Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Spy--The Rules We Live By

I am NOT thrilled with the scope of NSA spying. The NSA is a gargantuan agency. When something is that huge it becomes uncontrollable missing the needles that threaten us in a very huge haystack. I think it is possible the president did not know of spying on Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel because the NSA has become a power in and of itself. President Dwight Eisenhower predicted in his farewell address the scope of what he called then “the military industrial complex.” It is, perhaps now, the Fifth Estate.

Having said that I am a pragmatic realist who rather enjoys breathing. Without Snowden's treachery, putting his own nation and those in it at risk, we probably would not know about the tapping of Angela's Merkel’s phone and who among really does care? Do I think spying on Merkel was fruitless and unnecessary? Yes, I do. However, it cannot be emphasized enough, the world we live in is a rough place. Who can you trust? A nation, we have seen before, EVEN one's ally could try to gain God knows what in God knows what ways. Countless incidents of espionage all over the world take place every day, I am convinced, even against friends. Who knows what leaders will say to one another, even friendly ones, when no one is looking? Most in the NSA, I would aver, think trust around the globe is in small supply and often for good reason. It is, I think, too, in man's survivalist DNA to be always vigilant even among friends.


We are not involved in a sports game. The stakes for our nation’s survival are much grander. This is, 9/11 showed for whatever rationales it was perpetrated, an existential struggle. Modern weaponry can travel all over the globe and present the possibility of eternal destruction. We understood this to be true when the first atomic bomb was tested and then dropped. Robert Oppenheimer who helped create the atomic bomb through Roosevelt’s Manhattan Project said when he was asked upon a visit to Japan in 1960 his thoughts about the destructive weapon he helped create: 

We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

The hardest part we now, I believe, face as a nation, is how to balance our Constitutional founding civil libertarian principles with the cold realities of securing the homeland in an unkind world. Our Post 9/11 policy is still a work in progress while life and the creation of world-ending destructive weaponry goes on around the globe. 

That weaponry both here and around the world must, at all costs –yes, even sometimes by spying on friends—be secured never to be used by those who seek to destroy us. It is indeed a brave new world and a fact of life in our modern era that none of our 18th century Founding Fathers could have predicted the rules we must live by today when they wrote the rules to live by in 1776.