Few of our decisions really mean anything. File that report, fill that spreadsheet, attend that meeting – and at the end of the day, did any of that matter? Few of us make life and death decisions – and that's a luxury. Even in the Laundry, that secret branch of government charged with protecting the world from horrors unimaginable, most decisions are inconsequential. Do you fix the printer in the HR office first or the DVD drive in the travel laptop first? Do you read the files about the incidence of birth deformations in cattle near dimensional weak spots, or the new directive on time tracking work emails while out of the office? (Hint: neither of them will ever have any future relevance to you).
This book is about two very different types of people whose decisions matter.
When there's a clear and present danger, when the Laundry needs to apply force very quickly and very directly, they turn to the professionals. They call in the SAS, the British special forces. Tough, highly trained men who'll get the job done. The decisions made by special forces matter; their decisions are often made in the split second, and are the difference between life and death. Hesitate, or make the wrong call, and you die, or your squadmates die, or maybe everyone in the world dies. They're down in the trenches, in the foxholes, in the godforsaken corners of the world, on lonely plateaus in Central Asia or warzones in Africa, spending the coin of their lives to complete the mission.
And then there are those in the corridors of power, managers and strategists and sorcerers who must weigh the fates of nations. They meet in oak-panelled rooms with green baize tables in Whitehall, in dimly-lit bunkers beneath some obscure government buildings, in anonymous conference rooms with their counterparts from other nations, and they try to prepare humanity for those unimaginable horrors. Their decisions are made in committees, in briefing documents, in agendas and initiatives, in the shuffling of papers – but they affect more people than any bullet or bomb.
The decisions made in those conference calls and strategy meeting are often the ones implemented by the special forces. There may be thousands of miles between Whitehall and that bloody ditch where a British soldier gives his life to get the job done, but they're two sides of the same coin.