspiration much; which is what Voice of A knows; and the intelligence agencies try to be there first with the good history.
    But all this spy stuff is too complicated and not at all the way to draw a globe map. I heard a political speaker once describe it as an innovation in US foreign policy that took hold during Gen.Ike’s term more strongly than ever before in US policy. Then I met a professor from a high born China family and heard the cryptic tale of Taiwan’s infusion of free thinkers. I would guess intellect helps but information gathering is risky for multiple reasons, principal among them that the gatherer often has little chance to alter the course of history or to infuse a dialog with new vision.
    The essence, to my IMO, to observe webspeak here, is that a society fosters original perspectives and insight within its own self and openness to the outside.
    Slightly off topic, EW, is this link to a great E+P article today about a kind of reverse propaganda which must be driving Rove out the driveway from the WH; imagine: a reporter parsing straw-opponent grammar in the presidnet’s speechmaking as Armando might.

  15. Anonymous says:


    Oh, I don’t we can blame Argentina’s turbulent politics primarily on covert ops. It goes back further, much further. In many ways Argentina has been an ongoing example of any era’s worst practices in globalization. Mercantilism 1 (the Spanish), Mercantilism 2 (the Brits), Free Trade (more recent). Always the forefront of that day’s globalization, always a mess.

    And I’d say our biggest sin against Argentina was the protectionism we engaged in post WWII. First we forgave the British debt to Argentina. Then we replaced the Brits as Argentina’s big source of capital. But since we competed directly with Argentina’s best exports (beef and wheat), we refused to trade to allow it to make up the balance in trade.

    The covert activities were just deathly icing on the cake.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes I thought Isabel’s supporters more conservative than the prior leader; parallel Bushes 1 and 2, in some ways, cliques of conservatives serving to bind the second administration into some semblance of cohesive rule; though, as you observe, a vastly different politicoeconomic and societal landscape.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the post and thread, ew. Your comment about trade reminded me of the current (albeit illegal) â€demand†for foreign drugs, eg cocaine. Could we help our own security situation, foreign relations, and deficit by decriminalizing (and taxing) some of the illegal drugs that we import?

  18. Anonymous says:

    As a former cattleman I appreciated the remarks on trade, as well; so mundane, yet vital to how we live and manage our businesses here and our trade with other nations. There were times during our peak production years on our place that Argentine beef was so competitive we would skip going to auction until the next season to see how commodity prices were at a more favorable time. Yet, it is always nice to be a citizen of the international community and afford the competitor who needs so much bolstering and stabilizing of their economy a grace period in which to out compete us here at home.

  19. Anonymous says:

    EW – as an aside, re â€shoulder launched missiles†and defending pakistan – Charlie Wilson seems to have been single-handedly responsible for arming the afghanis, and he is now pakistan’s highest paid lobbyist – and probably the person responsible for ’cleaning’ the 911commission report for pakistan (as per the recent news stories in pakistan & india)

  20. Anonymous says:


    I was talking about the covert money that the CIA poured into Japanese and Greek politics (although in the Greek case there were probably more, ahem, direct methods used as well). When people talk about covert ops they usually think of the coups (e.g. Arbenz in Guatemala). I think we’ve been more influential by spreading money around. As to whether we’re better off or not, that’s an impossible question best left to the alternate history novelists. I think it was wrong. We subverted a lot of democracies by supplying covert money, poltical advisors, and quiet muscle to mostly right-wing politicians. We were operating based on fear and loathing and that is always a mistake.

  21. Anonymous says:

    EW, that’s a good observation about developing Pakistan in the 1980s. I remember a classmate in college who’s father (Pakistani) was a military guy there, before the Soviet â€invasion†of Afghanistan. The relations with Pakistan were good then, so this would have been a big opportunity (assuming the people in charge had a remarkable vision of how things are today). Working with Pakistan against the Soviets probably also did good things for the relationship (though this whole question is wrapped in most supreme mystery).

  22. Anonymous says:




    more about â€charlie†wilson and the 9/11 commission. i have not heard this angle before.

    trivial question:

    is this charlie wilson any kin to â€what’s good for general motors is good for america†charlie wilson from the 1950’s?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Holy shit lukery

    I’ve been wondering, kind of back of my mind, where Wilson is now (as I look forward to DeLay when he’s in his post Texas brashness career). I didn’t know that. Thanks for pointing it out.

