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The Deputy Director of the CIA Advises on the Situation in Nicaragua

In a memorandum to Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates offers "straight talk" about Nicaragua. In the memo, Gates concedes that the CIA-backed Contras cannot overthrow the Sandinista government. He argues that the Contra war is "an essentially half-hearted policy," recommending instead that the Reagan administration initiate a "comprehensive campaign openly aimed at bringing down the regime," including "the use of air strikes." "The fact is that the Western Hemisphere is the sphere of influence of the United States," Gates states. "If we have decided totally to abandon the Monroe Doctrine... then we ought to save political capital in Washington, acknowledge our helplessness and stop wasting everybody's time." Gates was appointed Director of the CIA by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, and served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

14 December 1984

MEMORANDUM FOR: Director of Central Intelligence

FROM: Deputy Director for Intelligence

SUBJECT: Nicaragua

1. It is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua. To recap where we are:

3. What is happening in Central America in many ways vividly calls to mind the old saw that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

...[Gates recommends that the best policy would be "overtly trying to bring down the regime through the following measures]:

8. These are hard measures. They probably are politically unacceptable. But it is time to stop fooling ourselves about what is going to happen in Central America...

9. The fact is that the Western Hemisphere is the sphere of influence of the United States. If we have decided totally to abandon the Monroe Doctrine, if in the 1980s taking strong actions to protect our interests despite the hail of criticism is too difficult, then we ought to save political capital in Washington, acknowledge our helplessness and stop wasting everybody's time. 

...

11. All this may be politically out of the question. Probably. But all the cards ought to be on the table and people should understand the consequences of what we do and do not do in Nicaragua. Half measures will not even produce half successes. The course we have been on (even before the funding cut-off) -- as the last two years suggest -- will result in further strengthening of the regime and a Communist Nicaragua which, allied with its Soviet and Cuban friends, will serve as the engine for the destabilization of Central America...

Source | CIA, Memorandum from DDI Robert M. Gates to DCI William J. Casey, "Nicaragua," SECRET, 14 December 1984, George Washington University, The National Security Archive, The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On, http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB210/index.htm.
Creator | Robert M. Gates
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | Robert M. Gates, “The Deputy Director of the CIA Advises on the Situation in Nicaragua,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 6, 2016, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/780.

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