Friday, January 04, 2013

Hoarse Whisperer


A former head of the CIA is said to have believed that U.S. diplomatic signals may have helped kick off the 1982 Falklands War:
"Mr William Casey, the head of the CIA, who was closely concerned in Cabinet discussion on this subject, has implied to us privately that he thinks the Argentinians may well have been led up the wrong path.

'They may have believed that their support for the US in covert operations in Central America was more important to the US than in fact it was, and could be expected to earn them American acquiescence in forward policy elsewhere.'

Sir Nicholas also recalled handing US Secretary of State Alexander Haig a piece of paper detailing British evidence of Argentina's intention to invade on April 2, 1982.

He said: 'Mr Haig's reaction to the information I had given him was electric.'

Sir Nicholas added: 'He wanted us to win and would have been horrified if the Argentinians had got away with it."
Hardly solid evidence, but intriguing nontheless. Particularly when you think of this in the context of the supposed July 1990 meeting between Ambassador Glaspie and Saddam Hussein which may (or may not, or might have have been even more complex effect) have had the result of greenlighting the Kuwait coup in the mind of the Butcher of Baghdad.

That, and looking back at the history of "foreign relations" these sorts of very-human fuckups seem remarkably common. People screw up, and diplomacy seems as screwable as anything else.

In this case I'm not sure whether to put a tremendous amount of credence in what appears to be the simple opinion of one man, albeit one that was a very experienced observer of the foreign policies of his time. And the internal politics of the Argentina of 1982 make it fairly clear that the junta was already deeply committed to the idea of using force to claim the "Malvinas".

But what this odd historical footnote does seem to point out is that for all that we often like to think of "geopolitics" and "strategy" as sciences, as matters that people and nations can make into tools to use for their interests and both study and train on to improve they are often laden with what another U.S. recent foreign policy thinker used to call "unknown unknowns"; complexities and unintended consequences that even the sharpest wit and the most diligent student cannot anticipate.

4 comments:

herlanderwalking said...

The phrase "trial and error" comes to mind....heavy on the "error" from time to time.

FDChief said...

No question. But the cynical grin comes from the public pose of "Remain calm! We know what we're doing!" when you get the strong feeling that half the time the powers that be are pulling this stuff out of their ass...

Which sort of plays back to the kinds of dumb shit that soldiers wind up getting into because their "superiors" can't figure out how to pit the pin back in the grenade they just dropped...or even that they DROPPED the grenade...

Ael said...

Sometimes individuals can get things right when the grand plan would have left things mucked up.

FDChief said...

Good point; I think part of the accepting that a lot of this shit is just outside our capability to "plan" for - not that the DoS shouldn't plan, but just that we shouldn't kid ourselves about how well we have things "planned" - is recognizing that there really
IS such a thing as a "gift" for diplomacy...

State used to have people like this gal, but a lot of them were purged after 1949 and a lot more were turfed out after State became less of a playground for rich dilettantes and more of a bureaucracy...I don't know if we could ever reconstruct the "old" State Department or even if we should.

But it did have its strengths, and this sort of intuition and craft was one of them...