Sooner Is Better: Covert Action to Prevent Realignment

In my book project, I ask: Why do states intervene covertly under some circumstances and not others? I part ways with previous works that blame wishful thinking, a warped sense of threat, or offensive motives for covert action by states. Building on theories of preventive war, I show that states act covertly primarily to prevent the loss of an ally and to prevent their chief adversary from gaining one. Covert action—whether secretly supporting political parties, arming dissidents, or sponsoring coups—is a rational response to the threat of realignment. Interveners recognize a window of opportunity: Covert action is more likely to be effective before realignment than after.