A Dubious Relationship: US Aid and Violation of Human Rights

Discussion or comment on the following article is welcomed. In 1981, Professor Lars Schoultz wrote in the journal of Comparative Politics that US military aid is most likely to go to country's with greatest human rights violations (measured in terms of torture, murders, etc). It is worth a read and is a good compliment to the Schwarz reading in that it makes a contradictory claim. Is foreign-aid an extension of US foreign policy in Latin America? The article can be found on JSTOR, Comparative Politics, 1981. - Joanna.

Here is an interesting plot synopsis of Slow Burn (http://www.namebase.org/sources/SM.html).

This book recounts the Vietnam experiences of Orrin DeForest, a CIA officer who organized intelligence collection as part of the Phoenix Program in Military Region Three from 1969 to the end of the war. DeForest had previously done a tour in Vietnam as an investigator for the army's Criminal Investigations Division, and was an air force investigator from 1955-1964. His approach in Region Three was based more on his background as a professional gumshoe, and less on the incompetence of Saigon's Special Branch Police, or the macho Special Forces retreads that the CIA sometimes used. DeForest organized a system to debrief defectors and develop spies within the enemy infrastructure, and channeled this flow of information into a data bank that provided timely access to those who depended on the intelligence product. It worked so well that DeForest threatened not only the enemy, but also the CIA bureaucracy that had grown comfortable with failure in the field, covered up with bigger and better body counts. The key to DeForest's success seemed to be that his techniques were usually based on treating people like people. What the books lacks, however, is some justification of the Phoenix Program as a whole, and an explanation of why DeForest thought he had the right to be in Vietnam in the first place. The U.S. defeat may have demonstrated a lack of technique, but more importantly, it was also a failure of moral vision and character.

//It is interesting to speculate to what degree DeForrest's success was a product of his human interrogation techniques, and to what degree it was a function of the careful database he set up - which relied heavily on corroboration of information from interviews.

Note that much of the work DeForrest did was not aimed at providing real-time intelligence (referred to as "actionable", that is, intelligence that pertains to an immediate threat) but was "strategic", in the sense of building up a picture of an underground organization. That information was used for arrests and targetting people for recruitment as spies, but it wasn't intended to stop "ticking bombs".

Note that DeForrest was NOT working as part of the Phoenix program. Hopefully the Andrade readings make the difference clear. DeForrest was aware of Phoenix, and he cooperated with it; you will recall my comments in class 2 weeks ago about his friendship with Col. Stuart Herrington, a Phoenix Program advisor who went on to a long career in US military intelligence and who wrote a book about his experiences in Phoenix called Stalking the Vietcong (a work which I strongly recommend).

Be VERY careful attributing defeat to things like a lack of character and "moral vision". Defeat is the product of many factors. Character and moral vision are intangibles. It is impossible to tell who has them and who does not (there is no argument that they are important). Frankly, I am skeptical that the concepts have any meaning beyond the individual level.

The people who were champions at this sort of analysis were - to give a couple of examples - the early Bolsheviks in Russia, and the Japanese Empire in WWII. A focus on failure as the product of treachery/lack of will/"incorrect thinking" (all of which can function as synonyms for character and moral vision) led to among other things a focus on the moral rather than the material and catastrophic defeat (for the Japanese).

I am reminded of the religious zealots - they've been in the news recently - who have taken to picketing the burial ceremonies of US soldiers killed in Iraq, claiming that US combat deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality. This is a case of attributing failure - casualties - to a lack of moral vision and character. Regardless of whether it is true or not, it is not terribly helpful in understanding the ebb and flow of US military fortunes in Iraq.

W/r to the point about DeForrest never questioning why he was in Vietnam, this is a point that several students have raised about Galula and Trinquier as well; these two men never consider the possibility that they are simply on the wrong side of history, and that their struggle is doomed for greater reasons than simply a lack of technique.

It is a very cogent point.

It is difficult for one to know in what direction the tide of history flows, when one is swimming in the water. Look, for example, at the British in Kenya. That conflict was fought at the same time as the Algerian war of Trinquier and Galula, but the British were - as they defined it - victorious. One can argue that they did have to give up power in Kenya, and that the person they gave it to - Jomo Kenyatta - was a former Mau Mau supporter. But on the other hand, the Mau Mau were crushed and when power was handed over it was given on British terms to a successor designated by the British.

More generally, Trinquier, Galula and DeForrest were soldiers (DeForrest was a CIA contract employee, a civilian, and an intelligence officer rather than a soldier, but was functionally akin to the first two). It was not their place, in the Western system, to decide when and where they would fight. That decision was made by the political authorities.


Compare Galula, Trinquier, and COIN FM

What are the similarities and differences between Galula, Trinquier, and the American COIN Field Manual, regarding methods of conducting a COIN?

In particular, how do these three authors explain how public suport should be achieved?


Western Liberal Values

According to Galula and Trinquier, is it possible to win a COIN without neglecting Western liberal values? Why?


Does the COIN FM borrow from the killer frenchmen?

How and where are the views of Galula and Trinquier incorporated in the COIN FM?


Blending In

  • do terrorists enjoy unfair advantages?
  • the ability to blend in with the local population is commensurate with superior equipment such as air power,
  • furthermore, blending in is a skill set all armies use when possible (ie: the CIA, JTF2)
  • however, just because conventional armies are incapable of blending in does not mean that blending in suddenly becomes an unfair advantage
  • defining "blending in" as a skill set removes any legitimacy to using it as a justification of torture

total war

  • competitions that mobilize all the resources of a group to meet a political goal
  • the political goal defines the acceptable course of action
  • competitions that mobilized all available resources in order to control a civilian populations have been fought in the past (Lenin's Russia)
  • torture is by definition a necessity in total wars
  • the presence of unfair advantages does not make torture any more or less justifiable
  • be it soldier or terrorist in a total war their is the same necessity to torture captured combatants

the diminishing returns of torture

  • won't people just say anything if you torture them?
  • the time frame is short to get actionable intelligence
  • is the moral high ground unimportant for victory?
  • torture is problematic because you can't know if you will get valuable information until you have already tortured someone
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