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July 2012

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"The Scandal of Our Age"
by Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
Reviewed by Dr. John Handley, Colonel, US Army, Ret.

Writing for PJ Media, a political blog created in 2005 "to shed light on topics and issues that are important to Americans through their reporting, commentary and analysis," Victor Davis Hanson, a former professor of classics at California State University and an authority on military history, begins his essay with a brief sketch of recent scandals, beginning with Watergate andgoing on to the Iran-Contra fiasco.

The heart of his argument, however, is Securitygate—the apparent declassification and release of sensitive intelligence purportedly for the purpose of making President Obama appear strong when confronting America's real and potential enemies—whose the long-term results Hanson believes could deliver sizeable down-sides. For example, disclosures could adversely affect America's national interest by including details about the cyber war against Iran, the revelations of a Yemeni double agent, details on the Osama bin Laden raid, the information gained from that raid, and the drone assassination program along with the president's methodology for selecting targets.

As a result, the Iranians no longer suspect U.S. involvement in cyber warfare; thanks to David Sanger's writings, they (and the entire world) know for certain; so much for plausible denial. Other revelations include: The publication of specific efforts undertaken by the U.S. to subvert both Iran and Pakistan, along with the targeted assassination program and the in-depth description of the complex U.S.-Israeli relationship, which cannot be helpful in reducing anti-Americanism within the region. The U.S. has rallied many states within the international community against Russia's support for Syria and Iran's support for Hezbollah, but may find itself under equally intense criticism from the world community for using NGO-sponsored medical vaccination programs to gather information on al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.

The author is certainly not dismayed that the vaccination program in Pakistan provided actionable information or that the cyber warfare employed against Iran significantly degraded operational development of an Iranian nuclear weapon. He questions, however, not only why the public needs or deserves this information but why now and why in such detail. Hanson also concludes that reporters like David Sanger and David Ignatius are not skeptical investigative reporters but complicit tools of administrative officials who freely provided, as opposed to leaked, the formerly classified information.

The author also opines that the Washington Post and the New York Times are being manipulated by the current administration, specifically by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, in the hope of casting the president as "ruthlessly sensitive, decisively reflective, and tragically underappreciated."

Professor Hanson believes the efforts of Donilon, Sanger, and Ignatius to boost the foreign policy credibility of the president at the expense of national security may well result in "a conflagration unlike any in our time." America still faces a war in Afghanistan, an eventual nuclear Iran, an estranged nuclear ally in Israel, a nuclear Pakistan, an Arab Spring "gone haywire," a failed dialogue with Russia, and a growing problem with Syria in which all the above states have an interest. Now was not the time to reveal to the world how the U.S. conducts operations on foreign soil.


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