  24. Anonymous says:


    Charlie Wilson was a Democratic congressman from TX. He was of the Delay/Cunningham school of appropriations committee boondoggling. He was very cozy with the Israelis (in spite of having almost no Jews in his district) and almost singlehandedly responsible for getting the appropriation for us to buy the Taliban shoulder launched missiles. He was a nut in true TX fashion, complete with the belly dancers on his trips to Pakistan.

    A case study in how one congressman can either win a war or cause a terror strike all by himself.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Re: Wilson. imdb.com shows a movie in the works based on the Crile book, staring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

  26. Anonymous says:

    The CIA tried, and apparently failed, to deliver more than $1 million in equipment to opposition radio station B92 in Belgrade as early as 1993.

    In direct response to this failure, a number of private individuals living in Europe (with no ties to the CIA) raised money and delivered critical equipment to B92 on their own. In addition, hundreds of tons of newsprint were purchased and shipped to Belgrade for use by the opposition press, taking advantage of a sanctions waiver from the U.N. that granted a special import exemption. (For a time during the Yugoslav civil war, the French successfully argued to the U.N. that the free access to information was a fundamental human right, on a par with access to food and medicine. Special sanctions waivers for newsprint and equipment were accordingly granted.)

    Five years later, and after much support, B92 proved to be the catalyst in bringing down Milosevic.

    Though I have no special inside information, I firmly believe the CIA was involved in Milosevic’s downfall (despite its early failures to find influence in Serbia). Private individuals like Soros — and he wasn’t the only one — could grease the wheels with money and support for key individuals, and Soros certainly did it more efficiently than the CIA possibly could. But in the end, the fall of Milosevic was a team effort, and the fall of Milosevic probably counts at least as a partial CIA success story.

    The nature of the beast is that we hear much more about the Agency’s failures than successes.

  27. Anonymous says:

    i wrote a couple of posts about the pakistan / 911 commission lobbying here and here
    By all accounts, a lobbyist told pakistan that there was some damaging info in the final draft of the 911 report and pakistan paid the lobbyist a bunch of money to bribe the commissioners to clean up the report. We aren’t entirely sure whether it was a lobbying shakedown, or if the cleansing actually took place.

    wilson sounds like a riot – cocaine and beautiful women and all that.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I suspect the world would be a better place without all those CIA interventions. One useful compilation of info about CIA interventions is William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions since World War II.. There is also his Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. There is, of course, also Philip Agee’s Inside the Company: a C.I.A. Diary.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Culturally, the US Intelligence tradition is copied from the Brits — with the copy being made in the few years before World War II. Our tradition previously had been to stand up services for wars, and then take them down afterward — meaning they did not have legacy bureaucracy — but they also had to re-invent skill sets.

    Thus Oss which re-emerged as CIA in 1947 always had a bias for empire in it, given its origins. and much as the British institution, ours is also a rich man’s club — Yale to Wall Street bias. There was always (and still is) a profound bias against using the strengths of our ethnic and immigrant communities for intelligence purposes. Reading Gary Berntsen’s recent book about the CIA directed invasion of Afghanistan includes several good examples — while he had recruited Arabs who had been in the Marines for ten years, and Pashtun speaking Afghani’s, the CIA was afraid to sent them into the field, and instead put them at desk jobs translating marriage records. He points out that until he really forced the issue some of the vaulted CIA-Northern Alliance cooperation was conducted in Pidgin Russian.

    Probably the best Intel group going is the Chinese — who have been at it for several thousand years. China is characterized as requiring hunderds of data points on something of interest, all collected independently. They don’t conclude an analysis or consider a move until they are satisfied they look at something important from all possible angles. It is an interesting contrast to our practice.

    The KGB — Soviet Era — and U suppose its successor has a built in weakness because it combines domestic security and control with international information gathering and comparatively weak analysis. Such a combination almost guarentees that anaylsis will reflect political imperatives. Of the Soviet bloc services during the Cold War, the Stasi had the same problem — domestic and foreign matters were too closely related, but in the end I think Stasi was far more effective in spying on the US and NATO than the KGB.

    Good intelligence, the argument goes, whether collected by observation, agents in place or disruptive (disinformation) tactics can, in the best of all possible worlds keep countries out of conflict. Done well, intelligence collecting and analysis can show something is not what it seems. In fact it now looks like the pre-war intelligence on Iraq was precisely that sort — they could not find evidence that Saddam had WMD’s so they had to fix their facts. The shame here is more on the consumer of intelligence than the producers.

