This analysis of covert operations, as conducted by Western intelligence services, explores the problem of assessing their effects on international order and comity. Despite a tendency of commentators to overlook this form of intervention, the topic is important; in contemporary global relations, covert acts of hostility between nations occur with a high rate of frequency.
The study is organized into three sections. The first presents a “ladder of escalation” for covert operations, one based on a rising level of intrusion abroad as policy makers climb upward from low-risk to high-risk activities. The second section briefly surveys leading ethical, philosophical and practical issues involved in trying to evaluate the effects of secret intelligence activities. And the third section offers a set of guidelines for evaluating the propriety of proposed covert operations.