Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.
Old Job and New Book / February 25, 2006
Tomorrow, what is left of the-company-I-formerly-worked-for will undergo what is likely to be one of it’s last transformations. They’re shedding their office in downtown DC, and the boss and his one remaining employee will work from home. Life was never full of peaches and cream there, but this last year has seen a slow, morbid, circling of the drain, with three employees quitting and another departing for a permanent maternity leave. Previous years had seen people come and go, (over 30 at last count), but this year was all about the go, and not so much the come.
Whether you look at it as failure, or as a drastic scaling back, or just an unwanted change, it’s severe. But in order to fail — in order to go out with a bang — you had to try something in the first place. When you’re bogged down in the day to day drama, that’s the hard part to remember. Someone had an idea, or a desire, and did something about it. And if you fail? Well, you already know what it takes to start again. And this time, you’re that much better educated. People who try and fail will always have my respect. There’s a world of difference between those who plot and plan, and those who try and do.
I just finished reading Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11 by Melissa Boyle Mahle. The title, as with most non-fiction, is a bit inflammatory, but the book itself is fairly good. It’s a fairly level-headed telling of the intelligence service culture, from an insider’s point of view. And the book is mainly about the culture. While some major missions and events are discussed, they’re most used to describe their effect on the atmosphere of the intelligence service.
I’d be willing to bet she was the actual author, and possibly editor, of this piece, because any ghost writer would surely be a better wordsmith. The language is dry and text-bookish. But it’s always accessible. While she has generally remains calm and objective, she does have her fair share of axes to grind, (feminism, a nearly pathological hatred of President Clinton. There are numerous grammar and spelling errors in my edition. And she doesn’t seem able to step back and view her insider’s knowledge from an outsider’s perspective.
Overall, the most instructive part for me was the background on so many modern events. She builds logical, if not necessarily agreeable, cases for actions like the invasion of Afghanistan. While the actual actions of Sept 11, 2001 are not discussed in details, the whole book discusses the growth and unexpected nature of Al’Qaeda. And she quickly dismisses Iraq as a complete cock-up on the part of both the intelligence services and the government.