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02 November 2006

Profess to me no profession

A post by one of the luminaries behind Socialtext crystallizes well our objection to a growing line of thinking within the intelligence community.

The conceit that the profession of intelligence is not valid unless there is some overarching standards body or external source of validation is at best foolish, at worst an arrogant attempt to impose yet another collection of rice bowls to be fed from the labours of long suffering knowledge workers.

To be sure, it this makes for the stuff of excellent debate by the measure of academics. One can even build careers off the back of papers exploring models to be emulated, and proposals and minutes for the convening of such bodies.

The ideas that some body disconnected from the daily world of analysis and production has to pass judgment before we are deemed fit practitioners of our trade and craft; or that our hard won lessons learned and extensive body of literature do not constitute a discipline absent the blessing from some ivory tower, are absurd and frankly insulting.

So to sum up, we return to the words of those at Blue Oxen:

“It's interesting: while collaboration is often very much about the creation of shared artifacts that help a group do something; a self-conscious profession, a professional society, often exists or is created to be the artifact that lets a group know they are attempting to do something.

Especially when they aren't doing anything. The existence of the society defends against the existential dread of who are we and what do we do.

…If you find yourself enmeshed in the details of how your group should interact, you've missed a step.”

We who still serve do not suffer this existential dread. There is simply no time for such navel gazing while the Long War still rages; and a discipline and a profession forged in this conflict and the many contests that have come before needs no other validation. Warriors know who they are, and know the manner and import of the deeds they and their fellows have done.

All too often however we have noted the effects of such existential questioning among others. This is most unfortunate, as such energies would be better devoted towards the pursuit of new innovation, unique insight, and ultimately victory. In short, the pursuit of professionalization for its own sake, rather than the futile quest for control in the manner of the vanished eras of men defined by letters and gift watches.

We face our bar every day, and are judged more harshly for it than any mere academic examination.