Le Carré: A Most Wanted Man

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
John Ray (1670) cited as a proverb “Hell is paved with good intentions.” Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153): “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.”

On Christmas Day the 23-year-old “Underwear Bomber” tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Priviledged, rich, well-connected, educated, and so completely wrong-headed. So we will be seeing more of the controversial and frankly embarassing “Naked Scanners” installed at airports, and more senseless waiting and giving up of shampoo and bottled water, and more xenophobia, while the terrorists continue to spread fear and hate. Oh, doesn’t it just make you fume?!

Just before Christmas Stefan gave me John Le Carré‘s “A Most Wanted Man” to read, a most excellent thriller on the subject of counterterrorism. Set in Germany, specifically in Hamburg, where 9/11 was masterminded, the novel develops the story of how Issia, an illegal immigrant and asylum seeker with a secret and possibly sinister mission, becomes a pawn in a game of agencies seeking the extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists. The players include Tommy Brue, a private banker who finds himself saddled with dirty money; Annabelle, an idealistic human rights lawyer with a naive view of the world; and the German and international intelligence community, with each agency following their own (limited) internal agenda, some with a far greated depth and scope of “intelligence” than others, effectively blocking each other rather than collaborating. The subplot is an emerging lovestory. In the end, individual human morality becomes very difficult to balance out against the political imperatives, and some “good” intentions go very “bad”, indeed.

A great read!

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “Le Carré: A Most Wanted Man”

  1. I don’t think we need naked scanners.
    Everytime i have flown to the USA i have been hand searched VERY thoroughly, and there was no way i could have had anything in my underwear other than me without the searcher knowing.
    So either someone wasn’t doing their job or there is something else going on that we are not being told.
    I think.

  2. I, too, have been checked thoroughly, but this time the airport staff and the authorities weren’t thorough enough.

    I can’t believe this Nigerian guy was a listed suspect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Airlines_Flight_253). Were they being overly PC when they “overlooked” him, or are they simply deluged with information? I really suspect it’s the latter. We might think the National Counterterrorism Center is doing a frighteningly thorough job (see “Enemy of the People”) , but it’s just not catching them all (think Dr Nidal Hassan/ Fort Hood). The NCTC, the US central eavesdropping agency tracking e-mail and cellphone traffic, collects 4 times the volume of information stored in the entire Library of Congress each and every day. (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31intel.html?_r=1&hp)

    One of the things I really liked about le Carré’s book is that he shows how very difficult it is to assess suspects, and that you need a very sophisticated, enlightened approach to intelligence to keep from doing the wrong thing.

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