6 Comments

Many insights here. I love your honesty and insider view on the advantages/challenges of being a woman inside the agency. Excellent.

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Aug 26, 2023Liked by Laura Thomas

People, process and product. Great read, very good insights into the dynamics of this work. Also, working under committee rules is always a disaster waiting to happen. Too many competing issues, biases come into play. Field people know what they know while the people at the office back home don’t have a feel for what it’s like in the field. They will of course claim they want to be in the field, but once there they are not in tune with their surroundings because they’ve spent too much time in the office and are used to working under committee rules.

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Outstanding essay

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Aug 25, 2023Liked by Laura Thomas

It seems universal that bureaucracy supports mediocrity, sadly. Your agency was not alone in that regard - DoD has its own issues both with harassment in the ranks and with the side effects of risk-aversion in leaders. There is a certain type of person that appears to have poor hearing; when they hear "take no unnecessary risk," it becomes "take no risk," and likewise appear to hear "yes" in place of "no."

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"After years of handling male sources, some told me stories about how they were more open-minded about future opportunities for their daughters based on our deep discussions about our lives and hopes for the future."

Who won the culture war in the countries we invaded? Religious extremism is enjoying a powerful resurgence in the US. It is taking the exact same forms as say, the teaching/principles of the Taliban, but in support of a different deity. We clearly failed to export tolerance, equality, and jaw-jaw. Whereas we seem to have become big importers of intolerance, supremacy (of.. pick your preference), and war-war ("Bloodshed!" "Execution of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs!" "Execution of the Vice President!", "Execution of the Judge". "Lock her up" is just quaint. ).

I suspect history will judge bin Laden won in the long term. We ran to every corner where he unfurled the black banners, burning through blood and gold as he wanted/predicted; but far more significantly, we adopted the opponent's fascination with conspiracy theories, rejection of knowledge, logic and other grants of the enlightenment, and adopted the unquestioning aggressive desire to kill all who disagree.

In so doing we are now positioned to take one final step, that if taken, will lose us the last two centuries of progress and return us to a pre-enlightenment period of barbarism, now armed with what Churchill called "the lights of perverted science".

Indeed, he is worth quoting in full because the time strikes this reader as the same:

"But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. "

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