The United States government scrapes all of the telecom industry’s metadata, private telecom contractors and software corporations employ a vast web of back doors and intelligence gathering processes. Gone are the days where government employees monitored elite crime bosses in surveillance vans. The proliferation of technology has now empowered our government, and most other governments, to leverage voice recognition software and automated processes to monitor as much as it can handle processing.
I don’t wish to downplay the horrifying and Orwellian nature of this development, but it ought to be contextualized. This regime’s capacity to actually monitor (not merely record and archive) human intelligence is very limited, and increasingly limited as time passes. In fact, this government has less access to and control over domestic dissident groups than it had before the transistor was even invented. People are rightfully concerned about technology and intrusion, and I’m an advocate of communication security best practices, but the technology has never been the bottleneck, at least not for the United States government.
How can prehistoric shepherds effectively rout our military-industrial complex for decades on end? How do money and weaponry continue flowing unimpeded into the hands of anti-American terrorists and drug cartels? Why are its decision-makers often left with no choice but to monitor the very same media outlets and blogs available to the general public for information? It’s because the federal government’s intelligence infrastructure is fundamentally flawed…fatally flawed. You can’t exactly set up a call center and hire Indian sub-contractors to analyze the mountains and mountains of data being gathered. It requires advanced data mining by people who are highly trusted, highly skilled, and highly knowledgeable about varied subject-matter to find the data and to translate that data into actionable information. And taking action on that information requires exposing trustworthy and intelligent people to extraordinary risk in infiltrating the relevant communities being monitored and controlled.
If you’re a Russian femme fatale, you are working for a coherent identity group within the context of a coherent faith tradition. If you’re an Israeli double-agent, you have this phenomenally loyal tribe and rich tradition to lean upon. If you’re in an Islamic sleeper cell, you have the transcendent spirit of jihad. What does an American agent have to lean on? Faith? Folk? …Freedom?
The problem is that being more cerebral and abstract is negatively correlated with believing this regime’s bullshit. Toby Keith’s jingoistic patriotism might work with infantry, but how many in the coveted 99th percentile of the AFQT fall for this regime’s myths and narratives? Intelligence requires intelligence, and there’s no substitute for gifted people. Men as gifted as Edward Snowden are required to run the data gathering machine, and yet men of that caliber can’t be fooled into thinking that they’re not doing evil things on behalf of evil people.
It’s getting harder and harder to make superhero movies, as there’s less and less worth defending in this order. While watching Skyfall, one can’t help but wonder what James Bond is even fighting for. The monarchy and the Church of England, perhaps? We Americans don’t even have those fig leaves. Batman’s Dark Knight Rises tries and fails to offer a satisfactory answer, with both of these blockbuster films implicitly admitting to the audience that the heroes are deluding themselves. The waning moments of Zero Dark Thirty show the hero exhausted and broken in the wake of having trampled every liberal principle in her pursuit of an opponent of said principles.
All the federal government really has going for it is its tremendous power to bribe and blackmail. That’s great, and it remains their ace in the hole (at least for now), but as anybody who’s ever tried to supervise or manage employees knows all too well, financial incentives and disincentives can only go so far in manipulating human behavior. This is especially true in the behavior of the sort of people relevant to espionage work. You’ve got ascetic ideologues, independently wealthy international playboys, and talented subject matter experts who are being bid up on the private market. Money is certainly powerful, and it is indubitably the backbone of America’s intelligence infrastructure (and thereby the backbone of America’s military infrastructure), but it’s not enough.
The only thing this federal government really stands for (aside from money and power, of course) is non-discrimination; And what is intelligence gathering but discrimination and profiling? The very first page of the U.S. Military Field Manual 2-0 contains this gem of gender studies relativism: “Unless otherwise stated, masculine nouns and pronouns do not refer exclusively to men.” In a world where the other global elites are rebounding from decades of suppression and regression, can ours really afford to be so effete and willfully ignorant? Can we really afford to embrace an ideology which trusts the aliens in our midst as much as our own? Can we really afford to embrace an ideology which insists that women are as inclined as men to be effective fighters?
The West’s current elites won’t be taken down by World War III, or by any specific event. There will surely be military conflicts, and proximate social and economic events. But what dooms it will be the Byzantine Generals Problem, wherein fewer and fewer links in their power structure are reliable. Too many of them will be loyal to other power structures, loyal to their own selfish interests, or incompetent quota hires of one kind or another hired to appease privileged identity groups. The only durable power structures are those built on a solid foundation of identity and faith: a common folk with a common vision. These are the only power structures which have ever worked for long in the past, and the Gods of the Copybook Headings don’t make exceptions.