The Secret Dilemma in National Security
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A scholarly treatise on the tension between government secrecy related to foreign policy issues and citizens' trust in their government.

Colaresi (Political Science/Michigan State Univ.; Scare Tactics: The Politics of International Rivalry, 2006) has conducted massive research about secrecy versus disclosure in the United States but also in other nations, including France, England, Sweden and Greece. The author believes that policymakers (especially the president of the United States) should be able to practice secrecy, keeping vital information not only from its own citizenry, but also from other nations, especially during times of war. However, Colaresi maintains, since secrecy can hide incompetency and outright corruption, overseers (e.g., Congress in the U.S.) should be able to examine, in hindsight, the invocation of secrecy. Although the author offers case studies and anecdotes, a large portion of the book is theoretical; specialized language from the realm of academic research requires extraordinary concentration. Colaresi takes as a given that "national security" is a real concept that deserves secrecy, up to a point, and that deception is often necessary to fool nations rightly perceived as enemies of the deceiver. National security should never be invoked, however, to cover up venality. Freedom of information laws, as well as legislative committee hearings on completed foreign policy operations, are among the partial solutions offered by Colaresi, who posits that no perfect solution exists in any nation. The book is certainly timely, as the author mentions secret drone attacks ordered by the U.S. president against alleged enemies overseas, leaks of classified information from within the National Security Agency, and additional contemporary controversies.

Academic in tone—extensive appendices on research methods will probably make sense only to specialized scholars at the doctoral level—but an important examination of tensions that date back centuries.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-19-938977-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2014


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