Trump Asks for an Opinion; His Question Gets Leaked to the Press

November 19, 2020 Updated: November 19, 2020


It’s strange to say it, but the Pentagon seems to have morphed into a threat to national security, if the stories that individuals in the Defense Department leaked information about a super-secret meeting involving the president and his top advisers, is true.

No one is saying it isn’t true.

Here is the background in simplified form: President Donald Trump this week asked for options—including an attack on Iran’s main nuclear site at Natanz—following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s uranium stockpile is now 12 times higher than allowed under the nuclear accords. The president’s advisers, including the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his national security adviser, and the vice president told him that the bombing option was a bad idea because it would escalate tensions.

A president worried about a nuclear Iran had every right to question his advisers about how to respond to the growing threat.

The advice he got back, for what it was worth, was that it was too risky to carry out such an operation because it would lead to a broader conflict (which, one presumes, we aren’t prepared or for other reasons do not want to undertake).

Whether you agree with the answer the president got, the fact is that it was reasonable and appropriate for him to ask the question. Why is that?

First of all, both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush when in office pledged the United States would never allow Iran to become a nuclear power. Trump has the same general policy. The question is, what does the policy mean exactly?

Secondly, the president can read the news just like anyone else, and he probably was surprised that he wasn’t hearing from his advisers on steps the United States ought to take to deal with the rapid growth of Iran’s uranium stockpile and other information about new secret Iranian nuclear sites.

Why was the Pentagon silent on this growing threat?

Thirdly, why were his advisers in such fear of inflaming tensions with Iran? Are they not prepared for such a contingency? The sad answer is that if that is the unanimous policy, then all our remonstrances about Iran are no more than arranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.

Admittedly, even if the president was entirely right in his proposal, he deserved something more than a back-of-the-hand rejection. One question would be, what are the Saudi and Israeli attitudes regarding such a U.S. military strike? Secretly, it seems, Israel has been trying to upend Iran’s nuclear capabilities using a series of explosions and fires and other active measures to push back on Iran’s inexorable march toward becoming a nuclear state.

Why aren’t we helping?

Another question is, what could the United States do to foster regime change in Iran, since a more moderate regime might halt the vast expenditures on nuclear weapons and missiles, and might end Iran’s territorial ambitions and political tampering in the Middle East? Just one example suffices: Iran’s sponsorship of Hezbollah threatens Israel and has turned Lebanon into a basket case. Yet, it seems, there was not a word about that.

Instead, details of the president’s secret national security meeting were leaked to The New York Times, allegedly by some persons in the Pentagon. The result of the leak is to show that Trump is weak and that none of his advisers support him.

By “exposing the president” if that was the idea, the leakers have assured that the world is even more dangerous today than it was yesterday because now any enemy of the United States can have a greater conviction that the U.S. president has been emasculated and can no longer take any action to respond in a crisis. This must be great news for China and Russia and for dictators around the world, such as Kim Jong Un.

It’s extremely great news for Iran, which can now do whatever it wants without any risk. That is a horrible outcome of the leak.

The gross violation of secrecy, which is central to national security, allegedly by operators in the Defense Department or elsewhere in our government, endangers all of us. That the perpetrators are getting away with leaking highly sensitive and classified information is a terrible development that goes way beyond the president. It needs to be stopped.

Stephen Bryen is regarded as a thought leader on technology security policy, twice being awarded the Defense Department’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Medal. His most recent book is “Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.