Is there some tick that Hersh, whose instinctive skepticism about American foreign policy borders on the Chomskian, developed over time? Has he lost his edge, because of age, or because of the passage of time and the passing away of sources? Does the quintessential independent journalist feel too far removed from the center of this epoch of journalism, with its Snowden-centric secrecy porn? I don’t know nearly enough to look inside the man’s head. No one does.
When Hersh has reported on policy gone wrong — i.e. bad policies often abetted by casual lies — he’s been an ace. At his best, he tears apart the judgments that lead to catastrophes.
When he has ventured in the realm of motive, he is much less reliable. His book on the Kennedy mystique was replete with, to be generous, glittering generalities and dot-connecting where dots shouldn’t have been connected. Camelot was, of course, a myth; the major truth was right and already well-known, but there was too much flotsam in service to it. His assertions about the U.S. military and secret societies have been disproven and their relevance, even if true, are unclear. His stories on Syria and chemical weapons use, which relied largely on his interpretation of the motives of political factions and leaders in the region, have not stood up to scrutiny. His revisionist tale of Osama bin Laden’s killing hinges on a grand conspiracy about motive. It is not even plausibly implausible.