Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

In This Review

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power
by David E. Sanger
Crown, 2012
496 pp. $28.00

Sanger is one of the leading national security reporters in the United States, and this astonishingly revealing insider’s account of the Obama administration’s foreign policy process is a triumph of the genre. Sanger finds much to admire in President Barack Obama’s ideals and some of the decisions Obama has made, but he paints an unsettling picture of a White House perplexed by Afghanistan, confused by the dilemma of humanitarian intervention, and thrown off balance by the Arab Spring. Yet Sanger’s most telling criticism is that Obama has not used the bully pulpit to explain his foreign policy and its goals to the nation and the world. The United States may not be winning many wars these days, but it is clearly producing some very good journalists, as well as a host of senior officials who seem to think that long, frank conversations with reporters do not in any way conflict with their duty to the nation. One wonders how today’s journalists would have reported on the Lincoln and Roosevelt administrations at war and whether those presidents would have appreciated aides who chose an energetic reporter as a confidant.