Why Spy?

James Bond: does he serve a useful purpose?

Inspired by recent events, I argue in the Globe and Mail that spies aren’t all that important. You can read the article here.

Here’s how the article opens:

Two weeks ago, Elizabeth Lapin, an English professor in New Jersey, was hoping for economic advice from her neighbour, Cynthia Murphy, who claimed to work in the financial industry. Fortunately for Ms. Lapin’s stock portfolio, the plan was pre-empted when Ms. Murphy, her husband and nine other seemingly ordinary, middle-class Americans were arrested as Russian agents. On Thursday, 10 pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

“For someone who grew up during the Cold War, this feels very strange,” Ms. Lapin told The New York Times. “It’s suddenly my childhood breathing down my neck four doors away.”

Ms. Lapin isn’t the only one puzzled. In a world where we’ve grown used to worrying about al-Qaeda and global warming, casino capitalism and unstoppable oil spills, the sudden return of Russian spies to the front page seems bafflingly retro. Echoing the resurgence of Cold War paranoia are statements from the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that foreign agents such as Ms. Murphy, sent on long-term missions to infiltrate Canadian public life, are secretly in our midst.

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