On the inconsequentiality of the leaks

Judith Miller, once of the New York Times, now of NewsMax (some might consider that a step up), has gone through Julian Assange’s stolen U.S. State Department cables and finds nothing that would surprise a regular reader of the news, and certainly nothing that remotely justifies the ridiculous hype that the leaks represent the “9/11 of diplomacy.” She concludes:

Foreign policy experts will be poring over these documents for weeks. Maybe some truly damaging disclosures lie ahead. WikiLeaks’ recent disclosure of field reports from Afghanistan and Iraq did potentially compromise sources and methods and endanger those who cooperated with the U.S.

That was truly reckless. [LA replies: if Assange was revealing agents’ names and thus endangering their lives, is’t that a good deal worse than “reckless”?] But will any American who reads newspapers, watches news, and pays attention to foreign policy be stunned by these “revelations”? Embarrass diplomats, they surely will. Endanger them? Not so far.

The disclosures will make it harder for Arab governments to blame Israel for its dire warnings about Iran’s quest for a nuclear bomb, or claim they had nothing to do with efforts to stiffen sanctions and ratchet up pressure on Iran if Teheran refuses to abandon its current course.

They also show that diplomats of all stripes and persuasion, including Americans, occasionally indulge in diplomatic double speak. Tell us something we don’t know.

While I agree with Miller that the leaks are not for the most part substantively damaging, I repeat that they will very likely prove to be “procedurally” damaging, in that the fear of such leaks will make it much harder for governments to carry on normal communications. Thus Julian Assange, the supposed apostle of government openness, is actually assuring a future in which governments will be more closed and more secretive than at present and not leave any paper or electronic trail at all. It is said that historians are delighted by the treasure trove of documents that Assange has provided. But in the long run, as a result of his massive act of political vandalism, historians may have far fewer government documents at their disposal.

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Blogger Jeff Dunetz (via Lucianne.com) says the same things as Judith Miller:

Having spent much of the past 24 hours going through the State Department documents released by Wikileaks I can honestly say the most amazing revelation is the lack of revelations in the documents. Not that it isn’t shocking to see some of these reports in black and white, but so much of the Wikileaks “bombshells” are simply confirmation of news reports discussed in these pages before.

Paul Nachman writes:

FYI, Judith Miller is also an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 30, 2010 12:55 AM | Send

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