Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990


When the Bush administration began in January 1989, the high public profile of the counterinsurgency and special operations revival of Reagan’s first term had already faded from the limelight, and public attention swiveled toward the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc. The new challenge was the management of an emerging world order in which the Kremlin was no longer the master of the “evil empire. “ The withdrawal of Soviet advisers and military assistance from the regimes deemed undesirable by the United States, the grudging acceptance by the United States that the Soviet Unions’ commitment to revolution abroad was a thing of the past, and the Soviet leadership’s increasing and evident preoccupation with domestic crisis and potential national dismemberment have been read as signs of capitulation in the global battle of powers and ideologies.

Were it true that the Soviets were the real power behind every undesirable regime, subversive group, or revolutionary movement, and that without Soviet support communist insurgencies wither on the vine, the new order cleansed of Soviet domination might have been expected to have been largely conflict-free. But even hard-liners who had long insisted that the way to crush insurgency was to “go to the source,” to lean on Moscow, found that revolution persisted even when the Soviets had unabashedly withdrawn from the great game. Undesirable regimes continued to thumb their noses at the United States. The ideological underpinning of the Cold War, too, remained intact, as socialism, communism, and myriad hybrids remained a potent force and no less antithetical to the counterideologies of the U. S. establishment and its client cultures, armies, and regimes around the world.

The decline of the Soviet Union as public enemy number one has removed one source of U.S. insecurity but revealed the bare face of other sources of U. S. conduct. In the past, the United States challenged the imperial prerogatives and expansion of the European powers (and later Japan) in defense of its own interests and in the name of democracy. It also claimed its own prerogatives and established new forms of patronage from the ruins of more decrepit empires. This political and economic imperative would be echoed in a continuing commitment to maintaining an American edge over an increasingly united Europe, the rebuilding of Eastern Europe, and the economic power of resurgent Japan. The Gulf War, financed primarily by the oil states, Japan, and the Europeans, served admirably to reaffirm U.S. power and to guarantee its economic foundations by establishing its military stewardship over the oil states of the Gulf. Closer to home, it would be served by the creeping absorption of Latin American and Canadian economies into a block of unequal partners.

A second mission of U. S. foreign policy—to maintain stability within its sphere and to counter revolution—has also been revealed outside the context of the Cold War. Panama was invaded in 1990 to restore stability within its own borders and throughout the region. The Panamanian government could no longer be trusted to deal reliably with the United States, and so its stability was in question. That was sufficient cause for the United States to intervene (provided, as projections showed, that intervention could be managed within acceptable costs).

Although the Cold War may have ended, a more diffuse but no less lethal Cold War has continued to guide U. S., if not also Soviet, policy. The East-West conflict provided a conceptual framework for U. S. unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency, and defined U. S. interests in largely ideological terms. Although the threat from the East has been removed at a stroke, a profusion of lesser centers of provocation, threat, and opportunity have continued to confront the United States’ Cold War apparatus—and to sustain Cold War attitudes that had been reaffirmed by the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. If the Cold War between the superpowers is over, the Cold War on the periphery— the primary theater of U.S. unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency since the 1950s—has been largely unaffected by the changes in the East, and continued to be waged enthusiastically by the Bush administration in Cambodia, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and much of South America.

George Bush had a taste of special operations as a minor player in the Iran-contra scandal, and more than a taste in his brief tenure as CIA director in 1976-1977. The excesses of special operations gone wrong and the Reagan administration’s crusading Cold War rhetoric of retaliation have been largely superseded by a seemingly more businesslike and less visible approach to political warfare more appropriate to the waning of the Cold War. In practice, unconventional warfare apparently continues to be waged along much the same lines.

The Reagan administration had succeeded in winning the public and congressional approval required for a more vigorous program of intervention overseas and had built up the specialized military forces required, including the CIA’s “paramilitary” cadre. The buildup continued under the new president. Total military special operations forces reached scheduled levels of 38,000 in 1991, including reserves. Active duty forces based in the continental United States as of April 1991, totaled 18,250, with 5,170 operating overseas. A further increase of about 1,500 was scheduled for fiscal year 1992 with the activation of another Army Special Forces Group (the “Third” SFG, with a force level of about 1,350) and of ten Navy SEAL platoons (about 150 men in total). The navy fielded 3,250 SOF personnel and the air force 3,750, with most of the army’s 11,250 active SOF in the First, Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth Special Forces Groups (each with about 1,400 men, in three battalions). In addition, the secret Department of Defense “Congressional Budget Justification for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict” for fiscal year 1991 provided for 963 SOF to be based at Fort Bragg’s Special Warfare Center and 465 at the First Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at Fort Bragg. The assignment of a further contingent of 935 personnel is identified only as a “CLASSIFIED MISS ION.”1

