Ways to Give Aid and Comfort to the Enemy

 

Tinker-Tailor-BOOKAt the conclusion of John le Carré’s famous spy novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, British intelligence officer George Smiley recounts his questioning of Bill Haydon, an agent whose character in the book is loosely based on the exploits of one of Britain’s most notorious traitors during the early days of the Cold War, Kim Philby. Smiley managed to pry several nuggets of information from Haydon’s confession, including his contempt for Britain and rejecting his country for “aesthetic” reasons, only partly informed by morality.

In the annals of the world’s second oldest profession, why should Bill Haydon’s motives matter to the rest of us? After all, the Cold War has long been over, and one supposes that the huge corpus of espionage literature has moved on to juicier, more current topics. Still, this character’s reasons for switching sides retain their grip on our judgments, because Western educational systems have created breeding grounds for reaching similar kinds of conclusions. In fact, the contemporary relevance of Haydon’s thoughts is frightening.

However, it certainly is not necessary to throw oneself into a full-blown, Ann Coulter-like (Treason!), “loose lips sink ships” mode, and I am far from having any expertise in the sordid and convoluted realm of spying and national betrayal. Still, some back-of-the-envelope musing about this complex subject may generate some useful hypotheses about different ways of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, a phrase found in the Constitution. Here are a few to consider.

Materialistic Treason: Perhaps the oldest practice in history, since it is based on attempts to derive some kind of material gain from one’s activities, usually money, but also sexual favors, or anything else that is considered materially beneficial or desperately needed. The despoilations of Aldrich Ames and the Walker family traitors, all of whom profited monetarily from their treason and were in dire financial straits, fall into this category.

Ideological Treason: In this case, a traitor simply opts for the opposing side for political reasons, concluding that one’s own country is wrong and the other side is right. Naturally, relinquishing secrets to an evil regime because you share its philosophy is abhorrent, regardless of a whiff of misguided principles behind such decisions. Alger Hiss is an example, as are a number of post World War Two British turncoats — the notorious Cambridge Five — who sympathized with Stalin’s regime.

Narcissistic Advancement: A person afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder is grotesquely self-infatuated, and regards national interests (or anything else) as subordinate to achieving personal goals. Benedict Arnold, who concluded that he was not sufficiently recognized for his service under George Washington and betrayed the American cause by joining the British, is an example. Probably the most sensitive case involves our current President, whose narcissism oozes from every pore, propelling him to advance policies that often ignite frenzies of incredulity and shock among his critics. “Reckless,” “delusional,” “unconstitutional,” “lawless,” and similar epithets leap from pages of criticism about Obama’s policies, but never (to my knowledge) the “T” word. Still, it is almost amusing to watch Charles Krauthammer, for instance, grope for the right expressions to describe Obama’s decisions on such matters as his Iran policy, Gitmo releases, border security, or terrorism; the strongest epithets I’ve ever heard him utter are “astonishing” and “incomprehensible.”

Nihilistic Indifference: Very similar to the previous category, a nihilist’s price is open to the highest bidder and subject to the most convenient circumstance. Though political beliefs may lurk in the background, they can be nudged, ignored, or reformulated to fit mercurial exigencies and restated with considerable passion and conviction. Aaron Burr, a self-serving politician justly accused by Alexander Hamilton of being egregiously unprincipled and opportunistic, practically defines the category.

As does, one might argue, Hillary Clinton. True, Hillary seems to have her causes—equal pay, women’s rights, fighting ISIS, for instance—none of which have prevented her from paying women on her staff less than men, ignoring her feminist facade when dealing with countries that treat women abominably, or embracing the Obama program when it suits her purposes. Certainly the continuous controversy involving her use of emails reeks of a nihilist’s indifference to America’s interests; Aaron Burr would have understood her perfectly. In short, Hillary just didn’t care about what might ensue from her behavior; she wanted to avoid accountability and keep her options open.

The fact that those who give aid and comfort to the enemy are detestable does not mean that many are bereft of appeal; indeed, treasonous sociopaths can exude charm, a circumstance that makes them especially dangerous in public life. Even more dangerous is the fact that their motives are based on narcissism, nihilism, and contempt for or indifference to one’s country, traits that practically define much of our non-science professoriate today. In fact, it is only a slight exaggeration to suggest that American universities produce legions of citizens perfectly attuned to the reasoning of Bill Haydon, who scorned his native land and rejected it on “aesthetic” grounds.

