"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spying–We All Do It, So Why The Flapdoodle About The CIA, Mossad, And The KGB?

Parents spy on their children. Friends and neighbors spy on each other, employers spy on their employees; so what is the big deal about nations spying on each other?

All but the most morally disciplined parents will casually/indifferently thumb through diaries, drawers, and closets to confirm their suspicions about drug abuse and bad boy friends. 

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Neighbors routinely turn off the lights, uncase the binoculars, and check out their neighbors’ doings. 
A friend whose in-laws lived on a suburban lake in the Washington suburbs liked to take a canoe out at night and paddle by the homes built on its shores.  The houses were all built with maximum exposure to the lake – glass-wall buildings all facing towards the water.  They had designed their homes to look out, and no one expected anyone to look in.

Yet look in my friend did – daughters combing their hair on the third floor; sons playing with trucks; husbands and wives fighting, maids preparing dinner, dogs in the basement.  All scenes were happening at once, open for all to see.  It was an open-air, layered silent movie.

Another friend was a member of a neighborhood babysitting coop - families babysat for chits which could be used on demand for their own childcare needs.  He was one of the most eager members.  He loved to spend three hours in other people’s homes, invited and trusted; but taking advantage of the license to spy.  The Liggetts were drinkers.  The Potters cluttered. The Pleasants strewn; and the Margates slovenly.

He had an unbreakable rule – look but don’t touch.  He went into bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, dens, and playrooms with remove.  Yet he saw vials of Xanax and Zoloft behind half-closed bathroom mirrors; cases of Bud stacked in the garage next to a few six-packs of 90 minute IPA; a girly magazine left behind the toilet; old hamburger on the kitchen island.

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recent employer had installed surveillance software so that she could monitor the performance of her employees.  She had been concerned that her staff had not only been spending time on the Internet but to view sites whose contents violated company policy.  Jack ___ had visited questionably unsuitable sites far too often and gave pause to managers concerned about gender sensitivity  Marjorie ___had more legitimate interests in family history and genealogy, but was spending more than two hours per day on genealogy.com.

Why not leave well-enough alone?  Why such interest in the affairs of others?  What ever happened to good, old-fashioned honesty and communication among friends and family?

The two are not mutually exclusive. Parents talk to their children, employers to their employees, neighbors to neighbors; but there are always those niggling questions.  Is he gay? Do they drink? Is he driveling on company money? Our need to know always trumps the ethical.

National politics are no different.  Candidates issue position papers, hold press conferences and rallies, and for all intents and purposes are candid and open to all; yet opposing parties know – perhaps because of their own duplicity – that what you see is not what you get.  Intelligence-gathering, then, is par for the course.  Politics is a matter of discovery – what lies beneath the public pronouncements.  What is So-and-So candidate really planning by way of policy rejoinders? What are his sources? Where is he going and what for?

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So political parties spy on each other, rely on leaks, purloined documents, and disaffected insiders.  Nothing is new here. No one trusts anyone else and spying by overt or covert means is entirely kosher. 

In fact, spying on political enemies has a clear justification.  How could a true believer in Hillary Clinton’s liberalism and inclusivity not be willing to spy on the arch-enemy Donald Trump?  If the engagement between parties is essentially moral, than what harm is there in breaking civil codes of behavior?

Which brings one inevitably to international affairs.  Of course the Russians spied on us; and of course we spied on them.

Spycraft is practiced between friends and enemies alike. As much as America would like to penetrate the inner circle of Kim Jong Un, we also depend on intelligence concerning Israel’s intentions; or Saudi Arabia’s; or France’s for that matter.   Each of these countries has an equal interest in our intentions.

The CIA has been vilified by the Left for decades as an insidious institution – not simply because it is the intelligence arm of a capitalist, globalist, hegemony; but because of its amorality.

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For progressives, spying is an admission of amorality.  The ends justify the means.  For them, however, the means have always been as important as the ends if not more so.  If America does not uphold basic principles of right behavior, then the progress towards world peace, unity, and harmony will be significantly set back.

Nothing of the sort, of course.  Machiavelli and his latter-day incarnation, Henry Kissinger, have always been advocates of national interest and victory by all means.  The realities of geopolitics imply the dismissal of presumptuous moral and ethical values, and adherence to the policies of self-interest.  The world is a nasty place, and one must defend one’s interests at all costs.

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So, what is to make of this apparently universal, historical, and essentially human desire to uncover others’ secrets? Are those in authority – parents, employers, presidents – required to adhere to principles of personal and national integrity?  Is there not a greater good – whether family, corporate, or national – at stake?

These are moot questions.  Everyone should know that the old chestnut ‘Information Is Power’ is forever valid; and all but those on the bottom of the totem pole should know that if affects them. In a complex, competitive society, one should always acquire information about both friends and enemies.
There should, therefore, be no wailing and rending of garments over international spying revelations.  We all spy to retain or to gain authority and power.

If it is of any solace to progressives, Shakespeare loved duplicity and spying.  His Comedies are based on lovers hiding in the bushes and relying on hearsay, innuendo, and rumor to confirm their assumptions.  Shakespeare championed duplicity and understood that in the war between the sexes, all was fair and game.  No period of history was without spycraft.  American colonials relied on information from well-placed spies to provide them information about likely British response to rebellion.  The North spied on the South before and during the Civil War.

Perhaps only Genghis Khan, equipped with overwhelming man- and horsepower needed no information about the enemy.  Power, will, and amoral ambition were more than enough to conquer lands from East to West.

We all spy – on each other, or families, friends, and colleagues.  Nations spy on nations, regimes on regimes.  The only point is to do it better than anyone else, to gain the informational upper hand, to dominate.


Machiavelli was right.  There is no morality in politics.

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