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  • Nicaraguan soldiers capture a CIA-paid US mercenary after shooting down his supply plane in 1986.

    Nicaraguan soldiers capture a CIA-paid US mercenary after shooting down his supply plane in 1986. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 May 2019

The U.S. Special Operations Command published a report on foreign interventions by the country detailing the successes and failures of 47 interventions since 1941. 

The school of the United States Special Operations Command published a study on the successes and failures of the country’s seven decade long foreign interventions.

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Authored by Army Special Forces veteran Will Irwin, the Joint Special Operations University published the study, “Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness,” last week.

The report includes 47 case studies from 1941 to 2003. Some cases were "not included in this study as they did not involve legitimate resistance movements" like 1953 Iran or 1954 Guatemala. It also excludes actions against non-state actors.

According to the study, intervening in foreign countries is not partisan.

“Even presidents who, prior to their election, looked upon such activity with disfavor, found themselves compelled to use it after taking office,” wrote Irwin.

The report detailed the mixed results of all the 47 foreign interventions. Out of the 47 cases, 23 were “successful,” 20 were “failures,” two “partially successful,” and two others were “inconclusive.”

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The Support Turned Resistance (STR) had been divided into three categories in the report, i.e., disruption, coercion and regime change.

The study revealed that "from 1940 to the present, nearly 70 percent of STR operations were conducted for disruptive purposes," while "non-disruptive cases were about equally divided between coercion and overthrow."

Wartime interventions were deemed “nearly twice as successful as cases conducted under peacetime conditions.”

Supporting non-violent resistance proved to be more likely to succeed instead of supporting an armed resistance. But supporting a military campaign is the most effective tool when compared to “an independent or main effort operation."

The failures were mainly attributed to security breaches through media coverages. Irwin gave the example of the failure of CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba as a failure due to media reports prior to the invasion.

The report also defended the consequences of their intervention like the rise of Islamic extremists in Afghanistan after the U.S. armed them to fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. These same extremists later targetted the U.S. The study suggests that Afghanistan under Soviet could have proved a much more challenging enemy.

“Choosing against supporting the Afghan resistance in 1979, Daugherty argues, “might have stunted the growth of Islamo-fascist terrorism, but it might also have prolonged the power and influence of the Soviet state,” which was a much graver threat to the world than is terrorism,” Irwin wrote.

The author also blamed the USSR for “arousing Islamic extremism by invading and occupying Afghanistan than the United States does for coming to the aid of the Afghan rebels. Islamic extremism would have been roused whether or not the United States intervened.”

According to the report, the U.S. only intervened in other sovereign countries that they deemed “ruled either by an unfriendly occupying force or by a repressive authoritarian regime.”

The U.S. views China and Russia as its rivals. At present, the country has also been intervening in Iran, Syria and Venezuela citing human rights abuse. However, Saudi Arabia, a country considered to be one of the most oppressive regimes by rights groups worldwide, has yet to be targeted by the United States. 

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