Accessing the “Black Boxes” of War

In an op/ed for the influential Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, columnist Khaled Fahmy asks, “How do we write our military history?” and bewails the fact that forty years after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the relevant military documents remain classified.  He describes the tension between secrecy and disclosure:

Intelligence agencies believe concealing information forever is the best way to protect security, and we believe it is indeed necessary to seal sensitive information, but for no longer than 20 or 30 years. After that, records should be unsealed and made public. Whether experts or not, people should be allowed to view them.

The main question remains: Why should the public be allowed to view these old military documents? I believe the answer is obvious: to learn from the past and deduce the right lessons. Old war and battle records are like the black boxes on airplanes that take a lot of effort to recover after an accident. Only after the black box is found and its data analysed can one decide the reason for the accident, and thus work to prevent it from reoccurring in the future.

The complete column is here.

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