There is one other characteristic that defines persons who engage in treasonous behavior or at least are indifferent to it, and again we have the incomparable John le Carré to enlighten us. Near the end of his interview, George Smiley noted that Haydon “began speaking about himself, and already, to Smiley’s eye, he seemed quite visibly to be shrinking to something quite small and mean.” And of course John le Carré through the voice of George Smiley was right, and is right. Indeed, there is no better way to describe those who give aid and comfort to our enemies.

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There are 16 comments.

  1. Contributor

    What a beautifully written, deeply insightful essay this is….

    And, speaking as someone with some professional experience in the intelligence business — this is dead-on.

    • #1
    • January 25, 2016, at 5:39 PM PDT
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  2. Thatcher

    Marvin,

    I echo Herb’s praise. This is dead on. We have reached the point where the illusion of intellectual sophistication has allowed people to hold beliefs and take actions that are directly destructive to their country’s immediate and future interests.

    This kind of thing can’t be tolerated. We may need a new kind of cold war. One that recognizes the enemy in its latest incarnation.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #2
    • January 25, 2016, at 5:58 PM PDT
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  3. Member

    Bravo, Martin. You make me wonder again just how much political and social dysfunction is due to bad ideas that we can at least work to overcome. The rest is intractable – caused by the 5% that are malignant narcissists or worse.

    • #3
    • January 25, 2016, at 6:23 PM PDT
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  4. Member

    I was glued to this post. It’s excellent.

    • #4
    • January 25, 2016, at 6:32 PM PDT
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  5. Member

    A great essay, thank you. My dad and mom were visited at the same time by FBI agents. My mom at home and my dad at work concerning a Russian who had been assigned to the Soviet Embassy in DC. My parents had met this Russian at diplomatic parties in New Delhi when my dad was an Assistant Naval Attache in New Delhi. My parents knew he was a high ranking intelligence officer. I asked my mom how they knew that. She said he was the only Russian that could drive a car without having a minder sitting next to him in the passenger’s seat.

    My dad worked for a defense contractor after he left the Office of Naval Intelligence. His security clearance mandated that an FBI agent had to be present if he underwent any medical procedure that required anesthesia and he signed an agreement that he would not vacation in any country governed by a communist government, Cold War life.

    • #5
    • January 25, 2016, at 6:40 PM PDT
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  6. Inactive

    I took my 12 year old son to see “13 Hours” last night, and I think the treason displayed in Benghazi was mainly of the Narcissistic Advancement variety. As could be said about the entirety of the Obama administration.

    I remember watching the PBS series of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ back in the late 70’s or early 80’s, back when we still knew who our enemies were. In this day and age, we cannot even name our enemy, or if an enemy is named, it is America or Western Civilization that is the enemy.

    If America or Western Civilization is the enemy, how can it be treasonous to betray it? There is still love of country in these United States, but it certainly does not exist in the Academy.

    On a brighter note, I saw the other day that Penguin publishers will no longer require a degree for their new hires. So maybe there is some hope…

    http://www.bbc.com/news/education-35343680

    • #6
    • January 25, 2016, at 7:10 PM PDT
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  7. Member

    By far, it is my belief that that scene in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the best and the one that earned the Oscar nomination for Gary Oldman.

    Unrelated, I heard an NPR story this morning commenting on the ruling that Vladimir Putin is not an honest dictator. Apparently he arranges deals that benefit his close friends and political allies. I thought I had pretty good grasp of human nature until I heard this report. The things I learn on NPR. They called it corruption. Let me pause while I sit on my couch to keep from hitting the ground.

    • #7
    • January 25, 2016, at 7:43 PM PDT
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  8. Member

    A very elegant, eloquent statement of the problem.

    The government briefers often stressed the same points about the “classic” reasons for betrayal with an acronym (which was also technically speaking a mnemonic, I suppose), which was MICE. Money. Ideology. Compromise. Ego. In every case with which I am familiar, it is one or more of MIC, but always E. Philby, Ames, Hanssen: Ego cometh before them all.

    • #8
    • January 25, 2016, at 8:24 PM PDT
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  9. Member

    Very good.

