The False Client
It’s one thing to red team; it’s another thing entirely for a red team to facilitate useful change. All red teaming is embedded within a culture, and savvy red teamers learn quickly that not all red team engagements are what they appear to be. Sometimes a client hires a red team to validate what the client already “knows” (typically then tying the red team’s hands through a set of overly constrained rules of engagement). For the experienced red team, this usually yields a level of frustration that’s best avoided by simply not taking the job.
In a roundabout way, the quote below from Jorge Luis Borges reminds us of the red team client who feigns interest in uncovering the uncomfortable truths.
It is well known that Virgil, dying, asked his friends to reduce to ashes the unfinished manuscript of the Aeneid, to which he had dedicated eleven years of noble and delicate labor; Shakespeare never considered gathering his plays into a book; Kafka entrusted Max Brod to destroy the novels and stories that would ensure his fame. The affinity of these illustrious episodes is, if I am not mistaken, illusory. (p. 501.)
And why “illusory”?
Virgil knew he could depend on the pious disobedience of his friends, as Kafka did with Max Brod. Shakespeare’s case is entirely different. De Quincey speculates that, for Shakespeare, public corresponded to performance, not publication; the staging was what was important to him. In any event, the man who truly desires the disappearance of his books does not assign this task to others. (Ibid.)
In other words, Virgil and Kafka in particular represent the red team client who hires a red team, not to unearth and challenge assumptions, but to propagate the appearance of open thinking, all the while justifying the status quo. Unfortunately, that’s not red teaming.
Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Non-Fictions (1999).