Mostly absolutely nothing. In light of recent revelations that we have spied on the leaders of friendly foreign States, I’d like to put my two cents in:
We should never spy on anyone except when vital, national security interests of the United States or our allies are at stake. Given this, we should never spy on any friendly nation as they never threaten our vital interests. And we should be wary of spying on any nation unless we really have to. We have, right now, a vital interest in spying in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, China and a few other nations – either the nations, themselves, threaten us or what is going on in them threatens to become a serious problem for the United States. We need to know what is going on behind the scenes. But, Germany? What could Germany possibly be hiding from us that is a threat to our existence? Germany is a United States ally. If they wish to keep something secret from us, then simple decency should compel us to respect that. Do you pry in to your friend’s affairs uninvited? No, you don’t – because that is indecent. Well, morality applies to States as well as individuals.
Aside from the morality of it all, spying doesn’t really work very often. To be sure, there have been a few intelligence coups which have been put to good use – the British breaking of the German naval codes in WWII is the prime example of this. On the other hand, there wasn’t too much use in our breaking the Japanese codes pre-WWII as we still got caught with our pants down at Pearl Harbor (to be sure, that capability was put to good use at Midway in 1942 – but, think about it, the boneheads in charge only started properly using it after we had been wiped out in the most well-advertised “surprise” attack in human history). Knowing the enemy’s plan ahead of time can be useful – but far more useful is for you to just be prepared for all contingencies. If you’ve reviewed the possible threats and deployed your forces properly, then it doesn’t fundamentally matter what the enemy is going to do. One need but consider McClellan and Grant in the Civil War. McClellan at one point pretty much had Lee’s battle plan and still couldn’t beat him…because Lee was deployed for all contingencies. Grant didn’t have Lee’s plan and, indeed, was put in a bad position by one of Lee’s adroit battlefield gambits…but he still beat Lee because Grant was ready for all contingencies.
To me, there is something nauseating in this whole spying business. Cloak and dagger and dirty deals to get the goods. I’d rather we had very little to do with it – and best of all, nothing to do with it. If we are prepared for all contingencies and have let potential enemies know in advance that we’ll destroy them as soon as they look crossways at us, that would be better than all the spies in the world…especially all the peeping-Tom sorts of spying we do with electronic surveillance. I don’t necessarily want to know what nastiness the Mullahs of Iran are planning – I just want us to have the capability of putting Iran’s leaders six feet under at need and their clear understanding that this is precisely what we’ll do, if they challenge us, anywhere.
Leave off spying. Build the right military force and be prepared to use it against all comers in all possible circumstances – that is the path to security and peace; not routing through someone’s private telephone conversations or picking through their trash for dirt.