Constantin Menges

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Person.png Constantin Menges  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(Spook, Academic)
Constantine Menges.jpg
BornSeptember 1, 1939
Ankara, Turkey
DiedJuly 11, 2004 (Age 64)
Washington DC, USA
Alma materColumbia University
ParentsKarl Heinrich Menges
Member ofLe Cercle
Latin American specialist for the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. At RAND in the 1960s, he laid the foundations for the Reagan doctrine of support to insurgent groups to destabilize communist governments. Deeply involved in the support for the Nicaraguan contras. Nicknamed "Menges Khan", he attended Le Cercle in 1985.

Employment.png Senior fellow

In office
2000 - 2004
EmployerHudson Institute
Also worked there before. Proposed action to stop Brazilian presidential candidate Lula da Silva.

Employment.png US President/Special Assistant

In office
1983 - 1986
EmployerNational Security Council
Deeply involved in White House support for the Nicaraguan contras. Attended Le Cercle in 1985.

Employment.png National Intelligence Officer for Latin American affairs

In office
1981 - 1983
Deeply involved in White House support for the Nicaraguan contras and counterinsurgencies in Latin America

Employment.png Analyst

In office
1967 - 1969?
Succeeded byGale Allen, Maria de Goeij, Constantin Menges, Barbara von Ow-Freytag, Jiří Pehe"strong class="error">Error: Invalid time." contains an extrinsic dash or other characters that are invalid for a date interpretation.
Laid the foundations for the Reagan doctrine of support to insurgent groups to destabilize communist governments.

Constantine C. Menges was an American professor, and Latin American specialist for the White House's National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency.[1][2]

In the 1960s at the deep state think tank RAND, he wrote the strategy papers that gave an intellectual foundation to what would later become known as the Reagan Doctrine. These plans wanted covert military support to insurgent groups, since "communist regimes are very vulnerable to a democratic national revolution that is conducted with skill and the determination to succeed". He also believed that the United States, as an alternative to automatically supporting official governments, should compete with the Soviets in sponsorship of 'national liberation movements' in Third World nations[3][4]

As CIA national officer for Latin American affairs, he suggested the invasion of Grenada in 1983, was very involved in the covert support for the Nicaraguan contras and support for the counterinsurgencies in the region. Nicknamed "Constant Menace" and "Menges Khan",[5] he attended Le Cercle in 1985, and possibly on other occasions.

After the Cold War ended, and he had formally left the CIA, he was active meddling in Latin American elections where the "wrong" side won.

Family Background

Menges was born in Turkey on September 1, 1939, the son of Karl Heinrich and Valeska Menges, political refugees from Nazi Germany. Karl Heinrich was a linguist known for his expertise on Altaic languages. He was quoted variously as saying he spoke between 24 and "over 50" languages, and said that when he came to the United States he was the only person in the country who could speak Uzbek.

After Karl Heinrich Menges was arrested because of his contacts in the Soviet Union, released again, but probably continued to be spied on and repeatedly interrogated and had to testify in a trial against a group of Berlin communists, he left Germany in December 1936, fleeing first to Czechoslovakia, then Turkey. Menges taught at Columbia University in New York for 36 years, from 1940 to 1976.


Menges received a bachelor's degree in physics from Columbia College and a doctorate in political science from Columbia University. He taught political science at the University of Wisconsin before joining the deep state military think tank Rand Corp in 1967.[4][6]

Menges attended college in Prague, where helped individuals escape communist East Berlin in 1961, and in 1963, he worked in Mississippi as a volunteer for equal voting rights.[4][7] Given the rest of his career, he was most likely an infiltrator in the civil rights movement.

During the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations, he was deputy assistant for civil rights in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.[8]

In 1977, Menges was on the Civil Aeronautics Board, an agency that regulated aviation services and provided air accident investigations, presumably as a cover job for intelligence activities. [9] Within hours of taking over the job, designated acting chairman Lee R. West, appointed by President Carter, fired Menges, who was director of the bureau of international affairs. He also gave several others, including Howard A. Cohen, who had been former chairman John E. Robson's special counsel, half-hour to clear out of their offices. The agency had being widely criticized for being too cozy with the industry it regulated.[10]


From 1981 until 1983, he worked for the director of the CIA as the national intelligence officer for Latin America. From 1983 until 1986, he was special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.[11] He helped plan the invasion of Grenada, and supported the Nicaraguan Contras and the counterinsurgency against the Salvadoran rebels.[12]

Strategy paper for RAND

In 1968 Mendes wrote a strategy paper for the RAND on containing two major ideas, the concept of "Triangle Warfare" - creating an fake "third force" to "be the opposition" when military regimes were too inefficient and the main opposition was "communist" groups.

He also suggested "supporting democratic, anti-Soviet insurgencies and movements to bring down the Soviet empire,"[13] a concept that was tried a decade later in Afghanistan (before the Soviet entry), Angola and Nicaragua, then further refined in the following decades.

Triangle Warfare

Menges first points out the problems with automatically supporting brutal and illegitimate military dictatorships.

