So-called "transparency advocates" who believe that splaying out all the intelligence activities of America and its allies will result in increased oversight, regulation and accountability have failed to learn the recent lesson of warfare: Whining about what you can't handle just leads to more secrecy. That's how we ended up with drones.
When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, broadcast on cable news 24/7, became too much for a majority of the American public to bear, two viable options emerged: fight the war overtly and transparently despite negative public opinion, or fight the war covertly in a way that reduces both attention and casualties.
Enter private contractors and drones. What, did anyone actually think that NOT continuing to fight was a viable option? Just because one side goes home doesn't mean that the other ceases to exist -- except perhaps on your TV screen.
As if jihadists would say, "Great! The West has left, so now we can get back to doing constructive, positive things. Where's my Tony Robbins CD?" Instead, they've floated around Africa and the Near East, picking fights with governments and the populace, facilitated by the regional economic support of China -- a country that has managed to gain a strong foothold in those regions because, unlike the West, it doesn't pretend to care about quaint notions of "freedom" and "fair labor" at home, let alone in a foreign country.
China gets a free pass in this regard in much the same way that both China and Russia get a free pass in the spy wars: because no one expects them to abide by transparency and democracy. The bar is set so low that if they ever show a hint of either, it's met with the same fawning praise that we'd bestow upon a toddler who colored on construction paper rather than on the walls.
Holding America to account in war creates an uneven geopolitical playing field, with America pitted against competitors that have far fewer self-limiting rules. The same holds true in espionage.
War and intelligence are inextricably linked, as the famous military strategist Sun Tzu painstakingly explained in "The Art Of War." And outrage over National Security Agency surveillance operations will lead to even less transparency.
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