A valuable examination of U.S. national security crises past and present.
A specialist in national security issues and intelligence, Hancock (Someone Would Have Talked: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, 2010, etc.) tackles the slippery and continuously vexing subject of surprise attacks against the U.S. Was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor really a “surprise” since there were numerous warnings, or was it rather a breakdown of the crucial C3, command, control, and communications? As the Soviet Union became the new threat after World War II, intelligence-gathering methods had to be beefed up to combat the growing “fear factors” introduced by the availability of atomic weapons. In the 1950s, the proliferation of alleged UFO sightings became a problem, from New Mexico to Washington, D.C., which underscored the sense of vulnerability of American national security. The Cuban missile crisis was a horrific moment in modern nuclear feasibility, yet Hancock points out the failure of U.S. intelligence in “several potentially disastrous areas” in getting the Soviets to back down. The author follows the evolution of the National Command Authority, culminating in the creation of the new “watch center,” called the Situation Room, to meet new threats, including the shooting of Ronald Reagan in 1982. The emergence “out of the shadows” of stateless terrorists at war with the U.S. occupies the last chapters of this thoroughly researched work, from the PLO seizures of aircraft and ocean liners to terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001. Considering the attention given by the Clinton administration to combating terrorism, Hancock notes his surprise at the breakdown in heeding warnings, and he moves step by step in delineating “points of failure.” The 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi underscores the current fragility of diplomatic missions and flimsiness of security.
A timely, pertinent study emphasizing the fact that when it comes to military or terrorist attacks, “there are always warnings.”