WikiLeaks' 250,000-cable dump is awful & major....
Damage could be immense. Future diplomatic exchanges will be conducted with more wary foreign leaders & diplomats, all rightly reluctant to share sensitive data or observations. Historian Victor Davis Hanson adds another minus factor: damaged personal relationships between US & foreign officials; some highly competent officials may have to be recalled, if they made now-public acerbic comments about their foreign counterparts.
Pundit-author Anne Applebaum sees a secrecy paradox at work: While the leaks will hamper speech of leaders and officials in free countries, the freedom of speech of tyrants in closed societies will be unaffected. Tyrants are not accountable to voters, the press or with rare exceptions to broader public opinion around the world.
Politico sees the target being American power--making America look helpless to stop leaks. Ex-Bush 43 speechwriter Marc Theissen notes that Team Obama's Cyber Command has shut down music piracy websites but took no cyber-action against WikiLeaks.
One cable revealed a secret drone program where Yemen's government took the heat for strikes by US drones. Compromising secret meetings will inflict grievous damage if an allied Yemeni government is replaced by one not allied with America. Revealing that the US is taking extraordinary steps to press Pakistan on security for a nuclear reactor making bomb-grade fuel will not help our Pakistani allies in a country rife with rage at America.
The NYT tartly observes that leaks re North Korea cables show that we have better knowledge of Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il's drinking habits than of Kim's nukes. Other leaks reveal information that undercuts Team Obama's claims. Take Iran & the Palestinians as two of what are many examples.
Iran. The Gray Lady reports a US intel assessment that North Korean missiles of medium range were sent to Iran, putting parts of Western Europe within range. Iran's 19 BM-25 NK missiles reach roughly double the range of Iran's current arsenal, putting Berlin & Moscow within range. Sound like Iran will give their program away? Team Obama appears to get this but keeps talking, ostensibly to build American support for stronger action against Iran. Most Americans, on polls I have seen, are prepared to support a military strike against Iran if all other alternatives are exhausted.
At Commentary Blog Peter Wehner details cable excerpts from various Arab leaders. Among his findings: Arab governments are afraid of Iran and will not publicly condemn it; Arab governments want America to take out Iran's nuclear program and protect them from Iranian aggression; in the 2006 Hezbollah - Israel War Iran used Red Crescent ambulances to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, Iran's terror group creation and vassal. Several Mideast leaders warned US officials that the Iranian leaders are liars who can never be trusted.
Palestinians. Significantly, Arab regimes repeatedly implored the US to take action to stop Iran's nuclear program. Jennifer Rubin, closing a stellar tenure at Commentary Blog tomorrow, dissects the cable traffic revealed to date and shows conclusively that Arab governments do not view resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as predicate to confronting Iran. In other words, the Palestinians are an American & West European obsession, with few others caring much. We should take the hint and join the majority.
Gray Lady. Here is the Note to Readers published by the New York Times editors, justifying publication of the WikiLeaks document trove; the Times editors detail their negotiations with the administration over what to redact in the disclosed documents. It merits a full read.
Monday's dump is the first in a planned series that will go on for some two weeks.
But Max Boot writes at Commentary Blog that by its own logic the New York Times should reveal its deliberations and sources for its articles over the past ten years. MB says that the NYT's position is "Security for me but not for thee."
The formidable James Taranto of WSJ Best of the Web captures perfectly the double standard applied at the Times on leaks under the heading Two Papers in One!:
"The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."--New York Times, on the Climategate emails, Nov. 20, 2009
"The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. . . . The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."--New York Times, on the WikiLeaks documents, Nov. 29, 2010
As the WikiLeaks cover several administrations these leaks are not driven by pure partisan politics; they create problems for Team Obama--and for future US administrations. A WSJ editorial argues that excessive secrecy is part of the problem, while urging strong action against the leakers. In a similar vein, Mideast maven Fouad Ajami argues that secrecy matters less these days.
WSJ pundit Bret Stephens opines on all this in a WSJ Opinion Journal video (8:36). He sees WikiLeaks' earlier dumps re Iraq & Afghanistan wars as having been far more harmful, due to compromise of ongoing operational intelligence activities--sources & methods. He adds that the theory that a Jewish lobby is pushing action against Iran is exploded by intense Arab government exhortations for stronger US action. Here is Stephens's column on the same stuff.
The ranking GOP member of the House Intelligence Committee sees a massive security breakdown by the government, in giving low-level employees access to such a huge trove of classified and confidential documents.
Great Idea. SecState Hillary ordered US spying on foreign diplomats at the UN.
Understandable. China is "scared to death" of...Nancy Pelosi. So am I (for different reasons, to be sure).
Bottom Line. From a standpoint of ability to deal with foreign governments disclosures like this are never a good thing. If governments keep certain information from us they otherwise would share we will be the poorer for it--and unaware of what we are missing as well. This clearly is not good. But we can make the least bad of a dismal situation by learning things from what was leaked, and applying logical lessons. American voters and leaders should absorb the lessons of our policy failings with Iran, the Arabs and Israel. This administration probably won't, but that is what 2012 is for.
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