I’m going to continue with a couple of more posts in regard to Shadow Warfare, hopefully we can get some discussion going on it in the future but in the interim its a bit of a challenge to communicate its scope. One of the factors in that is that covert warfare is both intuitively and legally defined as “deniable” – its deniable is embodies in the language National Security Act of 1947, which also allows it to be “preemptive”. Certainly deniability was the watchword for almost all the actions we think of in the 50’s and 60’s – what I would call the classic period (if you are a comic book collector, those would be the “gold” issues).
During the classic period, the Dulles-Helms era, operations were rigidly controlled under the CIA’s supervision, with all the components you would expect in a classic military operation – security, accounting, counter intelligence, etc. The Directorate of Plans, including both paramilitary and psychological warfare staff / the “PP” folks housed both individuals such as David Phillips and David Morales (although individuals could be seconded to proactive counter-intelligence work as both men were). During that period coverts actions were either “blocking” moves against Communist territorial expansion or regime change if necessary. Of course that caused a good deal of internal dysfunction since officially, and as far as the State Department public line went, U.S. relations with most all the countries involved were either that of non-interference or neutrality.
That approach began to evolve under the Nixon Administration, when the norm began to be covert involvement in maintaining anti-communist regimes, especially across both Latin America and Africa. At that point the CIA began to play more of a joint role, working covertly with official military assistance missions and providing intelligence and training for “counter-insurgency” efforts. CIA officers began to be detached and “distance” became even more important, more and more frequently unattached “assets” and non-U.S. citizens would be used in the sake of additional deniablity. Felix Rodriquez’s counterinsurgency activities in Latin America are a good example; it was a trend we examine in considerable detail. The linkage between the CIA and counterinsurgency operations began in Vietnam but escalated considerably in Central and South America, it proved to be extremely effective in the Southern Cone, but with huge costs on from the humanitarian perspective. Condor made Phoenix pale by comparison. In terms of evolution, the merger of covert and counter-insurgency for regime maintenance might be thought of as the “silver” stage of covert action. The lines were beginning to blur, the total control that you see in the era of JMWAVE was fading and it appears that on more than one occasion CIA officers were beginning to let their “missions” drive their practices into some very nasty areas that Headquarters either ignored or simply was never told about.
The turn to “outsiders” increased under President Reagan, as described in the previous post, at least at this point that seems to have been something of a one time thing and its negative consequences have kept it out of the mainstream of contemporary covert action – as far as can be told. Whether or not that lesson will stick remains a question. In that regard, it seems to have been the same sort of tactical diversion that the use of contract covert action personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan turned into…we address in the issue and risks of “privatizing” covert action in the chapter “Other Boots on the Ground”
It would be in the next era of warfare, the war on terror, that covert action would once again merge with conventional military action, both in preemptive combat and in counterinsurgency. That merger eventually led to something we term “gray warfare”, part covert, part conventional and with the legal lines considerably blurred. It becomes a real challenge to understand the legal issues related to launching conventional, undeniable attacks under the authority of the National Security Act of 1947. One major problem being that Congress has not stepped up to formally declaring war (and working though the legalities of non-state enemy combatants) or even to addressing legislation which conforms with the reality of the war on terror rather than the classic cold war state on state confrontations which the 1947 legislation addressed. The contemporary stage of merged action brings us into an examination of JSOC, regional task forces and all the current issues of remote, targeted strikes – as well as the extensive growth in counter jihadi insurgency activities front he Pacific nations across Africa.
All of which is why the book ended up being over 600 pages I suppose…