Don’t get me wrong, soldiers get a bad deal from the countries they serve. Kipling more than a few times rebuked the Crown for the way in which soldiers were only parsied when the crisis was at hand, and forgotten the moment the treaty was signed. We celebrate Memorial Day and a few other holidays in guilty acknowledgement that we do not nearly thank our men and women in uniform sufficiently for their sacrifices. But there is a group, forgotten when they are not being maligned, who deserve a moment of consideration at least. I am speaking of the Intelligence Community.
That sneering you hear is from a variety of people, including some vets whose opinion of Intel has been built on some bad experiences - I know more than one guy who remarked that ‘they are willing to bet our lives on their guess’, and that criticism is valid. Still, Intelligence can be and has often been well done, for which the reward is silence.
It can be difficult, writing about Intelligence people in specific. They can’t talk about much of their work, and most wouldn’t say much even if they were allowed, for the same sorts of reasons veterans are not gabby about war. The few people I know in the business are silent on details. You can figure out some stuff by what they leave out of conversation. I figured out one guy, who was always talking about Middle East events, was assigned there when he suddenly had no interest in the subject. And sometimes you can figure out a snip or two of their background by the people they know, and how old some of those relationships go. I knew, for example, that a lot of Intel people began in the Military - no surprise there, each service has an Intel branch, and it’s no shock that the CIA likes to cherry-pick stars in the field when they find them. And I knew that some agencies, NSA most notably, like to find talent in academia - if you’ve been on the Dean’s List at a major school with a major in the Science, odds are Fort Meade has a file on you. But especially where the Middle East is concerned, a few other agencies have been recruiting in some unlikely places - my father, for instance, had more than a few interviews with the State Department before and after trips to the Middle East and Southeast Asia during the 1970s and 1980s. his work took him to countries with difficult relations with the U.S., but who still wanted professionals like Project Engineers for their businesses. You find HUMINT where you can, you know?
But I wanted to mention here, some of the unsung victories of U.S. Intelligence; the prevailing mood makes it unlikely indeed that the Media or the Congress would think of them was honorable men, much less praise them for their work. yet it should be remembered that we know what we do about Al Qaeda because of Intelligence professionals; we have removed countless cells from Europe and Asis because Intelligence found out where they were. And that little detail about us not being attacked by another 9/11 on U.S. soil, in large part comes from the hard work of the agencies; it is no coincidence. And even now, as things in Iraq and Afghanistan either improve or continue as they have been doing, there are men in Iran and Syria and Libya right now, risking their lives to find the next threat against America and the means to thwart it. They deserve, at the least, to be remembered, even if their names cannot be mentioned.