BLOG: Eyes Wide Shut

Why are higher education institutions and the Biden administration “eyes wide shut” when it comes to Chinese espionage and undue influence in American universities?

No, “eyes wide shut” is not a reference to the dreadful Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman film from 1999. The true source of this colorful turn of phrase comes from the gripping 1974 novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Author John le Carre’ spins the tale of George Smiley, the wily, aloof, aging British spymaster tracking down a Soviet mole in the “Circus,” the author’s slang for the highest levels of the British overseas intelligence service based on its fictional location in London’s Cambridge Circus.  

In it, there’s a scene where Smiley’s hard-bitten colleague explains how a Soviet double-agent walked “eyes wide shut” into sexual blackmail. Knowing full well the risk of arrest and ignoring his training, common sense, and better judgment, he willingly walked into the trap anyway. The Dutch set him a honey trap, my dear, and he barged in with his eyes wide shut.  

As politically polarized as we are, Americans across the spectrum agree that the People’s Republic of China wants to knock the United States off its perch as the world’s greatest power. Yet, knowing this, elite universities still continue to receive contracts and gifts worth millions of dollars from the Chinese government and its proxies.  And still, knowing this, the Biden administration has inexplicably pulled back on established policy that policed this activity.

Want to know more? Read Bob Eitel’s latest opinion piece in the National Review.