    I suspect Iran in 1953 was much more about fear that Iran would slip into the Soviet Orbit than anything else. It was the heighth of militarized ’Containment†— and in a sense Ike had to fear the â€China Lobby†and McCarthy on his political right. The Dulles brothers were both in his inner circle, and the Brits did most of the planning. Ike’s more independent operations were the overflights — first on the SU’s borders, and then when the U2 was available after 1956 — real cross country overflights. The Eisehnower era did the basic research for spy sattalites. We have to assume the communications technology was at least as advanced for those times.

  30. Anonymous says:

    â€I don’t mean to suggest we’re the only ones who engage in such covert operations. Nor do I mean to suggest we should do away with them (though I’d like to consider it).â€

    When I read that I thought you were joking, Emptywheel.
    Would I be rude if I pointed out you are engaging in, â€Does the End justify the Means?â€

    It is a supreme arrogance to be engaging in this debate and only American citizens (and maybe Brits) would be doing it without understanding what they are saying.

    Imagine listening in to Chinese pondering the same things about the USA’s future?

    I know they’re doing it but how would you feel when listening in on it?
    Would you be tempted to intervene and say â€What bloody business is it of your’s what we do in our own country?â€

    It’s playing God with other peoples lives and William Blum points out the the US government has been responsible for killing six million of those lives since WW2.

    â€We were operating based on fear and loathing and that is always a mistake.

    Posted by: William Ockhamâ€

    Spot on William.

  31. Anonymous says:


    One of the reasons I raised the question is to try to think of the counter examples. If we could have taken out Saddam with a covert op (that is, if we didn’t fuck it up so badly), and leave the Iraqis with infrastructure in place but without the strongman, would I do it? If a covert op would have prevented the Rwandan genocide, would I have done it? I’m not interested in seeding violent coup attempts. But covert ops can also be soft power. Having read this thread, I think I’d say it seems like your soft power ops don’t need to be covert, perhaps are better if they’re not covert (though when organizations like Soros’ Open Society Institute become tainted, presumably incorrectly, as CIA fronts, then you have a problem). But I do want to honestly consider whether covert ops are an effective tool at all.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Well, there’s all those stories from Economic Hitman for starters. I don’t separate those ops from what the CIA does.

    But if we want to go pure gov’t stuff, then I’m picking overthrowing Mosssadegh in Iran. I agree with Kinzer that it is the root of the terror problems we have today in the Middle East. It was a stupid, cowardly, selfish thing to do.

    And then there’s this.

  33. Anonymous says:


    I guess, if we were to include the Economic Hitman stuff, we’d have to reframe who we’re talking about as the operative order. In which case, all these fuckups begin to look smart. For them.

    I guess that’s part of the problem.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Just have to mention semi-â€covert†ops in Africa — killing Lumumba in the Congo and propping up Savimbi’s murderous war in Angola — have left that continent with a swath of failed states across its mid-section. In addition to untold misery and disease, who knows what will come out of that sad swamp.

    The US is an empire. Temporarily, head empire. We will seek to spread and hang on to our power. We will both succeed and fail. But the real decay is occuring within. I think we are on the way down; I don’t look forward to what that will be like, though the prosperous among us may yet enjoy a softish landing.

  35. Anonymous says:

    EW, the problem with covert ops is that they require a nuanced detailed understanding of local conditions to work. Outside of Western Europe, the US National Security elite are clueless, won’t get human intelligence, and can’t read it when it shows up out of the blue from some other country’s intelligence service. We live on a diet of signals and satellite intelligence, which leads us to whack jobs, like the Dora Farms bombardment at the start of our most recent Gulf War. The Brits, Russians, and Israelis know how to pull such operations off but we don’t, so we should leave them alone. Blowback, eh?

  36. Anonymous says:

    John Shreffler

    Well I find that pretty convincing. Though presumably Latin America is kind of a gray zone where we speak the language but try not to.

  37. Anonymous says:

    An interesting thread. But I’m a bit surprised at some of the missing events, and the cost of those:

    No mention of Operation Phoenix in Vietnam. Depending on who you talk to, the deaths from this assassination program totaled at least 40,000. Results: some dead â€Viet Cong,†some dead VC sympathizers, some dead people that other people wanted out of the way for reasons having nothing to do with politics; some dead people due to misidentification. Current government: Red semi-capitalist.