The invasion of Panama was the Bush administration’s first experience of using U. S. military strength outside the ideological framework of the Cold War. The 20 December launch of Operation JUST CAUSE involved some 25,000 troops, including the 13,000 strong Canal Zone garrison of the U.S. Southern Command headquarters (perhaps a salutory lesson to other nations that host foreign bases). Some 4,000 special operations forces were deployed in what may have been a foreshadowing of a more ubiquitous U. S. role in “low-intensity conflict” in the post-Cold War era. The president gave four reasons for the intervention: to protect American lives and property; to keep open the Panama Canal, which was endangered by an unstable government; to “restore democracy,” installing in the presidency the amiable banker Guillermo Endara who, the United States maintained, would have won the May 1990 elections had General Manuel Noriega not rigged them; and, in the first major test of a new U.S. legal doctrine forged in Reagan’s counterterrorism program—that U.S. agents could arrest and remove to the United States’ jurisdiction for trial anyone, anywhere. The latter was exemplified by the detention of Noriega, his summary removal to the United States, and his being brought to trial in an American court for drug trafficking.2

The failure of a U. S. -backed coup in October 1989, despite the efforts of an enormous CIA presence, was, ingenuously, presented to the world as a shameful consequence of a U. S. “hands-off” policy not unlike the Kennedy administration’s withholding of full air support at Bay of Pigs. The media accepted the official story: that the Panamanian officers who failed—and were summarily executed for their pains—would have succeeded had their American managers been allowed to play a more direct role. One story that was floated with the same apparent rationale, indeed, maintained that the attempt failed because it was off schedule and not coordinated with the American friends: that “a US backed coup may have been in the offing . . . [but] the ‘un-official’ coup got in the way.”3

The October affair in Panama City was represented in the United States as a “humiliation” for the president—only because it failed. The subsequent invasion was a response to the charges of a presidential lack of resolve, a symbolic exercise that was costly mainly in Panamanian lives. Another casualty of the failed coup, however, was the erosion of even nominal constraints on U. S. special operations. In an uncharacteristic throwback to the aggressive rhetoric of Reagan’s first term, the president’s men pointedly told the media that the White House was unhappy with the constraints on its “unconventional” operations overseas, in particular the ban on assassinations first issued by President Ford in 1976 (and sometimes interpreted only as concerning the murder of heads of state).4 Top officials were said to have “endorsed calls for more latitude” for operations to support “potentially violent efforts to overthrow foreign dictators.” Among them, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft had complained that the assassination ban had been “forced on the Executive Branch by a Congress bent on ‘micro-management.’ “5

Special operations by and large sidestep requirements for democratic decision-making and accountability at home, and can be largely concealed from the public. A recourse to special operations limits the cash outlay required for intervention and the political cost of failure. Special operations in the new world order would have a new range of objectives, with their missions—and pretexts—adjusted to the end of the Cold War. The new missions, such as drug enforcement, will provide a vehicle for continuing some of the old missions that persist from the Cold War and the counterinsurgency era.

The deployment of U. S. military special operations forces in Bolivia Peru, and Colombia to train and support military counterinsurgency forces, under the umbrella of a drug enforcement program, has been one aspect of the new order.’ The authorization of $65 million in emergency military aid to Colombia by President Bush in August 1989, for example, was announced as part of the “war on drugs.” But congressional inquiries later showed that 77 percent of the assistance was for military needs unrelated to the war on drugs but fully consonant with the Colombian military’s decades-long war on subversion and insurgency—and with the Bush administration’s continued waging of an unfinished low-intensity conflict in the spirit of the Cold War.7

Predictably, the civilian objective, narcotics control, took a back seat to counterinsurgency in the best tradition of U. S. special operations. A 1990 congressional report disclosed that the Colombian army was generally uninterested in narcotics control, and that the antinarcotics police “has had to contend with the increasingly powerful alliance of trafficking organizations, armed rural landowners and their military protectors”; and that presidential authority had had to be sought to permit the police “to bypass military commanders” in operations against the cartels. The military, then, which had forged an alliance with armed landowners and drug barons in developing its counterinsurgency apparatus, was part of the problem of narcotics trafficking, and not an effective means of suppressing it.8

The Peruvian military, too, recipients of significantly less U. S. assistance, was a reluctant partner of Special Forces personnel in narcotics control operations, but was a good deal more enthusiastic about U.S. support for its counterinsurgency war.9 The construction in September of Special Forces training facilities at Mazmari in the ceja de selva, in the highlands on the “eyebrow of the jungle,” and of a fortified U.S. fire base at Santa Lucia, in the heart of the Upper Huallaga Valley coca lands controlled by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas, suggested U. S. special operations forces were settling in to stay. Built on the model of the Special Forces’ fighting camps of Vietnam’s hinterland, with a ten-man U.S. contingent attached to local forces, U.S. forces first came under fire at Santa Lucia on 7 April 1990, in a Shining Path guerrilla assault on the helicopter compound and the fuel storage area. The attack was repelled by U. S. forces and Peruvian National Police; the Peruvian military failed to provide any kind of support.10 Congressional investigators concluded that the local army’s posture reflected more than mere indifference or incompetence, noting that “narcotics interdiction efforts in the Upper Huallaga Valley continue to be frustrated by the Peruvian military.” The traffickers, in fact, were building their airstrips and laboratories close to army bases in order to maximize the protection the army could offer them.11

