Friday, May 2, 2008


It is nice to have an enemy, or enemies, for they can prove to be useful and even exciting. This presupposes that we can identify our enemies. Unfortunately, it is not always an easy matter to identify our enemies. If we can, then we are in business. If we can’t, then we have few options – in fact, very few options. One option is to open hostilities with the presumed enemies, but of course this can be self-defeating and even foolhardy. The other option is espionage. There are three original businesses: there was espionage; there was prostitution; and there was religion. Secrets and valued info is sold; sex is sold; and God is sold. Espionage is certainly the most interesting of the three. At least, with espionage we can say that there are few boring moments. Selling sex and God is undoubtedly lucrative, but it is also tiresome and boring.

In New Delhi at the foreign ministry building there is a research and analysis section, and it is sort of kept apart from the regular diplomatic business. The Indians call it the research & analysis wing, or R&AW. This is the place where the spies of the Indian diplomatic corps are found. It is, as we might expect, a kind of a messy place. It turns out that it is the wives of the regular Indian diplomats who are dangerous to the men of R&AW – and I assume it is mostly men in the R&AW (this is South Asia, after all). These ladies are apparently fond of “outing” R&AW spies at dinner parties, etc. It is also evident that the Gandhi family was deeply respected, whereas Singh, the current Indian prime minister, is seen as something rather less desirable. The story of Indian espionage is told by B. Raman, himself a former spy in the R&AW. In 2007 he published a book in India with the title The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane (Lancer Publishers, India). I have had the book since the summer of 2007, but for a number of sensible reasons I delayed and then delayed again the review and interview that I knew I would do. I wanted to give it a serious study, and I did. It is a brilliant piece of writing, and it is easy to come to admire its author.

There is no real habit in the spy business to come out and tell stories or the truth about what went on during the spy’s tenure in the business. This is a shame, argues Raman. And he is absolutely right. I cannot find myself agreeing with his South Asia politics – terrorism is for me a rather unsubtle form of warfare – but it is easy, as I have said, to respect his views and his hard-headed assessment of the importance and value of the spy business. We have to know these things about our enemies, he argues. We have got to do a better job at the spy business. We can avoid war, and we can avoid a lot of unpleasant events, assassinations, etc. Raman’s book is very valuable; I very much recommend it as an indispensable study of politics, international politics, espionage, and South Asian intrigue – and the Indian conflict with the Islamic world. He is a personable man, and quite articulate. He is a natural analyst, he writes, and I do agree. I expect that B. Raman and I will speak regularly. Click here or on the audio icon above to listen to the editor of World Affairs Monthly interview B. Raman.

This kind of book is almost inconceivable in the United States or Europe. We will just not see this open endorsement of scrutiny of a spy agency and its activities. It is all too political, Raman argues. This is certainly true, but I am impressed with this Indian ability to face up to the truth, which is that the spies have an important job and it cannot be treated as just another government bureaucracy. But of course it is, and here lies the problem, and the main issue. The spy business is going to be contracted off to private business, I predict. Government bureaucrats are much too inept and incapable of doing the job well. A government job is desirable because it is a government job. There is no performance; there is no scrutiny; there is little or no competition. So, the government spy agencies are mostly a joke – and we know this from the experience of the CIA. Raman does not agree with me that the spy business will go private, and I can understand his reluctance to endorse such a view. He is likely to be conservative by nature, though throughout his book he speaks with praise of the Indian efforts to bring liberation and freedom to African nations. Raman argues: “Protection of Pakistan from the consequences of its wrong-doing against India has been a consistent element in US policy-making towards India and Pakistan ever since 1947 – whichever party was in power in Washington.” Well, India was more or less in the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, and this is the principal reason for Washington’s favoring of Pakistan over India. This should be obvious, shouldn’t it?

Freedom is indeed the key to settling the conflicts in the world and preventing war and guerrilla war. The more freedom in the world – the more freedom in Kashmir and the more freedom in Palestine and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia – the less we will see violence and guerrilla war (terrorism). As I have argued repeatedly in WAM, the “war on terror” is a joke, and it is a joke because until we see freedom break out in the Middle East we will see no progress whatsoever made against the secret machinations of men who harbor deep and long-standing grievances against their oppressors. It is a war of total futility and it is a huge expense as well. Raman did agree with me on this, and perhaps we will flesh this thesis out in the next several interviews. I may even ask him he if wishes to write an occasional article for WAM. Thanks so much Raman for the interesting discussion. I look forward to the next one. I have published below the final chapter of Raman’s book, a chapter which is appropriately titled “Looking To The Future.” The future, in my view, is espionage moving from the public sector to the private sector. This is simply inevitable, as inevitable as freedom in the Middle East and indeed throughout the rest of the world.

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