Template talk:Covert United States involvement in regime change

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Russian civil war[edit]

The allied involvement in the Russian civil war is complex. There was a covert phase followed by a overt "boots on the ground" phase. It's muddier than most cases, but there absolutely were covert attempts to favor the White movement over the Reds.

To paraphrase and cite the research another wikipedian already did on this question:

The United States began covert operations in support of the Russian opposition factions. (Humanities and Social Sciences On-Line, Review of book by David S. Foglesong, America's Secret War Against Bolshevism: U.S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1920, David S. Foglesong, America's Secret War Against Bolshevism: U.S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War 1917-1920, Chapter 5, "American Intelligence Gathering, Propaganda and Covert Action in Revolutionary Russia")

Should we just include 1918 Russia in with covert, or would it be better to group all "boots on ground" style interventions together as their own template? --HectorMoffet (talk) 08:04, 8 October 2012 (UTC)


Wavehunter, Thank you for your note. In Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt said that US government and CIA took active role in the relative happenings of Italy, Greece and gave the Solidarity of Poland about 50 million US dollars. During my reading of this book, I somewhat got the impression of these but forgot the precise pages. So I'm still refinding the references. The Cambodian coup d'etat is related with Cambodian Civil War in which the US supported General Lon Nol to overthrow Sihanouk so as to have a better position to bomb Vietcong's sourthward attacks through secret routes in Cambodia. I think this is qutie obvious. But if the evidence is extremely lacking, just delete it.

Further, I even hear about a conspiracy theory that the CIA Chief of the Soviet/East European Division Milton Bearden launched a covert operation codenamed Genius of the Carpathians to overthow Ceausescu regime in 1989. But this is truly a conspiracy theory waiting for evidence to surface.--Aronlee90 (talk) 13:15, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

That's great, Aronlee90. Thank you for giving a book source. Tony Judt was a reputable historian. --Wavehunter (talk) 14:57, 28 July 2013 (UTC)


While the US/NATO intervention in Libya was certainly an attempt at regime change can it fairly be called 'covert'? I mean covert implies at least an attempt at maintaining plausible deniability, right? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:56, 6 February 2014 (UTC)

You're right. the US' involvement was anything but covert. they even sent warships and planes to assist in the UN-mandated blockade. Emigdioofmiami (talk) 01:57, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

I have deleted Libya from the list as there is tons of obvious evidence of US active involvement and obviousness. here's a video they published showing the USS Barry (DDG-52) firing the first Tomahawk missiles in the intervention. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztTyfl1-NXI — Preceding unsigned comment added by Emigdioofmiami (talkcontribs) 02:16, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

As a sidebar?[edit]

Why is this template on the side and not at the bottom? The sidebar takes too big a role on articles like 1980 Turkish coup d'état, as if the coup d'état is mostly defined by US support, ignoring the domestic reasons. --Pudeo' 16:13, 8 January 2015 (UTC)

Why does the US have a sidebar but not anybody else? Russia literally just regime changed Crimea, why no sidebar for them and their history. Gotta be fair wiki. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:10, 21 October 2015 (UTC)

Crimea was not 'regime changed' -> Its parliament voted to secede. The parliament was unchanged from the Ukrainian coup after maidan until the secession vote, so one cannot talk about a regime change. What US did in Ukraine, however, what Stratfor called 'the most blatant coup in history', was a regime change action. And it wasn't covert either. --unity100'

Argentinean Coup d'Etat[edit]

The article says that it was plotted by Argentines, and that the U.S. was merely alerted to the plot. It mentions no physical support from the U.S. I don't think it should be included. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:40, 18 April 2015 (UTC)

Practically nothing of the original article remains.[edit]

And what remains is merely links as compared to excellent summaries of CIA involvement in the listed regime overthrow operations.

The Poland affair is not even linked.

This deletion and redirection, and glaring lack of consistency and omission of information looks more like the deletion was done to remove the information from sight than any reasonable move.