Measures to make the United States’ drug program more attractive to the Peruvian military have preceded under the Bush administration. Since April 1990, the Peruvian military, which was unhappy with dealing with civilian DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) officers, has dealt with an active- duty colonel of the U. S. military as the coordinator of U.S. operations in the Upper Huallaga Valley. Overt assistance to the military’s nationwide counterinsurgency effort and U.S. diplomatic assistance in covering up the Peruvian military’s record of atrocities could be the next step in the new order. The armies of the counterinsurgency states are still the United States’ primary allies in the war against subversion. But armies that were attracted by the martial appeal, the ideological simplicity, and the brotherhood of global common cause engendered in Cold War counterinsurgency may well remain reluctant allies in the war against drugs—even as a quid pro quo for uncritical U. S. support in their respective wars on domestic subversion.

In the first years of the Bush administration, the numbers of U.S. troops moving in and out of Guatemala reached levels perhaps not equaled since 1966-1967. Flights out of the United States’ Palmerola Air Base in Honduras, specially built for regional low-intensity conflict, brought special units into Guatemala for short-term deployment on a range of projects designed to assist the Guatemalan army in its counterinsurgency campaigning. Already by mid-1989, U.S. Air Force pilots were reported to “regularly hold training exercises in the Guatemalans’ A-37 attack panes,”12 while opposition sources claimed an estimated forty Green Berets were working out of the army’s special jungle warfare school in the Petén, and U.S. forces were providing tactical support with helicopter gunships during counterinsurgency operations in the mountains of El Quiche. 13 National Guard units from Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Alabama were part of the acknowledged U.S. presence, employed in civic action and other tasks to complement the Guatemalan army’s work to subdue, indoctrinate, and control its suspect Indian population. 14

Because the Cold War is no longer, in any case, waged unilaterally by the United States in the “Free World,” a certain role will continue to fall to others as its terms change. A reluctance to abandon the Cold War might have been expected, particularly in the military institutions the United States had trained and organized and inducted into the Cold War brotherhood. The domestic elites of the counterinsurgency states such as Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Peru, are a factor, in that their intransigent opposition to change has been fueled by the extremism of the United States’ anticommunist ideology for export and sustained by decades of a U. S. commitment to defend them from their enemies. The Cold War attitudes and ideology that informed U.S. policy, most comprehensively in the fields of foreign affairs and defense, provided the template on which many “Free World” clients have modeled their societies, their political institutions, and their security systems.

The real war against the ideological enemy that was being fought in Central America as Bush moved into the Oval Office was sustained and expanded as he took control and extended further to the south on the back of the “war on drugs. “ The war in the Americas, in the Philippines, and elsewhere continued to be a war on communism and anything remotely akin; it is not an afterimage of the Cold War but the Cold War itself removed from the East-West theater.

Within seven months of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 the United States and its allies had cleared Iraqi forces from Kuwait and wrung a cease-fire and virtual surrender from Baghdad in a hundred-day campaign. The swift, miraculously one-sided victory in the desert was a milestone for the United States and for George Bush. The president’s exuberant claim—”By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all”—illustrated the persistence of American anxieties over the nation’s performance in war—two decades after Vietnam—and the way the Gulf War was seen in the United States.15 The invasion of Kuwait was, in American eyes, a test of the United States’ will and military power and an opportunity to shape the post-Cold War world and found a “new world order.”

In a Pentagon speech in March 1989, Bush affirmed that the primary lesson the 1980s was that “strength secures peace. “ Strength, in turn, would consolidate peace and U. S. interests in the wake of the Cold War, in an international scene that was “defined by opportunity, a chance to advance America’s interests and ideals, and to strengthen the forces of freedom now gaining a foothold in many places around the world.” The vision extended to a Pax Americana beyond the millennium, “a new American century where freedom and democracy will flourish.”’16

Mobilization for war with Iraq and the creation of the alliance that made it all possible was the first major test of the United States’ role in a new world order. Although Bush’s rhetoric of a new world in America’s image began with his inaugural address,17 the concept was developed in his 1991 State of the Union Address, calling for a crusading role for the United States in a “new world order”: “We are Americans. We have a unique responsibility to do the hard work of freedom. And when we do, freedom works.’’18 In his triumphal speech to Congress on 5 March, he averred that the war had been the first test of “a new world coming into view, a world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order.”19

