Playing on the Devil’s Chessboard: Modernity’s Bargain
In the book The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, by David Talbot, there is the following passage, a quotation by an American woman, Erica Wallach who had been held captive in the Soviet Union for five years on suspicion of being a spy. This suspicion arose in part because the Field family, a family with ties to Allen Dulles, had raised Ms. Wallach.
“’Dulles [Ms. Wallach said] had a certain arrogance in which he believed that he could work with the Devil – anybody’s Devil – and still be Allen Dulles. He could work with Noah Field and betray him. He could work with the Nazis or the Communists. He thought himself untouchable by these experiences and, of course, you cannot help but be touched, be affected, no matter how noble your cause is.’” [p. 158]
That is, Dulles thought his actions wouldn’t corrupt him because his cause was noble, so even the “Devil” could be an ally or he could be an ally of the “Devil.” Further, he thought that even though he was playing on the devil’s chessboard, he could win. But as events in Iran and other places illustrated, when you play on the devil’s chessboard, the devil always wins and you always lose. So not only was Dulles corrupted but so too was the United States. As Talbot put it: “The Eisenhower-Dulles era was a Pax Americana enforced by terror.” [p. 241] To support its empire, which was an “empire on the cheap,” the US had to engage in terror and support allies, like Iran, that also engaged in terror.
This, it seems to me, is modernity’s bargain: Cutting a Faustian deal with the devil, thinking we could acquire power, wealth, and a kind of immortality by joining forces with the devil. But what we didn’t realize – and still haven’t – is that we have bargained away our souls, our humanity and, hence, our chance for happiness. And when you play on the devil’s chessboard, only the devil wins. Just ask LBJ, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George Bush, Jr.