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Response – Strategic Covert Actions

Discussion Reponses – approximately 150+ words

Strategic Covert Actions

The role of strategic covert action is a very sensitive yet powerful tool which can be used to influence an actor in either the political, military, diplomatic, or economic arena in a way that would provide plausible deniability for the actor conducing the action. Conflicts that may exist when an agency is in charge of conducing both covert action and intelligence collection can be foreseen in that an agency that collects intelligence to feed the strategic decision making process and also conduct covert action may result in a major decision being made without the approval of a head of state that could have severe impacts to that state’s foreign policy, or even something as severe as a country’s image. This can be seen in with the failure of the Bay of Pigs of invasion which not only failed embarrassingly for the United states but gave it a reputation of being behind major plots which not only gives reason for states not to be friendly to the United States, but also resulting in popular finger pointing whenever a world event comes around. For example after the rise of ISIS many communities in Jordan and Lebanon produced a conspiracy that the United States was behind the rise of the terrorist group. While these claims are obviously ridiculous it speaks volumes of the United States’ reputation that it has acquired after the Cold War.


Covert action is however one of the most useful tools of state craft as well as the organization in charge of the activity is well honed and being used to accomplish the state’s goals with the oversight of proper authorities. This advantage can be seen when “In 1945 the American Office of Strategic Service (OSS) identification of Japanese ‘peace feelers’ assisted its analysis that war against Japan could be terminated by negotiation.” (Scott, 169) There is also the covet nature that makes benefits of covert action potentially intangible and unknown as every revolution that seemed to support a state’s interest could be suspected of being the victim of covert action but with the advent of plausible deniability it could further shelter a state from negative effects.


Strategic Covert Actions 2

The role of covert action in relation to strategic decision making is to leverage the skills and talents that covert action lend to the situation while at the same time appearing to have no direct knowledge or contact with situation.  In the article Secret intelligence, Covert Action and Clandestine Diplomacy, Richard Aldrich state “that secret service activity includes ‘Operations to influence the world by unseen means-the hidden hand’.  The use of covert action is to further a countries, security, military, economic and business interest.  A conflict can exist when an intelligence agency is in charge of both collecting the intelligence and then using that information to carry out covert actions because now that agency is now making decisions that could affect relationships with foreign countries.  If the covert actions are traced back to a particular agency when an operation goes wrong it will most likely severely damage US relations with that country and possibly the allies of that nation.  Another issue is that agency in is execution of covert action has now engaged in policy making initiatives which should be left up to policy makers unless it was sanctioned by those who have that authority.  In the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis Georgi Bolshakov (GRU) was used to reassure President Kennedy about the Russian mission in Cuba. The Russians had set up missiles with nuclear warheads on the island and used Boslshkov to make it appear as if Washington had a back channel to the Kremlin.  It was also discovered that another Russian Agent Aleksandr Feklisov (KGB) had not been working under the direction of Moscow when he claimed that Russia would began to withdraw the missiles from the island.  He initiated actions on his own, and even though he filed a report back to his agency this was never delivered to Khrushchev, and the United States had once again deceived.  Actions like this can cause issues with trust when agencies or individual within the agencies go rogue and initiate policy on their own that may not be in line with what the leaders of that country wish to accomplish.  This kind of diplomacy can be very dangerous in situations in which two countries are on the brink of a war as it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In conclusion I believe that covert action can be used to both support state craft, and it can be used as a tool to carry out actions to further the interest of a nation.

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