Theoretically, in the wake of the Iraqi invasion Bush’s new world order is one free of the ideological strictures of the Cold War, a community of purpose that would in the future transcend national rivalries. Even should the Soviets play a largely passive role, a new order could at least provide a means to bring together under U.S. leadership the other powers of the North. The latter would, arguably, be less a new order than a throwback to the predominance of the United States in the immediate postwar period. A union of the powers of the North would, moreover, update the lineup of what had been envisioned in the course of World War II and at the inception of the United Nations as the policemen (in a benign sense) of the postwar world.20 The Gulf War appeared to justify an increased U.S. mission as international gendarme, in a manner not dissimilar to that posed by postwar decolonization, when the United States assumed new “responsibilities” as a declining Europe’s grip on the world lapsed. The old Cold War mission of countering aggression was updated as righteous “new order” intervention. Even without the Soviets, the ills of the world still required the discreet use of U. S. power when they impinged on U. S. interests. The field was clear for what Charles Krauthammer, an advocate of a new U.S. mission, called a policy of “robust and difficult interventionism.”21

The war also showed, however, that there are new powers in the world indifferent to the East-West confrontation that has dominated the North for so long—countries that have viewed the Cold War indeed as an opportunity for their own aggrandizement. As Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran demonstrated, there was a free market in the best war technology of East and West. Neither treaty or diplomatic posture or ideological affinity have encumbered the new war machines in their acquisition or their use of new weapons. Commercial agreements vouchsafed by U. S. agencies cleared the way for sales of advanced missile technology to Iraq; the British provided a broad range of weaponry, including the precision-steel components of an Iraqi “super gun” with nuclear capabilities; the French, missiles (including Exocets), Mirage fighters, and assorted ground-war hardware; the German chemical business provided the industrial plant required for poison gas.22 The Soviets, of course, provided the bulk of the Iraqi equipment as well as advisory contingents.

The 1982 conflict in the Falklands was a precursor to the Gulf War in that it, too, occurred outside the framework of the Cold War. There was no East-West angle to the dispute and the contenders were not ideological adversaries. It was a North-South conflict, with the mature power of the North moving to check the ambitions of a medium power of the South. The war in the South Atlantic, too, was a brief affair. It was perhaps more representative of post-Cold War conflicts to come, however, to the extent that the emerging power of the South made effective and costly use of the advanced military technology of the North before collapsing in defeat.23 Some 1,800 Argentines died in the conflict for the islands they called the Malvinas, with hundreds killed when the battleship Belgrano was torpedoed by a British submarine. The toll of British servicemen was 256 (to be contrasted with the 90 American combat deaths of the Gulf War).24 A lesson of the war was that Argentina’s—and other new international players’—pilots could fly top-of-the-line Mirage fighters with the resolve and skill of their European or American counterparts. The destruction of the British destroyer Sheffield by French Exocet missiles showed the limits of even the best defensive measures against determined and skilled opponents. Even a small war against an unranked contender could be costly.

The mobilization against Saddam Hussein’s armies, and the military success of the overwhelming force thrown at Iraq could hardly be a prototype for military engagement in the new order. The circumstances, for one, were uniquely auspicious for consensual multilateral intervention, what Henry Kissinger described as “an almost accidental combination of circumstances unlikely to be repeated in the future.”25 The United States could act under United Nations auspices and cloak in multilateralism an operation that was largely U.S.-planned, manned, and carried out. The undeniable fact of Iraq’s aggression and the U.N. sanction the political space the United States needed to wage all- out war on Iraq. Its alliances in Europe and in the Gulf provided facilities from which to organize airlifts and the operational bases from which the war would be waged. And for the first time, Americans went to war having been promised that other nations would pay them for their trouble.26

As well as bolstering American confidence in its military might, the war against Iraq did much to rid the U.S. armed forces of the opprobrium that was also part of the “Vietnam syndrome, “ at least in the eyes of the media. The Gulf War was portrayed, for the most part, as a moral endeavor, a “good war.” Yet, reports of indiscriminate torture and killings carried out by Kuwaiti forces—with the knowledge of the U. S. Special Forces—in the days after Kuwait’s liberation suggest that the Gulf War meant business as usual.

Although some of the killings, notably of members of Kuwait’s 200,000-strong Palestinian community, many of whom were born there, were initially attributed to freelance “death squads,” persistent reports gradually emerged that special Kuwaiti units were involved that worked in tandem with U.S. Army Special Forces personnel.27 A few days after the liberation, a New York Times reporter described an operation in which Kuwaiti troops moved through a Palestinian neighborhood. Accompanied by an American soldier, “apparently a member of the Special Forces unit,” troops dragged a young Palestinian man by his hair, then clubbed him with a rifle butt; one of the Kuwaitis “cocked his M-16 and put it to the man’s temple,” when the American soldier, no doubt conscious of the reporter’s presence, pushed away the would-be executioner and himself frisked the prisoner.28

