I haven’t had time (nor do I have the will) to pay close attention to the myriad revelations in the Wikileaks documents. My overall sense, though, is that, fact-wise, there is nothing new here — or, at least, nothing new to those of us paying attention. All of us at Bookworm Room have known that Saudi Arabia is terrified of a nuclear Iran, and I’ve posited for years that this fear would drive the non-nuclearized Arab nations closer to Israel. For all their huffery and puffery, the Arabs have always known that Israel will not use the bomb unless provoked, whereas they fully understand that a nuclear Iran is a truly armed and dangerous rogue nation.
Speaking of rogue nations, we have also known that China has happily provided nuclear technology to any bad actor willing to pay for it. Nothing new here. Move along. Don’t crowd the sidewalk.
The fact that the Wikileaks material is factually uninteresting, though, doesn’t change its spectacular capacity for being damaging. Max Boot, I think, puts it as well as anyone can, in a post telling titled “Journalism that knows no shame“:
One can understand if the editors of the New York Times, Guardian, and Der Spiegel have no respect for the secrecy needed to wage war successfully — especially unpopular wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are, after all, the sorts of people who, over a few drinks, would no doubt tell you that diplomacy is far preferable to war-making. But it seems that they have no respect for the secrecy that must accompany successful diplomacy either. That, at least, is the only conclusion I can draw from their decision to once again collaborate with an accused rapist to publicize a giant batch of stolen State Department cables gathered by his disreputable organization, WikiLeaks.
I risk sounding like a stuffy, striped-pants diplomat myself if I say that the conduct of all concerned is reprehensible and beneath contempt. But that’s what it is, especially because the news value of the leaks is once again negligible. As with the previous releases of military reports, the WikiLeaks files only fill in details about what has generally already been known. Those details have the potential to cause acute embarrassment — or even end the lives of — those who have communicated with American soldiers or officials, but they do little to help the general public to understand what’s going on.
I urge you to read the whole thing.
In a way, these leaks give new meaning to Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, “the banality of evil.” She was talking about the horrible ordinariness of the Nazis, who clung to their middle class lives even as they engaged in unparalleled atrocities. These leaks are a different banal evil: even though the information released is known (Saudi fear of Iran) or stupid (e.g., Qaddafi’s blond nurse), making it mostly banal, the profound damage that results from these leaks (the deaths, the national humiliations, the destruction of necessary diplomatic ignorance) is profoundly evil.
I join with others in wondering why Assange is still alive. I’m willing to bet, though, that now that it’s not just the Americans being humiliated, Assange’s days are numbered.
By the way, if you want more information about the leak’s contents and the security implications (worldwide) arising from the leaks, as well as links to good articles on the subject, you can’t do better than Melissa Clouthier’s post.
UPDATE: A reminder that the newspapers aren’t utterly without morals or decency. While they don’t want to exercise it when national security is at issue, they were happy to exercise it when climate change fraud was under legitimate attack.
UPDATE II: Two excellent articles from Barry Rubin about Wikileaks. As always, his optimism — allied with actual facts and sound analysis — is a useful antidote to the gloom and doom that characterizes most other writing on just about any subject. Check out Spengler too.
UPDATE II: Another “check it out” is Omri Ceren’s post on Israel and Iran as seen through the Wikileaks — and just how wrong the Obama administration was. (As if that’s a big surprise.)