"Instigated" vs "Supported" by US[edit]

Because there is absolutely no case in which a coup is launched without at least some local support, I am including some regime change actions in which the United States knew of the coup and provided secrecy, military or logistical support. Demanding that coups be wholly without any local political initiative demands an unrealistic appraisal of regime change actions.

I'm not including the 1970 Cambodian coup because it is not clear the US knew of it before it occurred. -Darouet (talk) 16:57, 4 August 2016 (UTC)

Also not including the 1967 Coup in Greece, because despite American ties to the right of the Greek military and subsequent support for the regime, it's not clear if the US was involved in the coup itself. -Darouet (talk) 17:14, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
One problem with lumping disparate events together on the grounds that the U.S. "knew of [them]" beforehand is, of course, the fact that it is the job of intelligence agencies to know about events before they happen. When the CIA's intelligence-gathering is combined with the State Department's ability to recognize a newly declared government, it becomes possible to portray the majority of all political upheavals in the world as in some sense attributable to the U.S.—and practically any U.S. foreign policy decision can be loosely considered a "regime change action" (even, say, refusing to provide Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana with sufficient foreign aid). Despite its vague or nonexistent criteria, you may believe this template does not fall into any such trap—that it is limited only to fairly clear-cut cases of external manipulation. However, I'm not so sure. Here are my two major concerns:
  • First, I don't think we should include instances where there was no direct American involvement. Declassified records indicate that the U.S. did not support the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela. Similarly, while the State Department was notified beforehand in both cases, the U.S. does not seem to have provided any material assistance whatsoever to the coups in Argentina or Turkey.
  • Second, supporting an insurgency is somewhat distinct from encouraging a military overthrow. For example, it's not clear that the Obama administration was ever seriously committed to removing Assad in Syria, while the primary goal of Operation Cyclone was to bleed the Soviets in Afghanistan rather than to overthrow the Afghan communist regime. Whether it makes sense to include both kinds of covert operations in one template is debatable. If we list the CIA's support for Libyan rebels in 2011, should we also include the CIA/Northern Alliance rout of the Taliban in 2001?TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 20:36, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
  • I'd agree with both of you about the direct involvement of some kind: just knowing, or failing to act, or denying funding, does not count. I disagree with TTAAC about the second point, though, because it is far easier to draw a line around "direct involvement" than around "intent to change a regime." We can only guess at intent, even with the best of sources: arms to an insurgency, however, are indisputable. Vanamonde (talk) 15:42, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
Thanks TheTimesAreAChanging and Vanamonde93 for feedback. I agree that merely "knowing" of a coup is not sufficient to implicate the CIA and merit a placement on this list. I think it must be further argued by historians that elements within the CIA gave support of some kind. That could include apparent non-action (or non-notification of the government to be overthrown), but only if historians advance this argument, not us.
The example in Ghana is a good one. The Johnson Administration's view of the coup is unclear - there are some indications the White House was genuinely surprised by the takeover. On the other hand, it is uncontested that the CIA in Accra sought to remove Nkrumah, and was aware of the impending coup. Internal state department memos are telling:
The plotters are keeping us briefed, and State thinks we’re more on the inside than the British. While we’re not directly involved (I’m told), we and other Western countries (including France) have been helping to set up the situation by ignoring Nkrumah’s pleas for economic aid. The new OCAM (Francophone) group’s refusal to attend any OAU meeting in Accra (because of Nkrumah’s plotting) will further isolate him. All in all, looks good.
According to historian John Prados, CIA headquarters credited the local station with assisting the overthrow. The litany of U.S. contacts with coup plotters in this case makes it impossible to maintain that they were not "involved" in the regime change, whatever their specific actions on the day of the coup itself. Agreeing with Vanamonde93, I would add it's unreasonable to ask CIA officers to personally lead battalions engaged in overthrowing foreign governments.
This becomes a question of template scope. In my view, this template best serves readers if it acts as a research tool and allows them to quickly navigate regime change actions supported by the US. -Darouet (talk) 17:19, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
What do you think of the specific examples of Argentina, Turkey, and Venezuela, which seem to be the weakest-supported of the bunch?TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 17:53, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
Hey TheTimesAreAChanging There is substantial academic support for US involvement in 1980 Turkey coup: "NATO's Secret Armies" by historian Daniele Ganser (Routledge, 2005), "Cyprus: A Modern History" by historian W. Mallinson (IB Tauris, 2008), or at least US approval of the coup: "The United States and Turkey's Path to Europe" by historian Armağan Emre Çakır (Routledge, 2016).
For Argentina and Venezuela however I'm not sure. The US backed the Argentinian government post-coup, but it's not clear they participated. And I am not sure about Venezuela either. Please do remove them unless we are certain - thanks! -Darouet (talk) 18:46, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
To be clear, I can't be an expert on all of these cases, so I'm mainly going off what the Wikipedia articles in question say. The cited sources on American involvement in the Turkish coup do not inspire much confidence, but I'm glad you were able to find some recent academic works on the topic (even if Ganser's book is not uncontroversial). Regards,TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 19:25, 10 August 2016 (UTC)