A British reporter described a similar scene, in which Kuwaiti forces shot up a Palestinian district, randomly beat civilians while U. S. Special Forces with them “did nothing to stop this indiscipline, and shouted obscenities at journalists who asked why they did not intervene. “29 On 3 March, British reporters from The Independent and The Observer intervened to physically restrain Kuwaiti troops who were beating a Palestinian boy; when challenged over his acquiescence, a U.S. Special Forces officer offered a quintessentially American, and more than vaguely threatening, response: “You having a nice day? We don’t want your sort around here with your dirty rumors. You have a big mouth. This is martial law, boy. Fuck off.”’30 U.S. Special Forces were also present in Kuwaiti police stations that served as torture centers, the press discovered, and human rights researchers later confirmed.31

An anonymous official of the U.S. Special Forces noted: “Our people on the ground didn’t understand what their role was.”32 This was highly plausible given the Special Forces’ multiple brief: From one day to the next, the same personnel were expected to shift from the kind of no-holds-barred unconventional warfare one might have expected to be turned against Iraqi occupation forces and collaborators to a peacetime, counterinsurgency, countersubversion role. Clearly their Kuwaiti partners preferred to deal with the suspect peacetime population with the unconventional warfare ruthlessness that their American mentors had taught them; and the legitimation of unconventional warfare in the gray areas of counterinsurgency posed no doctrinal barriers to their doing so with their Special Forces escorts. These were the tasks for which Kuwaiti Special Forces were organized and trained by their American friends: Only the Iraqi oppressors were absent.33

The lessons of the Gulf War will be a long time emerging. The potential for Third World powers to confront the United States on a conventional military footing will surely now be seen as a credible threat, despite the United States’ success in battering Iraq into submission. The enormous cost of the operation will not go unnoticed, even with the underwriting by other nations. Nor will the enormous political advantage, at home and abroad, of waging a war against an enemy who was in defiance of the United Nations. The unity of the United States and its assorted allies in the operation could never have been expected to cement a lasting alliance comparable to that of a NATO united by the Warsaw Pact threat. As the Eastern threat has diminished, the economic ascendance of Japan, the prospects of a United Europe powered by Germany, and continuing American economic decline threaten the old alliances that were temporarily restored in the Gulf.

“We are not called upon to be the world’s policeman,” argued Secretary of the Army John Marsh in February 1989, qualifying an earlier remark that the United States would not shy away from low- intensity conflict to protect its interests, from access to raw materials and supply routes to the fight for “ideas . . . the support for and survival of the concepts upon which our heritage as a people are based.”34 The Bush administration, however, promptly showed that while the United States would not be obliged to police the world (or to step in, as in Iraqi Kurdistan, when its actions set in train unplanned human catastrophes), It would increasingly take it upon itself to intervene when it was opportune to do so. The Panama intervention that rounded off President Bush’s first year, however, had already sounded a warning that unilateral intervention in the post-Cold War could be justified on the flimsiest of pretexts. Military action could flow from mere impatience with other means, from a president’s sense of pique and preoccupation with self-image, or an affront to American pride.

The United States has the military power for unilateral interventionism when its adversary is no more formidable (or distant) than Manuel Noriega’s Panama, and when such challenges are posed just one at a time. Other potential scenarios for intervention could severely tax U. S. power: Over a third of the U.S. Army’s fighting forces, 42 percent of its battle tanks, 46 percent of the Marines, and 75 percent of the Air Force’s tactical aircraft were committed to the Gulf War. is The enormity and sophistication of Iraq’s military machine, moreover, is hardly unique in the South. A military confrontation with any such nations, whether multilateral or unilateral, will require similar, major commitments. Skeptics have questioned both the American capacity to pay for the grand international role mooted and to rally even a modicum of the powerful support offered to its initiative in the Gulf.

More serious, however, is concern that in the absence of its traditional enemy, the Bush administration has aimed its sights on a new challenge to global security that in its nebulous definition provides a mission that is both unrealistic and potentially even more dangerous than the United States’ past crusade of anticommunism. “The U.S. government seems lost without something to contain, “ was the assessment of analyst Walter Russell Mead. In the waning days of the Cold War, Mead observes, “America found a new and deadly menace: instability. At a time of diminishing national resources and power, the United States has not lowered its foreign policy horizons, it has universalized them. “36 William Pfaff, in turn, interprets the president’s “new order” as “some form of permanent mobilization . . . under American leadership to prevent or punish manifestations of international ‘disorder.’ “37 At the same time the enormity of the cost of intervention on the Gulf model, without subsidy, will provide a boost to the low-cost medium of covert action, of unconventional warfare through special operations: low-cost, low-intensity but robust intervention designed to achieve immediate objectives (and to preempt more costly conflicts).

Commentators on both the Left and the Right have argued that the end of Soviet influence poses a threat to peace that is perhaps less manageable than that of the old Cold War. The euphoria of the right-wing over the collapse of communism is tempered by concern that “the real threat to world peace could be the chaos that would be unleashed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union as ‘an imperial world system.’ “38 As Patrick J. Glynn, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, notes: “It’s easier to cope with a world where the Soviets are being the Soviets.”39 The old system was, if nothing else, predictable—and dealing with the troubles of the world through hot-line diplomacy with just one prime correspondent had a certain elegant simplicity to it.