    Laos: CIA-backed coups in ’58, ’59 and ’60. Another coup in ’64. The CIA’s covert Army of Meo tribespeople and mercenaries from Thailand and Vietnam were just one aspect of the whole secret war, which included massive covert bombing (covert from the American people, not from the Laotians, obviously). As many as 100,000 Laotians were assassinated by covert agents in the employ of the CIA. total dead in the war: 350,000. Current government: Red.

    The 1970 coup in Cambodia. There’s no direct evidence that the CIA was involved in the actual coup. But the Green Berets had been out to get rid of Sihanouk for years, and in 1969 had approached Lon Nol, who had numerous strong ties to the American military to initiate a coup. The coup was the beginning of the end. Within a decade, up to 2 million Cambodians were dead, the country’s infrastructure wrecked, two generations of educated people wiped out. Current government: multiparty democracy no thanks to U.S. efforts to prop up the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese for more than a decade.

    So, what would the world look like if the U.S. had not engaged in these intertangled covert ops?


    Texas Dem, while I’ve been a foe of U.S. policy toward Cuba all my adult life, I think it’s safe to say that by the time he arrived in Havana in 1959, Castro was already no social-democrat.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Meteor Blades, I hear you but the Indochina War carried most of what you’re talking about as ancillary black ops things and I think EW was talking about something different. Except for Cambodia, our CIA/special ops secret wars in and around the open one in Viet Nam just piled up bodies without changing the outcome. Every war has those types of things and they very rarely make a difference. All the Jedburghs in France before D-Day did more or less squat. I knew a Green Beret when I was in High School ROTC back in 1968-9 who had been in on a lot of that stuff and he was unimpressed with what he’d done both in Southeast Asia and in South America.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for not taking my comments as a personal attack. It kinda read that way to me afterwards.

    I’m going to quote you and disagree, again!

    â€If we could have taken out Saddam with a covert op (that is, if we didn’t fuck it up so badly), and leave the Iraqis with infrastructure in place but without the strongman, would I do it?â€

    There are so many unwritten assumptions behind this question I don’t know where to start. The nature of a violent intervention is a â€fuck upâ€.
    If you have ANY designs on their resources, then it soon degenerates into exploitation if, indeed, it doesn’t start there.
    If you are motivated entirely by humanitarian concerns, then where do you start in the world and where do you finish? Even an ardent advocate for intervention must admit that a percentage of these intervention/incursions will â€fuck upâ€. Who wants to put their hand up for the responsibility of the death toll? Would you, Emptywheel?

    â€If a covert op would have prevented the Rwandan genocide, would I have done it?â€

    Being a cynical person, I googled â€Rwanda + resouces†and guess what? Lots of gas.
    I was tempted to do the same thing with Czechoslovakia after you mentioned it, but didn’t. But I’ll ask you, â€Were there any sizable resources that were in State hands that are now privatised i.e. in the Global Corporatists’ bag?

    Milosevic’s crime was not selling off the States resources which happened promptly after liberation (and the bombing of cultural icons).
    I don’t want to say that your motivations are the same as the corporations, but does it matter if the results flow from the actions rather than the motivations behind them?

    â€I’m not interested in seeding violent coup attempts.â€

    I would hope not, but is â€violent†the operative word here?

    Chomsky said something like â€If you want to stop terrorism, then stop engaging in itâ€!

    If I were the Potus, I would enact William Blum’s answer internationally and, domestically, I would set about building an equitable and just society. I would turn it into a model for the world. Few realise that the current fascist model is incredibly inefficient prosperity wise – all that internal conflict. All those resources devoted to â€controlling†the problems created by the exploitation of the system.

    Then the US could say â€This is what we have done and this is how we did it. We will help any country do the same if they askâ€

    Do you think that this would create internal pressure against tyrannical regimes?
    All tyrannies require fearful co-operation from the populace to function.
    Non-violent non co-operation is the key to overthrowing so called â€strongmenâ€.

    Violence just gets more violence.

    I come back to –
    The end is just the result of the means.

  40. Anonymous says:

    All excellent points, Griffon. And I really cherish the disagreement. I’m trying to think out loud, and I’m by no means sure of the answer.

