David R. Henderson  

Henderson on Asking Tough Questions of Government Bureaucrats

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I've asked tough questions before. When Leon Panetta, my former Congressman, came to NPS as Secretary of Defense, I asked [here at the 43:40 point] whether, given his own previous statement that Al Qaeda was down to a handful of dangerous people, he should say about the war, "Enough is enough." When Admiral McRaven, head of the Special Operations Command, came to speak, I quoted to him a New York Times article about President Obama's "kill list" and asked, "Are you ordered to kill anyone on the kill list? If so, do you do your own due diligence to make sure they are indeed terrorists and not just military-age males who happen to be in the area?" I've asked other visiting Admirals tough questions.

But this time was different. Usually, after the event ends and people are milling around on the way out, three to five people - students, faculty, and people in the school administration - will come up to me and say "Good question." This time, no one looked at me and people seemed to look away when they saw me. That didn't cause me to regret asking. I just found it interesting.


This is from my article "Questioning the Powerful" published earlier today at antiwar.com.


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CATEGORIES: moral reasoning




COMMENTS (9 to date)
Effem writes:

Prepare to be audited :)

EMB writes:
The bottom line is that, even though it might feel intimidating at first, it’s a good idea to hold government officials accountable for their actions.
Absolutely!

How did some of faculty react to your question to Admiral Harris?

David R. Henderson writes:

@EMB,
How did some of faculty react to your question to Admiral Harris?
The only faculty member who shared his reaction with me liked it. I didn’t hear anything from other faculty members. The vast majority of them, though, don’t attend these events.

Tom West writes:

Good question!

Of course, the answer was depressing enough. It will continue as long as anyone, anywhere is plotting against the United States. i.e. forever.

And that got applause!

*sigh*

EMB writes:
The vast majority of them, though, don’t attend these events.
That's a pity really. As faculty, they can take the opportunity to ask those sort of questions without fear of rebuke more so than the students - who, I guess, don't want to have their cards marked before they've even started their careers!

Nonetheless, an excellent question!

David R. Henderson writes:

@Tom West,
Thanks. For those who don’t know, Tom is referring to my question of Leon Panetta. He went all Dick Cheney on me. The local newspaper quoted his answer and so I wrote a letter pointing out that that means he wants perpetual war. They ran it.

LD Bottorff writes:

Admirals are used to being questioned by their superiors. They are not used to having to justify their actions to junior officers or civilian instructors. In theory, a man who served as an elected representative for over twenty years (Secretary Panetta) should be more political in his responses to tough questions. So much for theory.

syed ahsan writes:

Prof,
Its typical but interesting. But let me ask something : politicians are public representatives so public has the right to challenge their actions or at least ask them intriguing questions however armed forces are not public servents although their actions are audited and accounted but do you think they should be answerable to public ?? Or atleast in public ??

David R. Henderson writes:

@syed ahsan,
Yes, I do. That’s why I asked.

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