Harvard analyst Stanley Hoffman, too, has remarked upon the advantages of the bipolar world in which the superpowers, ‘‘knowing they could blow themselves up, restrained themselves and their allies.” He warns that the “new world order” “may remain a slogan or a sardonic label applied to a situation far more chaotic than the world of the Cold War.”40 A lesson of the Gulf War, in turn, was that its model for crisis management would have no place in a new order of authentic security:

One lesson is that an ounce of prevention is far better than a ton of punishment. If, in a world of shaky regimes, contested borders, ethnic upheavals and religious revivals, every act of aggression requires the mobilization of three-quarters of a million men, sent across the seas to face well-armed troublemakers, there will be very few cases of collective security.41

A similar, more schematic projection of things to come has been set out by defense analyst Edward N. Luttwak, who observes: “For more than forty years, the affairs of the world have been greatly troubled but also structured by the Soviet-Western antagonism.”42 Luttwak is concerned with “the new antagonisms that could shape world politics,” and suggests that “cultural tensions, cultural collisions, and economic resentment” could fuel a ninety-degree rotation of the East-West conflict into a conflict of North and South. 43 The unequal alliances cemented by the Soviet-Western antagonism, in turn, could break down as a consequence of “the worse alternative of an ‘internalization’ of conflict . . . fragmenting the grand coalition of Americans, East Asians, and Europeans, even as ethnic strife is already dividing the Soviet Union.” The end of the central, global conflict on which the world pivoted for more than forty years could result in the breakup of “the coalitions, blocs, formal alliances, and solidarities created by the cold war. “44 i

A new order in which the nations North dominate the South may, in turn, appear reminiscent of the imperial age before World War 11, when the North offered the lethal benefits of imperial peace and stability to the dominions of the South through the products of their burgeoning industries of war. As in the age of past empires, in a new world order of powerful international peacekeepers the expected conflicts with the rising powers of the South may be matched by unforeseen conflicts between the collegial powers of the North. Such conflicts may be less akin to the ideological wars of the Cold War than to the traditional clashes of empires over raw materials and foreign markets.

As opportunities arise and challenges are posed, the United States can be expected to act on the basis of interest. But the idea of interest can still be expected to be colored by the Cold War ideology of denial and containment. The sustained commitment of the Bush administration to the unconventional wars in Cambodia, Afghanistan, and around the world, and to the counterinsurgency crusades in Central and South America, Asia, and the Pacific are indeed more than the afterimage of the Cold War. The unfinished crusade against communism can be expected to color the United States’ role in the 1990s just as it dominated its mission in the 1960s. The Cold War did not end simply because Moscow could no longer pay its bills; the new American mission to guarantee stability sounded suspiciously like its long-standing aim to preserve the status quo against “red” subversion and insurrection. That “stability is no virtue to the oppressed” appeared to hold no more weight in the new world order than it had in the old.45

The designated enemy to the south, at the grass roots, then, was the familiar enemy of the Cold War, unchanged in essence but no longer embellished with the status of Soviet puppet. At the local level, the small wars and police actions of counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare continue to be waged. The states that enthusiastically adopted U. S. Cold War precepts and counterinsurgency doctrine have always looked toward the enemy within as their primary challenge. The Soviet presence in the Southern Hemisphere was always largely abstract, and rather less important than the continuing threat of labor unrest, class struggle, subversion, and insurgency. As long as the United States continues to fund the counterinsurgency states, to arm and train their armies and police, and to work with them in the suppression of dissidents and insurgents as before, the auguries for change are poor.

