In "The Good Shepard" Matt Damon's character, Edward Wilson, is partly based upon the founder of the CIA's counterintelligence operations, James Jesus Angelton. As we wind up 2006 and look back over the past year, one can only wonder what Mr. Angelton would have to say if he were alive today.
New Year's Eve brings all kinds of thoughts and emotions thinking about what our world has become since the days after World War II. Edward Wilson and Jim Angelton were both focused on the risks of finding out the truth. Getting answers to questions that few others would even contemplate to ask. For the love of their country alone.
We are reminded of other professionals with the same mission. On September 11th, 2006 on the cover of Sports Illustrated sits another patriot in a tree near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. His name is Pat Tillman. And as the cover story title says: "Remember His Name." Gary Smith captures the essence of what it means to walk in the shoes of men like Pat Tillman who seek answers even more than life itself.
Everybody who thought he'd enlisted purely out of patriotism, they missed reality by a half mile. Sure, he loved America and felt compelled to fight for it after more than 2,600 people at the World Trade Center were turned to dust. But his decision sprang from soil so much richer than that. The foisting of all the dirty work onto people less fortunate than an NFL safety clawed at his ethics. He had uncles and grandfathers on both sides who'd fought in World War II and the Korean War, one who'd taken a bullet in his chest, another who'd lost a finger and one who'd been the last to leap out of a plane shot from the sky. On a level deeper than almost any other American, he'd reaped the reward of those sacrifices: the chance his country afforded him to be himself, all of himself.
He yearned to have a voice one day that would carry, possibly in politics, and he was far from the sort of man who could send others into a fire that he had skirted. His relentless curiosity, his determination to live his life as if it were a book that would hold its reader to the last word, pushed him into the flames as well. The history of man is war, he told a family member, so how, without sampling it, could he ever know man or himself completely?
The Operational Risks we choose to face as professionals keeps us focused on the fears that haunt us most. Someday, we hope that the fear will disappear if we face it long enough and often enough. And then it dawns on us that this will never happen. The "Long War" ahead will not have an end point. Nor will it's end ever be celebrated with a ticker tape parade in New York City.
The long war ahead requires a man who understands what Jim Angleton and Pat Tillman both have in common. 2006 ends with a new US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates; the former Director of Central Intelligence. 2007 begins with a renewed hope for conquering the fears ahead.