THE THIRD OPTION: An American View of Counterinsurgency Operations by Theodore Shackley

THE THIRD OPTION: An American View of Counterinsurgency Operations

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A CIA veteran--Chief of Station in Laos during the ""Secret War"" there--argues that the US must recover its capability to fight paramilitary and counterinsurgency wars (the ""Third Option"" as against diplomacy or direct military intervention) to thwart Soviet-inspired insurgencies in the Third World. To advance his point of view, Shackley lays out the classic scheme of insurgency development, phase by phase; and into each phase he places specific, ongoing insurgencies with recommendations for countering them. But in one after another case--Spanish Basque insurgency, Morocco's fight against POLISARIO in the Western Sahara, the Duarte regime's attempt to snuff out guerrillas in El Salvador--what is called for is not more CIA intelligence or additional force but intelligent diplomacy and/or attention to explosive domestic conditions. Shackley's lack of perspective is most evident in his support for the resumption of covert aid to the political factions of UNITA and FNLA in Angola to weaken the MFLA-led government and embarrass Cuba. Such a policy failed ignominiously during the 1975-76 Angolan Civil War--and would again seriously damage US standing in Africa and elsewhere. (Shackley, in fact, would like to see a ""secret war,"" on the Laos model, fought in Angola by ""elite anti-guerrilla troops""--though events in both Laos and Algiers should have demonstrated to everyone the futility of that course.) All this fanfare for renewed US intervention in ""wars of national liberation"" is ominously reminiscent of the Kennedy-era focus on counterinsurgency which resulted in the debacle of Vietnam. For a wider historical view and a more sober assessment (by another Chief of Station in Laos), see Douglas Blaufarb's The Counter Insurgency Era (1977).

Pub Date: March 29th, 1981
Publisher: Reader's Digest Press/McGraw-Hill