Our article on CIA activities in Indonesia states that Suharto was able to defeat Sukarno and take power with the help of the United States. Is that incorrect? -Darouet (talk) 21:14, 11 August 2016 (UTC)

Decades later, there is still no credible evidence of American involvement in the coup itself. As the same Wikipedia article correctly notes, "American officials were so unprepared for the crisis that at first they misidentified the anti-communist leader, General Suharto." You are quoting from a paragraph recently added by one of a large number of student contributors, which is sourced to a documentary on the mass killings and is rather careless and hyperbolic on matters of fact—the very next sentence, for example, declares that "Suharto managed to establish one of the most corrupted regimes in history."TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 21:27, 11 August 2016 (UTC)
Hmm. According to historian John Prados, again, in his book "Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby," the CIA may have furnished no support to Suharto's initial moves against Sukarno, but certainly did support him as the fighting intensified. "It is also a matter of record in declassified documents that the CIA helped the Indonesian military with secure communications. This began as early as October 13 [12 days after start of coup] with quiet provision of radio sets to General Nasution and others for their personal security and communications. Before the end of October Washington formed an interagency policy group that decided the United States might provide small quantities of specific items to the Indonesian military."
Here's another take by journalist Michael Vatikiotis in his book "Indonesian Politics Under Suharto: The Rise and Fall of the New Order." He writes, "Attempts to implicate the CIA and other western intelligence agencies in a coup and counter-coup set-up have all sounded tantalizingly plausible, but consistently met stone walls. A tight clamp on information in Washington makes it unlikely that any more will be learned so long as the issue remains sensitive to Indonesian-US relations and Suharto is alive. Recent probings have established that Washington was informally trying to persuade friendly elements of the military into some action against Sukarno. But all available evidence gives no positive proof of the CIA's involvement in the plot against the generals."
I'll look more into this later. -Darouet (talk) 21:32, 11 August 2016 (UTC)
Also, I really hope you're including the Bolivian episodes based on more than unsourced Wikipedia articles and a vague reference to "apparent U.S. support" in The Huffington Post. If that is our standard of evidence (as opposed to, say, the rigorously documented CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala), then there is nothing to stop this template from being expanded arbitrarily, with the burden of proof being shifted to those that doubt the propriety of inclusion—in which case it will have become a transparent POV COATRACK of dubious probative value.TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 09:11, 12 August 2016 (UTC)
I actually still suspect that the Indonesian episode should be included: it wasn't clear how the chips would fall, the CIA had previously attempted to undermine the Sukarno regime, and they participated in Suharto's campaign to consolidate power. But, I'm not going to add it without consensus, and plan to do more research on this or any other episodes we might add. I agree that we have to be cautious about the extent to which we expand the article. -Darouet (talk) 13:17, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

Bolivia 1964[edit]

Even without being an expert on Bolivia, claims of American involvement in the 1964 coup collapse under the barest scrutiny.TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 08:53, 23 August 2016 (UTC)

The article you cite by RO Kirkland (2005, Int. J. Intelligence CounterIntelligence) argues that the US and CIA did not back the coup, but also explicitly states that most historians believe that the United States and CIA were involved:

"Historians and political scientists who have examined this coup d’etat have concluded that the coup received 'the unmistakable support of the Pentagon.' In particular, they have zeroed in on the role of U.S. Air Force attache Colonel Edward Fox, his close relationship with General Barrientos, and the encouragement he supposedly gave the general to overthrow Paz."

