Before I jump into the political action, for those who have followed my research and writing into the “political” murders of the 1960’s – JFK, MLK and RFK – I want to say that I certainly have not lost my interest in in them. As with State Secrets by Bill Simpich, I will blog on any research that I see as truly new and relevant. For example William Law has an updated version of his work on the Bethesda autopsy coming out this year and hopefully Gary Murr will be publishing some truly new and relevant work related to the JFK murder. I will report/comment as their work becomes available. And if anyone has any specific question related to my own work in those areas, I’m happy to respond to it via email or post on it here if that seems best.
With this post I hope to encourage interest in a broader factual knowledge of American Cold War foreign policy and in particular the use of the CIA for political action in “regime control” (not necessarily “regime building” in the immensely expensive fashion the United States nation does it these days – with the generation of huge construction and security contracts and massive impact on the Federal budget – but the much lower profile, deniable “cash diplomacy” programs that the CIA conducted for several decades beginning immediately after World War II. In Shadow Warfare Stu Wexler and I focused on the CIA’s covert and clandestine paramilitary activities through that period, digging deeply into the names, practices and tradecraft of such operations.
We intentionally took a pass on the much broader practice of “political action” as carried out by the Agency – of course in a number of instances when dollar driven regime change or the more subtle efforts of DOD military assistance programs failed, the next step was regime change/coups so of course we did cross the line there and trace the evolution from political to paramilitary action in many interventions. Still, the reality is that political action was far broader and more pervasive than shadow warfare, across the globe and on all continents including in Western Europe. Without a full grasp of that history, it is particularly hard for the post-Cold War generations to understand the extent to which America and its foreign policies are so deeply mis-trusted around the globe. Of course that is not to say that the Soviets did not also engage in similar extended global meddling over the same decades, earning their on level of mistrust in some nations.
However, much of the Soviet (and later Chinese) manipulation was effectively disguised under the cover of communist and socialist political movements, with ideology rather than simply dollars as the prime driver. With so many indigenous communist movements, even if small, Soviet engagement was often seen as much more purely political, and “home grown”. They were also much more effective at courting and engaging neutral governments, and far more politically sophisticated in doing so than the United States – Viet Nam being one example, India another.
Fully appreciating where the United States is today in international relations requires a firm grounding in the history of both its political and covert operations overseas – over decades. The good news is that there is a very useful resource that complements Shadow Warfare (actually it came first). The problem is that it’s a book, and a very expensive book. But the good news is that the authors have put a good deal of its content online, enough so to give even a causal reader a good introduction to the breadth of American political operations over the decades. I would encourage all those interested to give their web site a look; a good number of the interventions listed in the chronology actually open up to descriptions of the named operations and that provides a great summary for those who don’t realize the scope of what was actually occurring. The book is expensive but for browsing the web side is superb and actually lists a great number of deep sources for research.
It would be fascinating to see such an analysis of Soviet foreign policy and political action operations. Such a study might have emerged, bits and pieces did. However with Mr. Putin in charge, we are unlikely to see the deeper and darker side of Soviet foreign relations in the foreseeable future.