Covert operations

Though a part of international politics for centuries, covert actions to induce changes to ruling governments — including assassinating a leader, orchestrating a coup d’état, or interfering in an election — are difficult to study due to their secretive nature. Using archival research of declassified U.S. governments documents, BC Assistant Professor of Political Science Lindsey A. O’Rourke has assembled an original dataset of all U.S.-backed regime change operations during the Cold War (1947-89) in her new book, Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2018). She identifies 70 interventions, the majority of which were covert. More than half the time, the covert intervention failed to achieve its goal. O’Rourke uses this data to delve deeper into why states attempt foreign regime change, why they prefer to conduct the interventions covertly, and how successful such missions are in achieving foreign policy goals. The National Interest called O’Rourke’s book “essential reading” and a “well-written, important work that should productively inform foreign-policy debates going forward.”

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