Covert Action: The Limits of Intervention in the Postwar World

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Covert Action: The Limits of Intervention in the Postwar World

By Gregory F. Treverton
Basic Books, 1987
293 pp. $19.95
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This is a succinct, authoritative history and critique of the government's use of covert action to shape or overthrow foreign regimes. Mr. Treverton's interest in the subject began in 1975 when he served on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Church Committee). His conclusion, based on deep knowledge of major actions (Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Angola and others), is that covert action cannot be kept secret, usually has consequences far different from and less desirable than those intended, often ties the U.S. to clients who are not easily controlled, undermines the comparative advantage which the United States has as an open society, and is almost always a bad idea.

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