"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Seek Rat, Smell Rat

Although the proximate stimulus for this article was the Dubai port situation, I speak about the general role of secrets in contemporary governance and the larger issue of how tolerant we should be of Presidential taciturnity.

As in:

In World War II, it is only a small exaggeration to say that the fate of the world hung on secret activities. Would our secret atom bomb program be completed before the German equivalent? And could it be kept secret from the Soviets? Would our cryptographers succeed in breaking the secret codes that the enemy used to issue military instructions over their radios? Later, when we did break the code, everything depended on keeping the enemy unsuspecting. We managed to fool them and they did not switch codes, gaining us an untold advantage.

With secrecy at such a premium, we learned to be satisfied knowing less. In return, public servants were more conscientious about earning our trust. For the most part, whenever we discover today the filed-away secrets of yesterday, we find that our leaders of then acted upon them wisely. Those days are long gone. Nixon's perfidy and Carter's incompetence, Reagan's occasional distractedness and Clinton's pathological duplicity, have all taught us to regard their caveats as emptier than their predecessors. Nine times out of ten, daylight is better. And the secrets tend not to be so darned big anyway.

10 comments:

connie deady said...

Tom would be disappointed if I didn't mention that the Straussians were major offenders in terms of keeping secrets.

Tlaloc said...

"For the most part, whenever we discover today the filed-away secrets of yesterday, we find that our leaders of then acted upon them wisely."

I'm not sure I could agree. The Tuskegee experiments leap to mind for instance.

Jay D. Homnick said...

It's important for me to clarify that the Tuskegee experiments were an unconscionable abomination, and there were other such things as well.

What I said was that when secret things occurred from without and our leaders had to respond, they usually did so wisely - even though they were constrained from advising us of the catalyst for their decision.

Tlaloc said...

I'm not sure I'm following. When secret things happened and US presidents responded they did so wisely?

Can you give me an example of the kind of thing you mean?

Kathy Hutchins said...

Tom would be disappointed if I didn't mention that the Straussians were major offenders in terms of keeping secrets.

I'm glad to know that all this Straussian stuff is just a private joke between you and Tom. Frankly, you were bringing it up so often, in such divergent contexts, that it was taking on the hue of Lyndon LaRouche-vs-the-Bilderbergers type paranoia.

Jay D. Homnick said...

To me it is a true metanoia
Yet you mock it as paranoia
I'm liable to hire a lawyer
If only so he can annoy ya.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Kathy, I'm afraid friend Connie is serious.

If she can tell me where Leo Strauss actually said that, I'll give her a dollar.

connie deady said...

I am serious. It's part and parcel with elitism. Tom just doesn't want to follow it to its logical conclusion.

It is a joke between us except we take it seriously.

I like your poem Jay :)

Tom Van Dyke said...

One spanking new crispy US dollar, Connie... ;-)

connie deady said...

Tom, I don't blame poor ole' Leo. It's his nasty followers who have grasped what he wrote and perverted it. I agree with the distaste against taking philosophy and morals out of political science. It was their support for the war in Vietnam that angered me against them.

Unlike you, I don't subscribe genuine ethical, moral concerns to the new breed. I consider them gross, self-nest feathering elitists.