SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 119
December 29, 2008

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

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HAMAS AND ISRAEL: CONFLICTING STRATEGIES

An improved understanding of the dynamics of the conflict between Hamas and Israel -- one that goes beyond "they started it" -- is probably a prerequisite to any enduring reduction of the violence and the terrible human suffering that the conflict now entails.

A detailed new assessment by an analyst at the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute traces the evolution of the Israel-Hamas conflict prior to the end of the recent ceasefire and identifies steps that both sides would likely have to take in order to arrive at a long-term truce.

"Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have a unified position towards the other," writes Sherifa Zuhur, professor of Islamic and regional studies at the Strategic Studies Institute. "Each group is socialized in particular ways, through the educational system, employment experiences; and for Israelis, in the military, in political parties, families, and bureaucracies."

Based on her own interviews and analyses, the author attempts to elucidate the social, cultural and political factors at work.

A struggle to control the narrative of the conflict is itself part of the conflict and Prof. Zuhur's account may not be fully embraced by anyone. On the whole, her analysis seems more sympathetic to Hamas, whose goal, she says rather incongruously, "is not the destruction of Israel" but only the "liberation of Palestine."

But even those who cannot accept her terms or the way she frames some of the issues may find food for thought in her 100-page paper (which does not represent an official U.S. Army position).

She concludes optimistically that "each side is still capable of revising its desired endstate and of the necessary concessions to establish and preserve a long-term truce, or even a longer-term peace."

See "Hamas and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics" by Sherifa Zuhur, U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, December 2008:


THE 1970 CRISIS IN JORDAN, AND MORE FROM FRUS

Many of the roots of today's conflicts in the Middle East can be discerned in the crises of the past, some of which are newly documented in the latest volume of the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

The new FRUS volume includes a section on the Nixon Administration's response to the intense fighting between the Jordanian military and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September 1970, which threatened to topple the monarchy of King Hussein.

Another section treats "the Nixon administration's efforts to replace the political and military structure left by the former British Empire with a newer structure that met America's cold war needs," as well as "the Nixon administration's efforts to articulate a grand strategy toward the Middle East region through arms sales and military modernization for its regional allies."

See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XXIV, Middle East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1969-1972; Jordan, September 1970 (published December 23, 2008).

The new FRUS volume was completed earlier this year, prior to the unexpected departure of Dr. Edward C. Keefer from the State Department Office of the Historian. He had served for years as General Editor of the series, but left abruptly in what was perceived as a sign of mounting turmoil in the Historian's Office.

Widespread concerns about continuing upheaval in the Historian's Office (described in Secrecy News on December 11) were addressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a meeting with historians on December 22.

Secretary Rice announced that she had established "an outside Review Team to provide recommendations about how to ensure the FRUS series remains the gold standard for diplomatic history scholarship."

Aside from its importance to diplomatic historians and other specialists, the FRUS series embodies the vital principle that all U.S. foreign relations activities, no matter how highly classified they may initially be, will eventually be brought to light and published for the world to see. Thanks to a remarkable 1991 statute, it is actually against the law for the FRUS series to be anything other than "thorough, accurate, and reliable."


GOVERNMENT SECRECY: CLASSIC AND CONTEMPORARY READINGS

The importance and the hazards of government secrecy are now widely understood. But the principles and practices of secrecy policy as it has developed over the years remain obscure to many. A new anthology published this week aims to present "the best that has been thought and written" on the subject.

"Government Secrecy: Classic and Contemporary Readings" presents an impressive cross-section of views, from many competing and complementary perspectives. They include the theoretical (Georg Simmel), the sociological (Max Weber, Edward Shils), the adversarial (Howard Morland), and a lot more (from William Colby, Morton Halperin, Harold Relyea, Howard Zinn, James X. Dempsey, Thomas Blanton, William Weaver, Joseph Stiglitz, Lee Strickland, Herbert Foerstel, myself and others).

It is the distillation of an entire library's worth of material that should be of interest to students of government and political science, as well as concerned citizens who find themselves confronting official secrecy.

"Government Secrecy" was edited Dr. Susan L. Maret of San Jose State University and Dr. Jan Goldman of the National Defense Intelligence College.

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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