Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rumors of Covert Action

It is posited by some individuals, Robert D. Steele and H. John Poole to be exact [1], that China is implementing a sustained covert action against the USA. The claims range from terrorism to economic warfare to more wacky ideas involving the targeting of satellites with electronic attack systems. Whether or not these are true, which I think they are probably not, are fodder for another blog post.

It is with interest that I found an article at the Asia Times (via Cryptome) that holds the position opposite to the above. That the U.S. is conducting covert action against China. The author, who has been shown to be wrong on factual accounts pertaining to Intelligence in the past, states:

"So is the CIA once again playing the "great game" in Tibet?

It certainly has the capability, with a significant intelligence and paramilitary presence in the region. Major bases exist in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and several Central Asian states.

It cannot be doubted that it has an interest in undermining China, as well as the more obvious target of Iran.

So the probable answer is yes, and indeed it would be rather surprising if the CIA was not taking more than just a passing interest in Tibet. That is after all what it is paid to do."
I think the author is incorrect. Covert action capability and presence in the region don't lead to the conclusion that they are conducting covert action. The author tried to combine interests with capability and presence to augment his argument. To counter the premise of interests is that America has other interests in the area, particularly stability within the region. To stir up the bee's nest would go against those interests.

Another interesting facet of the author's argument is the phrase "probable answer". For something to be probable implies a measurment of some sort for the probability. That means the author would need accurate data inputs for the measurement and hence the probability. Let's say within a thought experiment that the covert action exists. How is the author to gain accurate data, measurements and probability if he is gathering information from a secretive compartmented operation? Let us say we don't really know if it exists or not. How is the author gathering data for his probabilities then? For the majority of his essay he is relying on historical timelines which is an inductive argument and doesn't necessarily hold for the specific time period, nor for the future.


1. These two individuals arn't exactly IR heavyweights and are somewhat kooky in their outlooks. Their job descriptions are far from being authorities on the subject and so they should be looked at with a critical eye when they make such claims. Although, they have been, and in some ways still are, "canaries in the mineshaft" when it comes to warfare and intelligence. The sources in particular where the covert action positions are asserted can be found in Poole's books 'Dragon Days' and towards the end of 'Tactics of the Crescent Moon'. Steele's assertions can be found in his Amazon reviews or on his site. In particular his paper on 'Chinese Irregular Warfare'.


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Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

Good post, am also inclined to dismiss the claims put forward by Messrs Steel and Poole. You have also provided a good analysis of the China Times piece, the authors chosen words provide for some undoing in relation to the assertion of CIA action.

G said...

Thanks Otto.

M1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M1 said...

Found your post interesting.
On a vaguely related note: Inexplicably, I remembered this AP article when I read your post.:

G said...

Thanks meatball one, I too find your blog interesting.

I can't seem to get that link you've provided to work. Do you remember the name of the article?