— p.473

"Scholars who have looked at this incident have flatly stated that Fox worked for the CIA and aided Barrientos in the coup."

— p.479

"Unfortunately for the U.S., and for Fox himself, Barrientos’s coup has been portrayed as a U.S. undertaking. Although this is false, the U.S. can, nevertheless, be accused of underestimating the general and unwittingly helping him."

— p.480

Kirkland's article doesn't seem to be cited many places (which does not mean he's incorrect), but it is cited by the book you linked, "From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era," by Thomas C. Field, 2014. Field states that most historians implicate the United States and the CIA in the coup:

"Many historians, including James Dunkerley and Kenneth Lehman, contend that US officials, namely, Embassy Air Attache Edward Fox, gave the green light to General Barrientos... Until now, conspiratorial accounts have also dominated the nonspecialist literature on the coup, including popular histories of the CIA and broader Latin American studies. Similarly, most Bolivian authors pin the blame squarely on Colonel Fox..."

— p.191

Field also writes that some historians have contended that the US did not back the coup:

On the other hand, historians James Malloy and Herbert Klein describe the Barrientos coup in purely domestic terms... Political scientist William Brill also believes the military takeover emerged from within, basing his analysis on dozens of interviews with key actors before and after the coup. A similar line has been taken by Bolivian historian Luis Antezana Ergueta, who argues that MNR dissidents played the central role in their own party's downfall. Military historian Robert Kirkland, the only other scholar to my knowledge who has interviewed Colonel Fox, claims tha tthe air attache intervened to stop his friend General Barrientos from overthrowing Paz in May 1964, arguing that Fox was eventually disenchanted with Barrientos when the general failed to heed his advice in November. Finally, at least one CIA memoir suggests that the agency was firmly behind Pax and even tracked [his] exiled political enemies in Uruguay and Buenos Aires."

— p.191

This concurs with what some of the diplomats and CIA officials in Bolivia at the time state now:

Fox: "As far as giving Barrientos orders to stop a coup, that's ridiculous. I would never have gotten into Bolivian politics like that, and I certainly wouldn't have treated my friend in that way. Barrientos and I never had a rift. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I arrived back in La Paz [in 1962], I told him, 'You do what you have to do, Rene, and I will try to support you when I can. But we can't bullshit each other.' I always knew Barrientos would go through with it, and I knew he would succeed. That's why I tried to convince [Ambassador Douglas] Henderson to support him. I failed, and was not able to give Barrientos any material support... November 4th wasn't our show. They thought they had what they needed, and didn't want to get too many people in on it. Sometimes you get too many people in on these things, and they get all screwed up."

Ambassador Henderson: "Ed Fox was the no. 1 freelancer in the world. But he never went rogue."

CIA station chief Larry Sternfield: "There was no division in US policy; there were just sentiments. Barrientos was a likeable guy, and a lot of us liked him. But as far as supporting a coup, absolutely not. Henderson was very pro-Paz, and that was the policy of our government. Like Ed Fox, we were being asked to carry out a policy we hated - to support Paz."

It seems to me that Field is ambivalent:

"It is tempting to search, but an easy villan of 4 November does not exist. As historian Laurence Whitehead writes, 'The crucial form of American intervention... was not this kind of sinister conspiracy... but the increasingly political trend of American pressures over the previous three or four years - pressures which helped create the conditions for a coup, whether it was consciously intended or not.'"

— p.193

Anyway I'll try to read more about it and see if there have been any other commentaries on this in the last 10 years. -Darouet (talk) 11:48, 23 August 2016 (UTC)

P.S. thank you for taking the time to find those excellent, and fascinating sources. -Darouet (talk) 17:01, 23 August 2016 (UTC)