The very act of asking whether collaboration with a particular regime will be useful or harmful is an important giant step beyond the assumption that the only way the U.S. government can operate in foreign countries is through the official governments....There should now be some attempt to analyze whether the gains of collaboration outweigh the costs—and to develop a sensitivity to the whole set of personality, bureaucratic, and institutional conditions that will determine whether a given regime can or will be effective as an ally.[13]

Menges goes on to suggest that a:

More dramatic and daring as a strategy is the fomenting of a nation revolutionary insurgency that would draw upon the best persons within the major social institutions, and unite them in a cohesive movement opposed to both the corrupt government and the communist insurgency. This cannot, of course, even be contemplated in all countries where the regimes are unacceptable; but it may be feasible in more places than might be imagined at first thought. "The cadres of this kind of pro-democratic revolutionary movement would come from the idealists within the religious organizations, from the progressive and democratically oriented within the major professions, the students, the officer corps and leaders of mass organizations..... Given a motivated, intelligent, and diligent nucleus, this kind of movement could certainly expand in any country where a communist insurgency can grow–since the recruits to both organizations would have many similarities.[13]

Democratic Insurgency Against a New Communist Regime

The same strategy paper suggested military support to insurgent groups to destabilize communist governments, what from the late 1970s became an official doctrine in Central America, Angola and Afghanistan. This strategy was used in the Carter administration under Zbigniew Brzezinski, before Reagan.

An even more bizarre alternative rests on a simple and again unproven premise: communist regimes are very vulnerable to a democratic, national revolution that is conducted with skill and determination to succeed. Thus it might be feasible to do nothing to prevent a communist movement from seizing power against a government we consider "unsuitable," but meanwhile make efforts to encourage the formation of an underground resistance organization which will emerge later.

The tactics used would be precisely the same as those immortalized by the Viet Minh and Viet Cong: systematic assassination of key communist officials at all levels of government; selective recruitment of cadre elements; efficient use of limited external material assistance; incessantly "political" warfare meaning establishment of model governments in areas free of communist government control; attacks on communist military units known to be demoralized and the like.

The answer surprisingly is no—not in the entire postwar period has a serious effort ever been made to defeat a newly arrived communist government by guerrilla warfare.[13]

Note to William Casey

15 September 1981 he wrote a note to CIA director William Casey.

In our brief discussion yesterday evening you asked me to provide you with the brief statement from my note of 10 September 1981 which discussed the linkages among radical destabilization, increased oil prices, economic difficulties for the west and the resulting reduction of resources available for defense and other needs. This follows along with a brief illustration of the potential costs to the US alone of different radical destabilization successes:

"In 1978 I tried to convince leaders in the previous administration that if the Shah fell, there would be an immediate rise in oil prices, and the resulting economic problems (inflation, balance of payments. deficits) in the West would further weaken the capability of governments to provide adequate resources for defense. Literally, prudent, preventive actions in Iran, Afghanistan, and Nicaragua in 1978 would have saved tens of billions of dollars.

We face a similar situation today. Inexpensive political- paramilitary action investments by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Libya, and other anti-Western forces are increasing the risks of destabilization in Central America/Mexico; Zaire and Southern Africa; and the countries surrounding Saudi Arabia. "In my personal judgment:. if North Yemen falls, if the Somali Liberation Front makes Berbera unusable, if there is a successful destabilization in one of the Persian Gulf mini-oil states, if El Salvador falls and Guatemala follows--the impact will be immediate increases in oil prices bringing on substantial economic difficulties and further reducing the willingness of democratic governments to invest sensibly in defense.

Individuals without a geopolitical understanding fail to see these essential connections until the crisis is upon us. Perhaps Secretary Weinberger, as an old friend of President Reagan, could join in helping the President understand that the success of his domestic economic program as well as his foreign policy may depend in substantial measure on prudent political and other actions today which will prevent further successful destabilization in three strategic focal points: Central America/Mexico; Southern Africa, and the Persian Gulf."[14]

"Blocking a new axis of evil"

Menges was very active also after the Cold War ended. An obituary written by Michael Fumento mentioned that "Menges’ other accomplishments are far too numerous to list here, and many no doubt continue to bear a 'top secret' stamp. We can only judge by the tip of the iceberg what lies beneath"[3], but takes as one example that "Menges and others" did "desperate behind-the-scenes work" to subvert the 2003 El Salvador elections[15], where the country might have elected a "communist" government. The operation was a success: "Instead, it remains a pro-American democracy."[3][16]

In 2002, when at Hudson Institute, Menges wrote an op-ed "Blocking a new axis of evil" claiming that the Social Democrat Brazilian presidential candidate Lula da Silva was a terrorist threat, and that "genuine democracy" only happens when the right person wins:

A new terrorist and nuclear weapons/ballistic missile threat may well come from an axis including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the Chavez regime in Venezuela and a newly elected radical president of Brazil, all with links to Iraq, Iran and China."...

Why can’t the Bush administration act before 20 years of democratic gains in Latin America were allowed to be reversed? Why can’t anything be done before a vast new southern flank is opened up in the terrorist threat and our nation menaced by one more radical anti-American regime intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles?

This disaster for U.S. national security and for the people of Latin America must and can be averted if our policy makers act quickly and decisively, but they must do so now. Timely political attention and actions by the United States and other democracies should include encouragement for the pro-democratic parties in Brazil to unify behind an honest, capable political leader who can represent the hopes of the majority of Brazilians for genuine democracy and who has the resources to mount an effective national campaign.[17]

Menges died of cancer on July 11, 2004, in Washington, D.C..[18]


Event Participated in

Le Cercle/1985 (Washington)7 January 198510 January 1985US
Washington DC
4 day meeting of Le Cercle in Washington exposed after Joel Van der Reijden discovered the attendee list for this conference and published it online in 2011
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  3. a b c
  4. a b c
  5. "The Week...". National Review (August 9, 2004): 15. 2004.
  13. a b c d