Reuel Marc Gerecht
When I first saw the “I am a cisgender millennial” recruitment video for the Central Intelligence Agency, I thought it was a spoof, an attempt to bring Monty Python to Langley.
Then, I realized the bu-ilding footage was real: The CIA doesn’t have a sense of humor. When I left the Directorate of Operations way back in the Clinton years, the new employee center had little notepads on desks that read, “The CIA: We Hire The Handicapped.” It provided amusement to the better young case officers who’d grown tired of the internal rot and flotsam rising to the top of the institution.
But the descent of the CIA into wokedom isn’t just comical: It’s further crippling an organization that has always had trouble regarding internal honesty and groupthink, in operations and in analysis. Closed societies, especially when they become large and bureaucratic, are never adept at keeping high standards. They homogenize ruthlessly. And now, we have a situation in which the young are able to intimidate less enlightened patriarchs and matriarchs, the people who are supposed to weed out those who don’t contribute to the overseas mission. I recently spoke to a senior analyst who’d just had a progressive misstep with junior staff — she’d “triggered” someone with a joke. It passed. But the senior analyst knew immediately she’d accidentally stepped into dangerous territory.
It’s not at all surprising to see this video spring from the Directorate of Analysis, where the video millennial apparently works. That directorate has always been more to the left than the Operations Directorate, which has been a preserve of the more cynical, earthy types. We would expect this from operations officers who are trained to recruit and run agents and cultured to take the world as it is, not how they might want it to be. Whatever trends or fads that exist in society penetrate Langley first through the analysis side of the house.
And this is where the rub is. The CIA has three primary overseas missions: analysis, espionage, and covert action. Wokedom, whatever it is, is thoroughly American. Parts of the An-glophone world — Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand — have also caught it, though less severely than has the United States. Even though the French are ultimately responsible for this contagion (without Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault and literary deconstructionism, being woke would just be an emotion), continental Europe has, so far, remained largely immune.
To the vast majority of the world, wokeness and all that comes with it are bizarre. If an analyst or operative is seeing the world through an intersectional lens, then he or she (or it) is viewing foreigners through thick American glasses. We haven’t had enough time to see whether progressive millennials can analyze anything beyond themselves (they give new meaning to the French term nombrilisme, the contemplation of one’s navel), but it’s likely that the woke just don’t have the education and mental flexibility to analyze or run foreigners who really aren’t us — say Iranians, Saudis, Russians, or the Chinese.
As a counterpoint, being gay has never been a hindrance to the analysis of foreign lands. In some places, the Middle East, for example, it may even give an edge (think Wilfred Thesiger). Sex has no intellectual superstructure to alter one’s perception; it just changes slightly our angle of observation and approach. It is applicable everywhere. The first time I encountered the idea of “tribadism” was in a medieval Arabic chronicle.
With its intersectional imperatives, wokeism is like Marxism. And anyone who has examined Soviet scholarship and KGB and diplomatic files knows well how crippling Marxism was for the Soviet understanding of how the world worked.
The Directorate of Operations, the heart and soul of the agency, has surely been the least woke place in Washington, D.C. This new, woke experiment, if it continues, is going to shred the place, elevating the politically correct over the rest. The Directorate has had a lot of problems, but one of its virtues has been its unbounded cynicism about, and love for, the human condition. Today, it probably can’t run a covert-action program of any note behind enemy lines. The Mossad, which definitely doesn’t pride itself on its wokeness, is now leagues beyond Langley in its capacity to run dangerous, high-return missions.
But such things are repairable as long as the organization’s mindset remains “retrograde.” For that to happen, however, Washington needs adults to assert themselves. Considering the state of the world, sooner would be better than later.
Follow Reuel on Twitter @Reuel-MGerecht.