Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where Is a Sicilian When You Need One?

Always useful to illustrate the challenge of trying to figure out how to think and out-think someone.  At what point do you stop?  A challenge for poker: is the other person weak?  Are they acting weak because they want me to bet?  Are they acting weak because they are weak but will think that I will think that they are acting weak?  And so on.  This problem is well known in the spy game, as Fred Kaplan's column discusses.
Deception must be taken for granted in the spy game. But how far do you go? At some point, even the most careful spies will just screw up and reveal their true colors. But at what point, and how can you tell the difference between a feint and a blunder?
It is an interesting piece, but does it really address the core question--why more now?  The answer seems to be that the "great game" has just been continuing all along, that the recent series of stories--the Iranian re-defector, the Russian middle class spies, etc--is just part of the ebb and flow.  Actually, that is probably the case--that spying has continued.  But perhaps years of criticism of over-reliance on technical means (satellites, etc) have led to renewed focus on the softer side of intel-gathering.

Either way, novelists will have plenty with which to work.

1 comment:

Steve Greene said...

1) Damn I love that scene. I recently realized I know more of the dialog in Princess Bride than any other movie.
2) You watching Rubicon? Seems right up your alley. Great reviews, but I wasn't all that impressed by the first 2 episodes.