  1. Forces with a “CLASSIFIED MISSION” could those assigned to Delta Force or on assignment with CIA projects. Details of SOF levels and the projected fiscal year 1992 creation of the Third SFG were confirmed by USSOCOM Deputy Public Affairs Officer Mr. Grimes in a conversation on 26 April 1991 with Charles Call, of the Washington Office on Latin America, who provided this information to the author Further information was provided by Kate Doyle of the National Security Archive, including a copy of the declassified Department of Defense Congressional Budget Justification for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, FY 1990/FY 1991 Biennial Budget (on file in the National Security Archive).
  2. Peter Stothard and Susan Ellicott, “Planes, Helicopters, and Tanks in Attack,” The Times (London; 21 December 1990).
  3. Simon Hoggart, “Bush Pays Price of Failing to Call Shots in Coup,” The Observer (London; 8 October 1989).
  4. Stephen Engelberg, “Bush Aid and Senator Clash on Coup Attempt in Panama,” New York Times (9 October 1989); and “White House Supports CIA Call for Great Leeway During Coups,” New York Times (18 October 1989). Engelberg’s 9 October article reports administration statements implying that it was the Senate Intelligence Committee’s strict interpretation of the assassination ban that had prevented the United States from advising or assisting the coup conspirators.
  5. Stephen Engelberg, “Bush Aide and Senator Clash,” New York Times (18 October 1989). CIA Director William Webster, who requested greater “flexibility,” said the CIA had refrained from giving “advice or guidance to the rebels” out of faithful adherence to the assassination ban The same account reports that the Bush administration “would like to refine the interpretation” of the order, allowing aid to coup plotters bent on violence “but not the killing of their nation’s leader or leaders. “ As evidence that the United States had indeed played no part in the coup, however, the postcoup recriminations and allusions to constraints on assassination are unconvincing; so too is the argument that the ClA’s managers would have ruled out support for any coup in which the death of a head of state was possible (rather than concluding, as they apparently had done in the alleged commissioning of Manuel Noriega to organize the assassination of the leaders of Nicaragua’s government not long before, that this was precisely what such “cat’s paws” were for in the world of unconventional warfare).
  6. For a detailed analysis of the uses for the $215 million in narcotics control assistance to Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru from 1980 to 1990, see U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Government Operations, Stopping the Flood of Cocaine with Operation Snowcap: Is it Working? (Washington, D.C. GPO, 1990).
  7. Ibid., pp. 78-79. The single Colombian agency credited with a vigorous role in the narcotics control campaign, the Directorate of Anti-Narcotics of the National Police (under military control), received some $10.5 million of the military aid; almost $9 million of this grant was manifested in 12 UH-1H helicopters, supremely suitable for counterinsurgency tasks. The same study (p. 85) noted that the administration sought $100.8 million in military aid for 1990-1991, which was “viewed as narcotics assistance, “ with most to be provided to the military, “which is primarily concerned with curbing insurgent activities in a region of Colombia that is not known for narcotics trafficking or production.”
  8. Ibid., p. 5 (emphasis added).
  9. Ibid., pp. 7-8 and passim, for reference to army Special Forces training and operational assistance in the Andean countries.
  10. Ibid., pp. 28-29. Congressional investigators expressed concern that, although an airstrip had been built, there was no provision for evacuation of the 500 Peruvians in the event of an overwhelming guerrilla attack. They were told that in an emergency, “US personnel would be airlifted out by helicopter and the Peruvians would have to ‘open the gates and head for the hills.’ “
  11. Ibid., p 2: “Major processing sights and airstrips used by Colombian traffickers are all too frequently located near military installations and, as a result of their proximity, are protected from Peruvian police and US Drug Enforcement Agency interdiction operations.” The same source reported that the military had given landing rights at the base’s own airstrip to Colombian traffickers for $15,000 a flight.
  12. “Step by Step, the U.S. Moves It,” Newsweek (24 July 1989).
  13. “Soldados estadounidenses en Guatemala, “ Noticias de Guatemala (Mexico), I 1.163 (April 1989). See also CERIGUA Monthly Glance (March and April 1989). The secrecy over the crash of a U. S. military helicopter at the capital’s La Aurora airport in May 1989 fueled speculation that U. S. troops were engaged in counterinsurgency operations, and not, as the claimed, civic action health projects. “Hizo aterrizaje forzoso.” Prensa Libre (18 May 1989); “Cayo helicoptero de EE.UU.,” Prensa Libre (17 May 1989).
  14. “Revelan participacion militar norteamericana,” Enfoprensa (14 February 1990), citing El Grafico (Guatemala; 11 February 1990); Bonnie Tenneriello, “Confronting Guatemala’s State Terror,” Boston Globe (11 November 1990).
  15. “The Rewards of Leadership,” Newsweek (11 March 1991), p. 21.
  16. “Remarks by President George Bush and Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, Swearing-In ceremony for Secretary of Defense, The Pentagon, 21 March 1989,” Military Review (July 1989), p. 82.
  17. For example, “we know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for men on earth. “ “Inauguration of President Bush, “ Keesing’s Record of World Events (January 1989), p. 36391.
  18. “Global beat,” Time (I April 1991), p. 21; see also Martin Walker’s “Bush Urges American Crusade,” The Guardian (London; 30 January 1991).
