The Effectiveness of Covert OperationsCovert operations were for the first time fully integrated into the country’s intelligence system after the Second World War, together with their bureaucratic structures (Warner 27). As from 1947, policymakers felt that it could supplement overt strategies to limit the Soviet Union and communism’s growing influence, hence when the CIA was founded in 1947, it adopted the approach as a major strategy against the Soviet Union’s influence across the world (Snider 260). The ongoing war on terror, its related conflicts and a need for the US to monitor states that are considered ‘rogue’ for instance North Korea also provide a reason for application of covert operations (Parenti 51).
Although covert operations raise various legitimacy issues, they have remained as an essential part of foreign policy through the CIA especially since the 1970s reforms. This paper discusses the legitimization of covert operations by the CIA across time, and the issues arising especially before and during the GW Bush administration. Definition of Covert OperationsIn 1991, Congress passed the Intelligence Authorization Act. This offered the first state definition of the covert operations and a reinforcement of reporting requirements.
According to it, a covert operation is a paramilitary or military operation which is secretly conducted and often takes the form of activities that are ethically or legally unacceptable, hence the invisibility of the government’s involvement (Barry 7). Covert operations mainly came up in the Cold War era during which the competing sides wanted to hit one another without precipitating public inquiry, diplomatic challenges or war. Covert operations have traditionally comprised of attempts by the government to exert some influence on happenings in another country without necessarily being visible, and because of this they are significant tools in foreign policy, as they are used to shape politics in other societies and governments (Diaz and Morave 102).
Political Legitimacy of Covert OperationsThe legitimacy of covert activities may be based on the principle of legitimate goals. In this case, as a global power, the US is justified in promoting the ideals of democracy, reconciliation and dialogue hence covert action as the instrument of political will in pacification and dialogue. The promotion of democracy through covert operations is therefore a valid argument (Perry 3).
This may however be criticized in that from history, democratic measures tend to fail if they are imposed by outsiders. There has been minimal success in establishment of democracy through covert operations, as instead, several authoritarian regimes ended up in power for examples in Chile, Indonesia and Guatemala (Parenti 131). While the idea of promoting democracy sounds right, it loses meaning when one imagines the US helping to overthrow a government that was legitimately elected. Just like war, the operations are extensions of diplomacy and will be justified as long as they follow set guidelines or principles.
According to the Just War theory, the operation must be by a legitimate authority, and its justness is only confirmed when it is perceived as seeking a just cause, a legitimate aim and is a last resort that is executed proportionally to the kind of threat that it is supposed to eliminate. The operation needs to have a high chance of success and minimize possible suffering of innocent people (Barry par. 11). As a decision taken by the political class, the choice of covert operations is guided by the reality that the US constantly has to deal with crafty enemies, as a result of which it may be justifiable to equally apply some degree of deception.
To ensure that they remain under control, there is the need to apply them sparingly, and democratic practice requires that they should be serving the advancement of policies that the public favours or that have at least been accepted by people’s representatives in the legislative and executive arms of government (Parenti 130).