    • #9
    • January 25, 2016, at 8:37 PM PDT
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  10. Member

    Dr Steve:A very elegant, eloquent statement of the problem.

    The government briefers often stressed the same points about the “classic” reasons for betrayal with an acronym (which was also technically speaking a mnemonic, I suppose), which was MICE. Money. Ideology. Compromise. Ego. In every case with which I am familiar, it is one or more of MIC, but always E. Philby, Ames, Hanssen: Ego cometh before them all.

    Oh, and Snowden. Definitely Snowden. That’s E squared.

    • #10
    • January 25, 2016, at 8:57 PM PDT
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  11. Member

    I’ve always seen Obama as giving aid and comfort to enemies of the United States. He does it every day.

    • #11
    • January 25, 2016, at 9:26 PM PDT
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  12. Contributor

    Very good piece. This is exactly the kind of essay with elevates Ricochet.

    Re Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I strongly recommend the 2011 movie with Gary Oldman also available on Netflix; and the 1980 British mini-series with Alec Guinness. Both are on my all time favorites list.

    The motivation of enemy operatives is indeed fascinating. There’s also a positive flip side to the ideologically motivated — the radicals who see the light, and either double back in the field, or write important books to expose the enemy within.

    Most of you know Witness by Whittaker Chambers, and Radical Son by David Horowitz. For a true, non-fiction espionage thriller, you might also want to read Operation Solo by John Barron. We’ve seen so many depictions of Kim Philby and his types. The name Morris Childs deserves to be equally well known, but we only hear about him occasionally. His story would make a great movie.

    • #12
    • January 25, 2016, at 10:02 PM PDT
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  13. Member

    Soviet citizens who defected to the US and America’s founders were ideoligical traitors as well. They are justified by what they acted for, and not condemned for the origin they abandoned.

    The best tales in literature reveal the sad reality that we are sometimes faced with conflict between two or more admirable loyalties. It is good to be faithful to one’s people and good to be faithful to one’s family. But which should take priority? Does it matter which is more deserving of loyalty?

    In the Bible, Jesus says He brings division between family members, implying that we are called to something even greater. What loyalty could be more obvious and unquestionable than family? The Civil War broke those bonds in some cases and glorified them in others.

    The “liberal” arts once challenged students to combat difficult moral scenarios with principles defined through generations of blood and toil. Much has been lost in that regard.

    • #13
    • January 25, 2016, at 10:05 PM PDT
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  14. Coolidge

    Wonderful piece. The Hollywood Ten practiced ideological treason. The time frame of their exploits start about the same time as Kim Philby’s. The “new” communism really appealed to a certain few people. It is just creepy how the smart, intelligent and wealthy fell for such a vile and volgar pseudo religion.

    Watch “Reilly, Ace of Spies” mini series for more spy drama, his is not fiction.

    • #14
    • January 25, 2016, at 11:49 PM PDT
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  15. Contributor
    Marvin Folkertsma Post author

    Aaron Miller:Soviet citizens who defected to the US and America’s founders were ideoligical traitors as well. They are justified by what they acted for, and not condemned for the origin they abandoned.

    The best tales in literature reveal the sad reality that we are sometimes faced with conflict between two or more admirable loyalties. It is good to be faithful to one’s people and good to be faithful to one’s family. But which should take priority? Does it matter which is more deserving of loyalty?

    In the Bible, Jesus says He brings division between family members, implying that we are called to something even greater. What loyalty could be more obvious and unquestionable than family? The Civil War broke those bonds in some cases and glorified them in others.

    The “liberal” arts once challenged students to combat difficult moral scenarios with principles defined through generations of blood and toil. Much has been lost in that regard.

    Yes, Thank you for pointing that out, and although this is no excuse, I had two paragraphs devoted to this scenario, but since my essays tend to be too long, I deleted them. The original essay was 500 words longer, and I always have to pare them down.

    • #15
    • January 26, 2016, at 6:22 AM PDT
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  16. Member

    Marvin Folkertsma:

    Yes, Thank you for pointing that out, and although this is no excuse, I had two paragraphs devoted to this scenario, but since my essays tend to be too long, I deleted them. The original essay was 500 words longer, and I always have to pare them down.

    One man’s “pare them down” is another’s “deprive my readers”.

    • #16
    • January 26, 2016, at 8:50 AM PDT
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