Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Looking Glass War?

When a suicide bomber blew up seven C.I.A. agents at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan last week, including the base chief, I waited for news analysts to point out the obvious: U.S. policy and strategy in Afghanistan were in a lot of trouble. After all, when the enemy can infiltrate to the very center of your most sensitive operations and kill your operatives, that enemy can be said to have the upper hand in the war. But unless I missed something, none of the mainstream news media I saw flagged the obvious point that this disastrous episode was symptomatic of a greater problem.

Now we find out that the bomber was a double-agent invited into the base for a meeting. So now I am wondering if today's C.I.A. agents should be reading John Le Carre's novels as part of their training? If they had, they would know that when an intelligence agency "turns" someone it remains an open question which way they are really pointing, or at least should remain so in the minds of the agent's handlers.

I don't mean to be facetious with these remarks. I am sure the C.I.A. agents involved thought they were doing their duty to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. But the cloak-and-dagger strategy they are following is a sure loser, as these events should make clear. The "enemy" is pretty smart, and is operating in his own territory, swimming like a fish in the sea--whereas "our" team is, apparently, completely out of its depth.

No one, in politics or in the news media, seems to want to say that this kind of disaster makes America and Americans look dumb, silly, vulnerable, and weak. But if other commentators are pointing this out, I would be grateful to readers of this blog if they would bring it to our attention.


Charles Ellwood Jones said...

Juan Cole of course:

Anne Gilbert said...

The trouble with this cloak-and-dagger stuff(and this is true of the latest incident in AFghanistan as well) is that the spies usually end up spying on each other, and, in fact, often getting very little useful information. When somebody does pull off something like this, it's usually because the spies have been spying on each other. . . .
Anne G