Thursday, October 20, 2016

You get red tape! And you! Everyone gets red tape!

I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I do, I watch The Americans. The Emmy award winning TV series was created and produced by a former CIA officer and is about undercover Soviet spies operating clandestinely within the United States. The Americans is a must watch show and I highly recommended it to any aspiring FSS officer.

As I was finishing up the 3rd season, I witnessed an intriguing dialogue between an ambitious FBI officer and his superior that immediately caught my attention because of its relevance to class discussions.

Tangent: While I have enjoyed learning about how decisions are made within the United States bureaucracy, I have been surprised and frustrated by the seemingly incapability of individuals to affect any worthwhile change. Does this not debunk the ‘Great Man theory’ and every hagiography written on esteemed leaders? Although I understand and appreciate the need for red tape, (see particularly when it comes to uninformed, uninterested, and immature leaders (see here), I dare say the majority of American presidents have not been 1) uninformed, 2) uninterested, nor 3) immature. Instead, American Presidents have been genuinely concerned about achieving worthwhile goals. Thus, excessive red tape (which I believe is there) prevents informed, interested, and mature Presidents from implementing effective policies. Trump has been by all accounts an anomaly in American political history. Thus, I argue that excessive red tape has not been put in place to contain a Trump-like candidate, simply because nobody ever expected a trump-like candidate to ever occupy the highest political office in the U.S.  Instead, the red tape exists to be a bureaucratic tool to protect parochial interests. So isn’t it a possibility to maybe … Get rid of the red tape and not put someone like Trump in office? I suppose I am naive. 
But, back to the The Americans.

The dialogue I am referring to occurs after one of the main characters, FBI agent Stan Beeman, confesses to his superior about running an unauthorized mission to secure the release of his Soviet lover. Beeman’s superior informs him that he will be relieved of his duty. However, someone higher up in the bureaucratic cesspool intervenes and privately encourages Beeman to carry on.

The dialogue is as follows and occurs in this episode.
“I’m sure you understand that the people who run our government agencies are just bureaucrats.  The president understands that’s how government works. It’s all red tape. There’s not going to be an investigation into what you did.  The only thing that matters is the work that you are going to be doing.  If you have trouble with the bureaucrats here – You come to me.  I won’t let them stand in your way.”

Well, there you go. You just ignore the red tape. And I really like Reagan.

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