Tuesday, January 08 2008

Mission: Impractical

From Instapundit (bold highlight mine):

HERE IN NEVADA, I've heard some Ron Paul ads. They make him sound like a regular Republican -- strong on defense (against base closings, in favor of "stealth warriors" to "hunt down terrorists" around the world) and against illegal immigration. The war isn't mentioned, nor is the "L' word -- libertarian. If you hadn't been paying attention, you could think they were Duncan Hunter commercials . . . .

I've seen the James Bond national security strategy advocated by lots of people from varying political philosophies, and it's something that I was originally tempted to advocate for myself.  It's one of those things that sounds like a great idea until you think about it and realize that it works perfectly only in fiction.

Advocacy of using covert operations is rather surprising coming from self-described libertarians, unless they are libertarian purely on budgetary grounds, and even then only on the total amount of money spent rather than the issue of oversight.  Covert operations by their very nature lack accountability.  It's important to know what your government is doing on your behalf.  It's different if the covert operations are one component of a larger military effort, where the overall effort is public knowledge and open for political debate.  One can reasonably expect not to have as public knowledge where all the US forces currently deployed in active operations are and precisely what they are doing, but we should be able to find out or reasonably guess what countries they are operating in and against.

Part of my confusion on this advocacy is that the same people that are proposing this strategy are the same people that are complaining about the backlash from previous covert efforts to promote American national security in the middle east and elsewhere.  The CIA wasn't perfectly successful in Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, or any place else where it acted behind the scenes.  Now we are supposed to rely on the same sort of covert realpolitik to secure our nation?

Another part of my confusion is that the same people that are advocating this sort of strategy are often advocating for a major pullback of US forces deployed in friendly and peaceful places around the world (the pullback of US forces in unfriendly and not peaceful places being immaterial to this discussion).  Are these covert activities in places around the globe supposed to be carried out completely from the US?  No support from bases in Europe, the Middle East, or Asia?

My major complaint about this style of warfare is that it legitimatizes similar strategies from other countries where what limited accountability and oversight we can expect from the US government is completely nonexistent.  From the perspective of international law, I can't see the difference between deniable covert operations and outright state-sponsored terrorism.  In each case, a force operating outside the public control of its government is able to commit what would otherwise be acts of war with impunity.

Posted by: Civilis at 10: 07 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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