    So where would you draw lines on soft power? A big part of me is no fan of that–particularly under the table soft power, propraganda that isn’t explicitly identified. (Though our propaganda has gotten so bad, that we’re at no risk of having unidentified propaganda floating about. Might as well stamp it, â€This bullshit brought to you by Karen Hughes and a bunch of other Texans who can’t even understand other American cultures, much less yours.â€

    But how far is too far? I’ve got mixed feelings about voice of America. Is the Fulbright program too far? It’s soft power, Joseph Nye’s favorite. Is that too coercive?

  41. Anonymous says:

    â€(Though our propaganda has gotten so bad, that we’re at no risk of having unidentified propaganda floating about. Might as well stamp it, â€This bullshit brought to you by Karen Hughes and a bunch of other Texans who can’t even understand other American cultures, much less yours.â€â€

    Yup. That’s great!

    I welcome the oportunity to answer your question (such that I can) but I don’t want to ramble and apologise â€for the long letter as I didn’t have time to write a short one†(Oscar Wilde). I’d like to be as succinct as I can.

    So lemme think about it and I’ll come back later tonight or tomorrow.
    But to give you the flavour, I regard international propoganda the same way as you might the neighbour who, without invitation, tells you how to raise your kids.

  42. Anonymous says:

    As a lot of people have pointed out, the Iran coup against Mossadegh is a big one. Had we left Mossadegh in power and cooperated with him, it is entirely likely that the neocon dream of a â€democratizing force†in the Middle East might have happened 50 years ago. But with John Foster Dulles (easily the Republican of the Century to be disinterred and have his bones smashed and scattered for his crimes against his country and the world – he managed to create all the problems we are STILL dealing with around the world) and his â€those not with us are against us†policy, there was no chance of â€neutralists†like Mossadegh and Nassre (also a genuine nationalist) ever getting a chance to even try and accomplish what they were trying to do.

    And all the special ops for Israel have done us a world of good, too.

  43. Anonymous says:

    The short answer, Emptywheel, is that it is not a question of where do you stop but rather should you start? And my answer is no. And the short answer to the reasons why is, â€Read Daniel Quinn’s â€Ishmaelâ€â€.

    An observation – It is pretty easy to see that the rednecks have been drinking â€The Kool-Aid†but can you see the stuff that you have swallowed? I suggest a long hard look at the concept of being â€the leader of the free worldâ€. Who voted for you (USA)? Who wants the USA to lead them? What gives the USA the right to intervene in other countries future? Are you prepared to tolerate others interfering with your future?
    Everybody’s views are based on premises that they usually grew up with and each culture has it’s own particular brand of brainwashing aimed at furthering the interests of the elite of that culture or at least the status quo.

    The longer answer follows-

    Any covert operation is going to bring unwanted consequences because being covert is being dishonest and you will be found out. When that happens, who is going to trust you? No trust equals no credibility. So now the only way to influence is more deceit through cutouts and frontmen leading to more exposes and scandal and ever more denial. Remind you of anyone?

    But why should any country seek to influence another against it’s will other than to exploit it?

    European â€civilisations†are not living sustainably as far as the world ecology is concerned but more to the point is that they are not living sustainably within the ecology of their own national borders. You can’t expect unsustainable nations to come together and create a worldwide sustainability.

    Globalisation is some nations maintaining their unsustainability at other nations expense be it stealing other nations natural resources, their people as in plantation slaves or their labour as in third world sweat shops.

    The cultures of Europe, England, USA and Japan have flourished as a cancer flourishes at the expense of healthy life, the chief example being the indigenous peoples around the world. Ironically, the very people who KNOW how to live sustainably within their borders. These peoples trade with others but not for the necessities of life. This breeds dependence, vulnerability and WILL be abused.
    Cancer has a very finite life and is strongest the moment before the host dies. The same goes for parasites.

    European wars have been over trade and between trading partners, each one wanting not to be restrained by the limits of it’s own natural resources.

    If you still want to influence other countries out of purely humanitarian motives, then the only honest and effective way to do it is by example.
    Turn the USA into the land of Freedom, Equality and Justice for all it’s citizens and being dependent on no one, be it a foreign country or a foreign or domestic corporation.

    And it can be done through organising non violent, non co-operative campaigns. It will need ingenious and lateral thinking and military style strategy and organisation.

    With the experience gained from being successful at resting power from the â€powerful†you are then in a position to teach this to others WHO ASK.

    For anyone wanting to find out more about this, I recommend googleing â€Gene Sharpâ€.

    This is a bit of a hobby horse for me, Emptywheel, and I am grateful for the opportunity to write about it.