One of the key changes of the late 20th century, certainly enhanced in the early 21st, is that of the economic, political, and cultural movements that broadly speaking, move the various countries of the world closer together. This idea, called globalism, refers to a number of theories that see the complexities of modern life such that events and actions are tied together, regardless of the geographic location of a specific country (political unit). The idea of globalism has become popular in economic and cultural terms with the advent of a number of macro-trade agreements combined with the ease of communication brought about with the Internet and cellular communication, but also the concept of the global environment as a single organism (Schneider (ed.) 2004, 9). However, the changes in the global, post-World War II and even Cold War environments have also changed the perceptions of most individuals about the overall safety of the world, their individual countries, and the species at large. The terrifying idea in the world of contemporary security and intelligence is actually tied directly to globalism -- the way the world is so completely interconnected politically, culturally, and economically.
Authors Shulsky and Schmitt (2002) really see the institution of intelligence and collective security in the modern world arising from the necessity for covert action within the post-World War II paradigm. Covert action, of course, is a military, intelligence, or law enforcement operation that is carried out clandestinely and often outside office channels. Typically, covert action aims to complete its mission in a manner in which the mission objectives occur without any outside parties being made aware of who sponsored the operation in the first place (8-9). Because of the delicate nature of this type of espionage, there are a number of theoretical rubrics that come into play. In fact, by its very nature, it is difficult to pin down specifics on the topic since much remains classified. In addition, Shulsky and Schmitt seem to imply that the nature of covert intelligence and action, in the modern world, while imperfect, remains a necessary part of realpolitik.
After World War II ended, the world was in flux. While the Allies had triumphed in both the European Theater of Operations and in Asia, Soviet aggression threatened both areas -- in Europe with the annexation of much of Eastern Europe, and in Asia with the issues between Communist China and North and South Korea. One of the major issues regarding covert intelligence was the manner in which it failed (at least from the human intelligence point-of-view) to accurately predict the North Korean invasion of South Korean. In fact, material from The Clandestine Cold War in Asia, indicates that it was because of the nature of civillian intelligence that the results were inadequately coordinated for obtaining any type of consistent results for the entire penninsula. This interpretation focuses not only on American sources, but on recently declassified intelligence information from the archives in South Korea showing that "most Humint reports generated…. Were given the lowest possible reliability evaluation…since much of the infromation contained in these reports could not be verified by other sources" (Aldrich, Tawnsley and Yeh 2005, 37-8).
For most in the west, the Korean conflict was one of fear and suspicion. After a long battle defeating the Japanese, most Americans had little interest in preserving a two state Korea, and since the Cold War dominated all thought -- Red Scare, blacklists, and atomic terror; many Americans were afraid that events in Korea might spin out of control and cause untold harm. Few Americans knew just how serious the situation was in Korea and the scenarios played out between President Harry Truman and Josef Stalin over the Korean Conflict. "In 1951, President Truman faced a fearful decision: Should he follow the advice of those who wanted to escalate the Korean War and defeat the Communist threat, or should he accept a stalemeate, with the United States not winning a war for the first time since 1912?" (Boyd 2007, xii).
In fact, retired Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Boyd posits that it was specifically covert operations, today we might call this a "black" op, that prevented the escalation of the conflict into all out World War. "Operation Broken Reed," authorized by Truman himself, sent ten men behind enemy lines in January 1952 to collect, process, and transmit military intelligence information focusing on the North Koren and Chinese Communist armies.Because this mission discovered that China's overall resolve, Soviet backing, and massive armies were far greater than anyone expected or predicted, Truman was convinced that aggressively pressing the war would incite both China and Russia - with the only result a full scale, and potentally nuclear, escalation (Ibid., inclusive).
Yet another interpretation of covert operations in Korea found that it was precicely because of the fear of total escalation of war that covert and clandestine operations were so necessary during the Korean conflict. Warfare changed during Korea; there was infinately more propaganda generated, intelligence -- after failing to predict details of the conflict became more imporant, and covert action became, as author Paul Edwards notes, "actions conducted…. Which are so planned and executed that any…. Responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons" (Edwards 2010, 153).
During the Korean conflict there were several covert activities: Operation Beehive, Blossom, Boxer and more. All were authorized at the highest levels and seen as critical for the accurate assessment of wartime issues. However, it was the lack of adequate intelligence, technology had not yet advanced enough to provide the level of accuracy necessary to develop a full picture of events behind enemy lines, to understand clearly how important the Korean issue was for the Soviets and Communist China (Ibid., 156).
The real focus of Shulsky and Schmitt is more the psychology of intelligence and the sense of safety in the contemporary world. The "fault" of the Cold War was, much like the origins of the First World War, a series of misinterpretations that resulted in misunderstandings, fear, paranoia, and projection. The United States was, in fact, the only country in possession of nuclear weapons and the only economy that was poised and ready at the end of the war. Soviet and Chinese interests in Asia cannot be ignored; Soviet advisors were an important part of the Korean question, and provided a great deal of information against the United States to both Chinese and North Korean officials.
Shulsky and Shmitt also ask an overriding philosophical question -- have covert actions since the end of World War II resulted in a safer, or more hostile world? Edwards sees covert action as simply a necessary part of wartime strategy -- neither good nor bad, just pragmatically necessary. Colonel Boyd believes that covert action, while not always palpable for the masses, is sometimes necessary to prevent war while still retaining the appropriate diplomatic posture. Aldrich, et.al. find that it is a combination of human intelligence and technological innovation that prepare a nation to better understand just what is happening in potentially hostile situations.
In fact, by the end of the 20th century, many European and Asian countries had already experienced massive terrorist attacks as the result of not having the appropriate covert intelligence operations in place. September 11, 2002, however, showed the world that even the United States, with its technological arsenal and military might, was not safe from the underpinning of terrorist. Many believe that it was specifically the lack of covert information that even allowed the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center to occur.
Shulsky and Schmitt seem to point out that what is far more interesting, though, is the way that global media and perceptions have evolved in the time since 9/11. For instance, old and trusted allies seem more wary of each other while smaller,…