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Originally published in Sic Semper Tyrannis

 

The Central Intelligence Agency was born out of American experiences in the Second World War and our anxiety over Soviet intentions and activities in the post war period.

 

Having had no formal intelligence organization prior to World War Two, the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, was put together under the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet the needs of the war itself.  That meant that the origins of the American intelligence were paramilitary.  The OSS was there, in effect, to fight the war from a paramilitary perspective.  OSS parachuted into occupied Europe and contacted indigenous partisan groups there.  They blew up bridges and dams and other important pieces of European infrastructure.  They were, quite simply, heroes running the unconventional part of our war against the Axis powers.

 

We came out of that hot war into the Cold War.  Many of the people who had run OSS during the hot war were tapped for leadership roles in the new CIA.  And that was what we got, a management structure whose primary experience was in paramilitary, hot war operations.  And we were facing the entirely new requirement that we produce intelligence on the capabilities and intentions of our enemies in a peaceful environment, a task that was essentially alien to a majority of our managers.

 

The CIA headed into the Cold War largely unprepared to run the kinds of operations that would be required of it.  The Cold War was an intelligence war of subtleties.  No more hand grenades or parachute drops.  No more paramilitary operations.  No more hot war.  Just the difficult and demanding job of recruiting spies in the Soviet empire and running them in place in hostile environments characterized by pervasive 24/7 surveillance.  We did this with no experienced leadership.  We felt our way, had our share of failures, but ultimately got to the point where we could recruit the kinds of assets we needed and then run them in place in their homelands.

 

The Cold War ended.  A decade later, we were suddenly post-9/11.  And where did that put us?   Right back in a paramilitary environment without the guidance and experience of all those Second World War OSS veterans who actually knew how to run the needed operations!

 

So, the twenty-first century edition of the CIA rushed back headlong into paramilitary operations.  Having cut our teeth in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, we now found ourselves back in a kind of role reversal.

 

According to press reports, that has now morphed into the lead role in the drone business.  CIA, the organization that had to work its tail off to get out of the paramilitary business, is now back in that business in spades.  The real question here is not the alleged validity of the drone program.  It is to question the appropriateness of having it vested in the CIA.

 

This is not the first time this discussion has emerged.  In the early years of the CIA, two completely separate organizations within the Agency ran intelligence operations.  OSO conducted intelligence collection operations, where OPC was responsible for what remained of the OSS’s psychological and paramilitary operations.  The ultimate decision was that they would be combined with the result that an uneasy relationship existed between them throughout the Cold War.

 

Those who conducted intelligence collection operations always felt there was a real incompatibility in being lodged in the same organization with those who ran our propaganda and paramilitary operations.

 

Since its inception, the CIA has been charged with producing intelligence on the capabilities and intentions of its enemies.  To have propaganda operations, and, even more, paramilitary operations, woven into the same organization is not good thinking, however “convenient” it may be.  At best the relationship is uneasy, at worst it is competitive and self-destructive.

 

An excellent example of this is Pakistan today where, given the realities of Pakistan’s perpetual and dangerous rivalry with a nuclear India, the organization that allegedly flies the hated drones hamstrings itself when it is the same one that is responsible for securing the covert cooperation of important people who are our best hope for learning what’s really going on in that important, nuclear country.

 

If the US Government must have a paramilitary drone capability, then it should be lodged somewhere in the military establishment or in an organization completely separate from our CIA and its human collection operations.  To put it anywhere in the CIA is risky, foolhardy and ultimately counterproductive, serving neither our covert human collection nor our paramilitary operations.

 

 

 

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Originally published in The Rutland Herald and The Barre Times Argus

Over the weekend of July 10-11, it was announced that the United States would suspend, and in some cases cancel, nearly $800 million in military aid to Pakistan. This would amount to almost half of the $2 billion slated for the country’s armed forces.

Let’s get one thing straight right away.  It doesn’t matter what we think of Pakistan, India or Afghanistan.  What matters is  tht we understand regional reality and how that affects our goals there. In that context, we might profitably examine whether or not Afghan/Pakistan realities, in effect, make our goals illusory.

It is difficult to understand precisely what could have rationally motivated the Obama administration to implement this policy. Absent any logical underpinnings, it may well be the result of our anger that we are not getting our way with Pakistan when it comes to what we see as their uncooperative operations on their own territory against that part of the Taliban that resides on their side of the border with Afghanistan.

We are late-comers to the complex realities of the Middle East and South Asia.  Our policies, such as they are, would appear to be based in the domestic political needs of the Bush and Obama administrations, rather than on facts on the ground. More than that, we are deeply involved there for reasons that difficult to understand.  While we all understand our invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, our 2003 invasion of Iraq and our subsequent re-invasion of Afghanistan are far less comprehensible.

Whatever the current facts and prospects, and none of those are any more clear under Obama than they were under Bush, one thing is absolutely clear and critical.  Pakistan sees India as an existential threat.  Those two countries have fought wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, as well as significant skirmishes in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1995, and have almost come to blows on numerous other occasions.

Despite the wishes of Muslims prior to the 1947 partition of colonial India, for a clean line of demarcation between themselves and the other religious groups, that did not happen.

Roughly 50% of the Muslim population of colonial British India remained in what is today India. Since 1947, interfaith violence between Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs has resulted in something between a half million and a million casualties.

Since partition, Pakistan has focused narrowly on what it sees as the existential threat from India. As a result, Afghanistan has become extremely important to the Pakistanis.  They are culturally, religiously, linguistically and ethnically inseparable.

Pakistan sees the Taliban as one way to apply pressure on India.  For that reason, Pakistan military intelligence (the ISI) has long subsidized the Taliban and its activities as a counterbalance to India’s influence in the disputed Kashmir region.

it has been clearly stated by virtually every US official from President Obama to General Petraeus that we cannot “win” in Afghanistan as long as the Taliban has a safe haven in Pakistan. The Pakistanis, for their own national reasons, are unwilling to eliminate that safe haven and we must remember that and as long as all our major military supply routes for Afghanistan cross Pakistan territory, we might wish to better consider their sensitivities.

So, the issue cannot be simply that we are displeased with the reluctance of the Pakistan government to undertake activities that it believes are directly threatening to its national interests vis a vis India.  There has to be something more than that, either a total lack of understanding among US policy makers of the realities in Southeast Asia, or some sort of convoluted belief that denying Pakistan our support will somehow make it easier for us to withdraw from Afghanistan.

And it may be just that! For this thumb in the eye of Pakistan, following on the heels of their open displeasure with our unilateral drone assassinations and our killing of bin Laden without their coordination and on their territory, will certainly change the balance in Afghanistan.

If we thought for a moment, as some American dreamers did, that we had any sort of chance for any kind of “win” in Afghanistan, we have just measurably raised the odds against successfully achieving our own goals by further humiliating the Pakistan military establishment, government and people.

Go figure!



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