The short answer: they do and they will. As my old professor in international law said, “Don’t expect nations to act like people.” In the conduct of high-stakes statecraft, governments will utilize all the tools and means expedient in the defense and expression of sovereignty and national security. Following Von Clausewitz’s dictum that war is continuation of policy with other means, national intelligence conducts wars in the shadows, alternatively smooching and fucking their antagonists/friends whatever and whenever is expedient.
Here are some examples:
A few days before the start of the Yom Kippur War, King Hussein of Jordan secretly flew to Tel Aviv to warn, some historians say unequivocally, Golda Meir, the Israeli Prime Minister, that Syria and Egypt are about to attack the Zionists. Being part of the Arab Council and privy to the preparations for war, that was a stunning betrayal by King Hussein. War did start on 6th October 1973, and on 8th October, King Hussein joined the war by sending an armoured brigade to fight along the Syrians for the Golan. This episode mirrored the dealings of King Abdullah, Hussein’s father, early in the Arab-Israeli conflict when he had secret meetings with the Jewish Agency (at which the future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was among the delegates) to try reach an agreement of Jewish non-interference of Jordanian annexation of the West Bank, and of Jordanian agreement not to attack the area of the Jewish state contained in the United Nations partition resolution.
Bob Woodward, he of the Watergate fame, in his book, Plan of Attack, details a conversation between Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, and President Bush in which Bandar seeks to get Bush to finish off the historic
step begun by his father in 1991, by getting rid of Saddam. A letter from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was delivered at the same meeting with the same request.
Everyone knows about the Iran–Contra affair which surfaced in 1986 during the Reagan administration. It started as an arms-for-hostages operation where Israel would ship weapons to a group of Iranians and the U.S. would then resupply Israel. The operation expanded to use a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales to fund anti-Sandinista and anti-communist rebels, or Contras, in Nicaragua.
The Israelis are no slouches either. During the cold war, Israel routinely furnished whole Soviet weapons systems – like 122 and 130-mm artillery and a T-72 tank – to the U.S. for evaluation and testing, influencing the development of U.S. weapons systems and battlefield tactics. The Mossad also succeeded in recruiting an Iraqi pilot who defected and flew a Soviet MiG 21 to Israel. Later it shared its intelligence on the new Soviet aircraft with the U.S. Sounds like chummy buddies? In 1996, US Department of Defense and the General Accounting Office highlighted Israel’s espionage activities against the U.S. and Israeli thefts of its military technology secrets, and confirmed that Israel has illegally retransferred U.S. technology from the largely U.S.-funded Lavi fighter program, and possibly missile secrets to China.
So whenever you hear the talking heads on CNN, BBC or other media talk about the belligerent actions and reactions of nations, remember there are secret histories also being made, and quite possibly what you hear are canards, or at the very least, just one facet of a broader story.