“Successful” Interventions Can Still Be Disastrous

Christopher Dickey puts a fresh spin on the debate over whether arming participants in foreign civil wars “works”:

Has the CIA failed repeatedly to meet its covert goals? Actually, the problem has been exactly the reverse. With the exception of the Bay of Pigs, the agency has succeeded repeatedly, sometimes spectacularly. In Afghanistan in the 1980s “the CIA arms for the mujahedin won the final and decisive battle of the Cold War, liberating Eastern Europe and destroying the USSR,” says CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, now at the Brookings Institute. “That’s victory by any measure. Of course the war had other long term consequences, but the CIA accomplished what the White House wanted, a Russian Vietnam.”

Long-term consequences indeed. What happened again and again after the agency eliminated or helped to neutralize the presumed bad guys was the spectacle of their replacements turning out to be as bad or worse. But for those tragic policy decisions one must blame every president dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It’s too tempting a tool for presidents to use – secret, unaccountable and constantly looking for new wars to fight and enemies to make. Truman saw this clearly. But by then, it was probably too late to restrain it. And no president has – least of all the current one. By the 21st Century, the CIA had fully understood that it could break the law and even commit war crimes, and all it needed to do was destroy the evidence, spy on the Senate, and lie to the public and get away with it. We await the first attempt in recent times merely to expose the facts of its brutality and incompetence. We’ve been waiting now for almost two years.