The leaking ship, the captain and the kids 40

“Suddenly, it’s not about secret information anymore, or diplomatic relations. It’s about control. The atmosphere chills.”

So Diana West writes on the continuing Wikileaks affair in a Townhall article which needs to be read in full. (We have quoted her before on this subject in our post Thanks to WikiLeaks? December  3, 2010.)

WikiLeaks is exposing the way our government conducts “business.” It is not a pretty process. …

The rock-bottom worst of the revelations … shows Uncle Sam patronizing the American people, lying to us about fundamental issues that any democracy catastrophically attacked and supporting armies abroad ever since doesn’t merely deserve to know, but needs to know. Our democracy demands it, if it is to remain a democracy.

Most pundits, certainly on the Right, disagree. As Commentary editor Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote in the WSJ this week: WikiLeaks “is not informing our democracy but waging war on its ability to conduct diplomacy and defend itself.”

Funny, but I feel more informed — and particularly about what a rotten job the government knows it’s doing in conducting diplomacy and waging war on democracy’s behalf. I know more about the government’s feckless accommodation of incomparable corruption in Afghanistan; its callousness toward Pakistani government support for the Taliban and other groups fighting our soldiers in Afghanistan; its inability to prevail upon “banker” China to stop facilitating the military rise of Iran … and its failures to prevail upon aid-recipient Pakistan to allow us to secure its vulnerable nuclear assets.

One running theme that emerges from the leaked cables is that the U.S. government consistently obscures the identity of the nation’s foes, for example, depicting the hostile peoples of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States as “allies.” It’s not that such hostility is a secret, or even constitutes news. But the cables reveal that our diplomats actually recognize that these countries form the financial engine that drives global jihad … But they, with the rest of the government, kept the American people officially in the dark.

Then came WikiLeaks, Internet publisher of leaked information, prompting the question: What is more important — the information theft that potentially harms government power, or the knowledge contained therein that might salvage our national destiny? …

The body politic should be electrified by the fact, as revealed by the leaked cables, that nations from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia are regularly discussed as black holes of infinite corruption into which American money gushes, either through foreign aid or oil revenue, and unstaunched and unstaunchable sources of terror or terror-financing. If this were to get out — and guess what, it did — the foreign policy of at least the past two administrations, Democrat and Republican alike, would be unmasked as a colossal failure.

And maybe that’s what behind the acute distress over WikiLeaks. Last week, I put it down to political embarrassment; this week, a new, more disturbing factor has emerged. The state power structure, the establishment more or less, believes itself to be threatened. Its fearful response has been quite startling. First, there were calls for WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange’s execution; these have simmered down to calls for trial. Amazon and PayPal cut off service to the WikiLeaks website. Then, in a twist or kink perhaps beyond even Orwell’s ken, Assange was arrested without bond this week on an Interpol warrant over very fishy-sounding charges about “unprotected” sex in Sweden — a country, we may now ironically note, of draconian laws governing sexual intercourse and no laws whatsoever governing violent Islamic no-gone-zones.

Those two harpies – a pair of celebrity groupies? – who conspired together to get a man they’d chased after arrested on absurd charges under ridiculous Swedish sex laws, are contemptible, and the Swedes who made and enforce such laws are beneath contempt.

Assange has not committed an act of treason since he is not an American citizen or resident in the US. If he is guilty of espionage for publishing the cables someone stole, then so is the New York Times, and if he is extradited and prosecuted for it, the responsible NYT people should be too.

We have yet to hear if any person has been exposed to danger or actually harmed by the leaks, and no cables that we have read could so expose anyone. We have been told by a commenter, CEM, that we “lack understanding as to the seriousness of the Wikileaks release of classified documents and information”, that “there  does not have to be a direct leaking of names to expose agents and sources”, as “often, the information alone can be innocuous”, but “the content and context of the data alone can provide clues to counter agents and governments as to the identities of agents and sources that can place them in grave danger”. He may be right. Some of us have, however, had some years of experience dealing with organizations concerned with international affairs and have learnt something from them (enough to state confidently that by far the greater part of “secret information”, about 95%, is from open sources, and of the remaining 5% very little is ever useful). In our judgment, the claim that these cables could harm the United States’ foreign relations, implicate secret friends among enemies, or dissuade any foreign power from dealing with the US if it needs to, would be hard to substantiate.

We respect the views of those who think otherwise. We share their patriotic instincts. We have thought long and hard about the whole affair (giving special consideration to the reasonable points made by Fernando Montenegro – see our post More on Wikileaks, December 4, 2010). From what we can discover about Julian Assange we do not think he would be on our side of most issues. If the publication of the cables really harms any individual, we wouldn’t think of defending it. If it has damaged the United States in any way that we would recognize as damage, we would be as angry as the angriest. But as far as we can see now, and knowing that we risk the disagreement of some of our highly valued readers, we line up with Diana West. Our libertarian instincts have been strongly roused. We wonder if some of our more libertarian readers feel and think the same way. We hope all our readers will consider our arguments as carefully as we try to consider theirs.

The WikiLeaks operation could be put to permanent good effect – if only our fellow conservatives who hold liberty to be the highest value would learn the real lesson from it, and let the information they have been given make a difference in the future to the sort of people they trust to steer the ship of state.

It should ensure that never again is there another captain like Obama.

And that no administration and Department of State goes on treating citizens like kids who must be kept from knowing what they’re doing.