Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

This quote from Traders, Guns and Money made me think of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

"Trading rooms are collections of fiefdoms; each ruler has absolute authority over their subjects; power lies in the tight-knit band of knights that are allied to them. They are united only in their hatred of the common enemy, usually other people within their firm who would dare infringe on their territory. Competitors are minor irritants. The real enemy is within."
Tinker Tailor was a 1974 spy novel by John le Carré, featuring intelligence officer George Smiley who is called back from retirement to find a Soviet mole in the British intelligence service.

The lesson from Tinker Tailor is that these intelligence services aren't doing what taxpayers think they are - "fighting 'bad guys'!". They are mostly chasing their own tails. You can have double agents, re-doubled agents, triple agents, ad infinitum!

In Tinker Tailor, the intelligence executives' real enemies are each other. Cultivation of a Soviet source by another faction within the service threatens them. Less money, less status.



bjdubbs said...

I've heard a variation of this in corporate bureaucracies as well. The only arbiter between the different factions is the COO (if the CEO won't do it), and that's his main job.

CP said...

Further thought:

the mission of an organization is not necessarily (often not) what it presents itself as in marketing/propaganda to outsiders

CP said...