Secret operations within ruling regimes have been in existence, since the period of ancient governments and kingdoms. These secret operations were meant to gather information of other governments by the aggressive regimes in a bid to initiate foreign control. The motive for these actions was mostly to expand a kingdom’s geographical territory or acquiring another kingdom as part of the aggressive kingdom (Treverton, 1987, 27).This perspective has evolved in to modern occupation and control of other states by stronger ones. The main motive of the stronger states is to initiate its ideals and policies in the weaker states (1).
Having established that, let us now analyze what covert operations really are in the light of modern states and especially, covert operations that are carried out by the United States of America (USA) in other countries in a bid to spread its ideals and achieve its objectives. The issues raised of these covert operations are:
- The manner in which they are carried out.
- The institution/s or individuals mandated to carry out these operations.
- The funding of these operations.
- Their effectiveness whether positive or negative and their consequences to the country (1).
Covert operations are in a nutshell, secret operatives carried out by state institutions on behalf of the US government (citation). These operatives include funding groups of people or political leaders in other countries which seem to be in support of American foreign policies. American government has been on record of toppling democratic elected regimes since they did not support American interests. Covert actions are very secretive and are mostly carried out by entities which are not directly connected to the American congress. This is because most of these operatives are either unpopular or go against the doctrines of the US as stated in the American constitution. It is worth noting that, the covert operations in most cases have involved paramilitary operations leading to the deaths of many innocent civilians in the affected countries (2).
Though not all US interventions can be considered as covert operations, most of them have been mostly in Central America and the Middle East countries. Most of these operations were carried in the course of the cold war as a measure to contain the rapid spread of communism at that time. President Dwight David Eisenhower, the 34th president of the US, is on record to have used covert operations to topple standing foreign democratically elected governments, most notably in Iran and Guatemala.
The toppling of the Guatemalan government in 1954 and Iranian government in 1953
It is worth noting that, the covert operations carried out to oust existing foreign governments are mostly carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in order to maintain the secrecy. Most of these foreign governments are democratically elected, but they are against the American foreign policies. There are cases, when the American government has assisted unpopular dictators to take over power against the will of the majority pretending to spread the values of democracy.
The CIA backed Guatemalan coup d’état in 1954 is a good example of these operatives. In 1954, the CIA with the aid of an anti communist group dubbed as “the army of liberation” toppled the popular government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman by compelling him to resign with rumors that a possible US invasion was imminent.
According to President Eisenhower administration, the Guatemalan president was a pro communist and was entertaining the ideals of communism in Guatemala. This came after president Guzman land policies and reforms that threatened the unlimited occupancy of the United Fruit Company, an American multinational agricultural company (3).
The company apparently occupied approximately 43% of all arable land in Guatemala. Realizing that the land reforms could lead to an apparent loss of land and agricultural monopoly, the company lobbied its mother country government to intervene. President Eisenhower in conjunction with the CIA took to spreading propaganda against President Guzman`s administration and training rebels to help in toppling the democratically elected Guzman`s administration.
The CIA director Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles, who was the secretary of state, were shareholders in this company. They, therefore, were compelled to take some actions in ousting President Guzman on the allegations that he was a pro communist leader, however, evidence of what was never found. The CIA went ahead and trained about 480 mercenaries and instituted a radio station in Honduras to spread political propaganda. The mercenaries finally attacked Guatemala on two fronts, in order to create fear among the Guatemalan citizens, but were suppressed by the Guatemalan military. Rumors spread that the Americans were planning to invade Guatemala, what led to the Guzman administration surrendering to a group of poorly armed militia. President Guzman later resigned as a result of this incident. What followed was a civil war that lasted for 36 years (1960-1996) (3).
Another clandestine operation was the ousting of the government elected on the principles of democracy in Iran. This was the government of the duly elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh’s move to nationalize the petroleum industry for the benefit of the people of Iran went against the interests of the US and the United Kingdom. This policy threatened the massive profits of the Anglo-Iranian oil company. As a result of this nationalization, Britain put pressure on the US to join the existing regime and institute a friendly regime which would protect its petroleum interests (4).
As in the case of Guatemala, the CIA covert operations came into play again in what was referred to as operation Ajax (Kinzer, Schlesinger, 1999, 134). Together with the British intelligence, CIA hired Iranian agents that posed as communist. These agents attacked religious leaders and even bombed homes of some religious clerics. This was a move to turn the people who were highly religious against the government. It was claimed that the government was adopting communist ideals and was suppressing the freedom of the people. This was according to the CIA articles that were published in American associated press. The Shiite Muslims, with the help of Shah Militia managed to topple Mossadegh democratic government. The successive government of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi instituted an autocratic rule, far much worse than what propaganda had painted Mossadegh to be.
The CIA with the support of the Eisenhower and the British administration also used economic boycotts and economic sanctions against Iran to oust the government of Mossadegh. This together with the violent uprisings in Iran led to Mossadegh deposition on the 19th of August 1953. Iran was to be ruled by an autocratic regime that was pro American for 26 years. The oil wealth of Iran was shared between the British and the Americans till 1979 when the regime was overthrown (Kinzer, 2003).
It is evidently clear from these two cases that American covert operations have gone against the American ideals of democracy and respect of sovereignty. Eisenhower covert operations demonstrated that the Americans were only interested in achieving their objectives at the expense of innocent civilians in other countries. The consequences of these covert actions have had more negative effects than they have positive ones. A lot of innocent lives were lost, especially in Guatemala as well as in other countries where the US has intervened.
The ousting of democratically elected governments has led to instability in many countries lowering these countries quality of life. Most of the countries where America has intervened have resulted into civil strife resulting to massive loss of life like in Guatemala (David, 2012)
On the whole, the interference of the US in the affairs of other countries has significantly increased world insecurity. Terrorist groups against the US doctrines have been forming rapidly threatening the world peace in general. It would be wise for the US to use its power to oust military repressive governments suppressing the freedom of the people than interfering with stable governments.