  19. “Global Beat,” Time (I April 1991), p. 21.
  20. Franklin Roosevelt’s view, expressed at a May 1942 dinner party in honor of Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov’s visit to Washington, was that in the postwar world, “the United States, Russia, England, and possibly China . . . should police the world and enforce disarmament by inspection.” This lineup, with the addition of France, was to have played a joint role in the maintenance of international security through their permanent seats on the Security Council. See Max Jakobson, “ ‘New World Order’: Revitalize the Security Council,” International Herald Tribune (27 March 1991).
  21. Leslie H. Gelb, “America in the World: Good Sense Instead of Slogans, “ International Herald Tribune (18 March 1991), citing Krauthammer’s statement in The New Republic.
  22. The U.S. National Security Council and the Department of Commerce, for example, approved export licenses for technology vital to Iraq’s long-range Condor 2 missile. Sec Alan Friedman, Financial Times (21 November 1989). For a scathing critique of the economic relationship between the United States and Iraq, see William Safire, “Iraq’s U.S. Support,” New York Times (4 May 1990); for a review of the advanced technology sold to Iraq by the United States prior to the war, see Stuart Auerbach, “US Sold High-Tech Devices to Saddam Day Before Invasion,” The Guardian (London; 12 March 1991).
  23. The effectiveness of Argentine airpower, however, was in part a consequence of the relatively small scale of the British operation. Britain’s war costs for the campaign of May-June 1982 is estimated at $1.6 billion. See Nora Kinzer Stewart, “A Case Study in Cohesion, South Atlantic Conflict 1982,” Military Review (April 1989)
  24. The numbers of U. S. forces killed in action in recent conflicts are: Vietnam (1964 1973), 47, ,358; Lebanon (1982-1984), 264; Grenada (1983), 18; Panama (1989-1990), 23; and the Persian Gulf (1991), 90. See “After the Storm,” Newsweek (11 March 1991), p. 16.
  25. Cited in ‘‘Global Beat,” Time (1 April 1991), p. 24.
  26. Congressional budget analysts suggested in late March 1991 that the United States could actually “make a profit on the conflict,” as its allies met a $54 billion commitment and the war’s actual cost seemed likely to be closer to $40 billion. At the time, $26.6 billion had been paid over. See “With Quick Victory, US Is Staring at a Profit on War,” Associated Press Service, International Herald Tribune (27 March 1991). Later estimates put the total war costs at more than $100 billion.
  27. The prewar Palestinian population of Kuwait was estimated to include 400,000; estimates after the war varied from 180,000 to 200,000.
  28. Donatella Lorch, “Resentment Becomes Violent As Kuwaitis Hunt Palestinians,” New York Times Service, International Herald Tribune (4 March 1991).
  29. Robert Fisk, “Kuwait Palestinians Face Gunmen’s Revenge,” The Independent (London; 4 March 1991).
  30. Ibid.
  31. See, for example, Simon Tisdall, “Kuwait Reign of Terror against Palestinians,” The Guardian (London; 22 March 1991), who describes the reputation of the Farwaniyah secondary school, in a Palestinian neighborhood, that was converted into a Kuwaiti interrogation center in which torture is practiced: “Inside an American soldier appears, revolver on hip, and politely asks the Guardian to leave. He will not confirm or deny that he belongs to US Special Forces.”
  32. Robert Fisk, “Kuwait’s Royal Torturers: U.S. Evidence Links Ruling Family to Atrocities against Palestinians,” The Independent (London; 27 April 1991).
  33. The U.S. Army Special Forces’ role in training and working with the Kuwaiti Special Forces has been widely reported. See, for example, Michael Gordon, “Secret US Commandos Crossed Enemy Lines,” The Guardian (London; 2 March 1991), and James LeMoyne, “U.S. Special Forces Train Kuwaiti Unit,” New York Times Service, International Herald Tribune (16 November 1990).
  34. John O. Marsh, “Comments on Low-lntensity Conflict, “ Military Review (February 1989), pp. 4-5.
  35. Jesse Birnbaum, “How Many Wars Can the US Fight?” Time (4 March 1991), pp. 30-31.
  36. The “mirage of a universal alliance against instability, led but not paid for by America, is potentially the most dangerous idea in US foreign policy in the last generation. It raises expectations that cannot be met.” Walter Russell Mead, “A Successful US Foreign Policy Will Be Realistic,” New York Times Service, International Herald Tribune (7 February 1991).
  37. William Pfaff, “Let the Democracies Unite to Promote Democracy,” Los Angeles Times Syndicate, International Herald Tribune (4 March 1991).
  38. E. J. Dionne, Jr., “Right Has Second Thoughts on End of Cold War, “ Washington Post Service, International Herald Tribune (22 February 1991).
  39. Ibid.
  40. Stanley Hoffman, “Watch Out for a New World Disorder,” New York Times Service, International Herald Tribune (26 February 1991).
  41. Ibid.
  42. Edward N. Luttwak, “The Shape of Things To Come, “ as summarized in Military Review (lanuary 1991), p. 80, from Commentary (rune 1990).
  43. Ibid. The North-South conflict could be “between Latin America and the United States, between North Africa (together with the Middle East) and Western Europe, and now between Russians and Central Asians . . . because for all Europeans— Russians very much included—the adjacent South is largely Islamic, the 90 degree solution is that much more plausible, given the exasperated rejection of Western cultural penetrations by many Muslims, and the violent extremism of some.”
  44. Ibid. Other possibilities include “a revival, perhaps in a new form, of the Soviet—Western antagonism,” and “a new source of conflict emerging. . . from the triumph of democratic capitalism over Marxist-Leninism.”
  45. An expression used to describe “one of the biggest blind spots” of Bush’s vision (“Global Beat,” Time [1 April 1991], p. 25).