chapter  2
12 Pages

Arms, hostages, and the importance of shredding in earnest: Reading the national security culture (II)

Deciphering the contemporary culture of the state requires excessive writing, to offset academic silences and to reclaim the subject from the official scribes, but also to overcome prevailing problems of estrangement. How do we define what defines us, what separates Us from Them, what draws symbolic boundaries between order and disorder, what distinguishes meaning from meaninglessness in international relations? There is the temptation to ape traditional diplomatic history, that is, to sift through the archival accretions which define and constitute a national culture. But if the reader/writer travels to the borders of the national security culture, instead of definitions, they find fences of arcane classifications surrounding the most significant archives. And when they finally gain entry through freedom of information actions or by public disclosures, worse news awaits them:

“When did you shred them, sir?” “My answer, Mr. Nields, is that I started shredding documents in earnest,

after a discussion with Director Casey in early October … Director Casey and I had a lengthy discussion about the fact that this whole thing was coming unraveled and that things ought to be cleaned up. And I started cleaning things up.”1