Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Do You Trust

Humam Khalil Mohammed, the double agent who killed 7 CIA officers and a Jordanian spy in late December (here's the link to one of the New York Times Articles), was a trusted individual both by the Jordanian intelligence service and the United States C.I.A. According to Western officials, Mohammed was not even thoroughly searched prior to entering the CIA base in Afghanistan because of his importance as an informant and the CIA's trust in the Jordanian intelligence service and their subsequent trust in Mohammed.

A world revolving around suspicion and distrust is a sad and lonely one. It is, however, times like these when trust is taken advantage of that sets back all the progress to building up a relationship and easing rigid procedures and overly secure rules. It is an tricky balance between trust and acting smart to avoid being betrayed. It is often the culmination of any given individual's experiences which determines their ability to hold this balance.

It seems to me that while not all is fair in love and war any longer, we still excuse deception, murder, and other otherwise unacceptable malfeasances when it comes to war. The most common justification is that these wrongs are the better of two wrongs and in some ways are justified by the ends. Some may argue that it is not that the ends are justified by the means, but rather that there just is no better option, and so we must try to forget the means and focus on the ends. You can see our society's (and perhaps mankind's) acceptance of deception even in our games, especially those on war. Take the game Risk, for example. The entire game is based on alliances that are made in good faith with the expectation that the alliances will be broken as soon as it becomes beneficial enough for one person to break the alliance so they can win. On some occassions, these alliances last until the end of the game and players declare a mutual victory, but this certainly depends on the two players' personalities.

If you're not a fan of war games or involved with current events, you can think about things in terms of your personal relationships. Friendships and relationships with significant others are based on trust. Some individuals are quick to trust and may be called naive while others have an iron clad gate to protect themselves. Often, those with tighter gates have had negative experiences where they have tried to trust and been betrayed, only reaffirming that trust is a bad idea. These individuals often have difficulty becoming close to others as at a certain point, that gate gets in the way and if they start to feel they can trust someone, their experiences tell them they are just getting soft and have merely met an master of deception. The majority of individuals are probably somewhere in the middle where their trust must be earned through good times and bad, but they are not paranoid of betrayal.

Whether you frame trust in the context of war, games, or relationships, it seems that in an ideal world, complete trust is the best option. In the world we live in, however, is that even possible? If it is possible, is it the best option? Thinking about your own personal life, can you ever trust another individual completely? Or does everyone have a gate, merely of different strengths and transparencies. Even if you can trust an individual completely, should you? In that situation it may come down to luck of who you encounter in your life. There are definitely those that will take advantage of someone that is quick to trust, and Mohammed proved, there are even those that will take advantage of someone that is capable of gaining trust with. So where do you draw the line personally? How do you decide who to trust and to what degree? How do you decide when to suppress your suspicions and paranoias no matter how logical they seem to be? Once you make this decision, how does it translate over to groups of individuals? The same questions apply for all types of groups. Companies must decide who to trust with their secrets, governments must decide who trust with their national security, and military leaders must decide who to trust is on their side.

The case with Mohammed is an especially interesting one because he is not just a secret agent, but a double agent. The C.I.A. and the Jordanian intelligence service wanted Mohammed, and in fact may have trusted him more, because he said (and probably showed through his actions) he was willing to deceive Al Qaeda by posing as a foreign jihadi. The C.I.A. itself, and surely any other intelligence service, revolves around secret agents and double agents. When you are dealing with individuals that deceive people as their career - that have the skills, minds, and brains to deceive - how can you trust them? You may have even trained them yourself to deceive, so how do you trust that they aren't deceiving you?

Especially in our current war, long term deception is a recurring event. Hasan at Fort Hood, the 9/11 suicide hijackers, Mohammed, they were all long term deceivers that built up trust with the people around them before turning on them. In our personal lives, adultery and talking behind people's backs are now everyday events. They are looked down upon in theory, but rarely are people punished or have consequences for their actions. In a world like this, it is even more important to trust and to have faith in the people around you. We cannot let suspicion overtake our minds, or we will truly be living in a lonely world. How do you find that balance?

1 comment:

May said...

so true , my friend.