The political and diplomatic community waited with bated breath over the last week for the release of recently declassified U.S. diplomatic documents. Earlier today, Politico quoted a senior U.S. diplomat’s summation: “I don’t see the world ending, but lots of red, sputtering faces in D.C., embassies, and capitols.” Maybe not quite catastrophic, but the documents center around diplomatic discussions involving Iran, North Korea, and the war on terror and in today’s international climate, those aren’t subjects to be fiddled with. And while the immediate effects may not be disastrous, they are indicative of a much deeper problem.
The documents, some of which weren’t classified as “secret,” are a surprisingly vivid look into the negotiations that take place in political and international diplomatic discussions – diplomats making less than flattering comparisons of foreign heads of state to Hitler and “Teflon politicians,” and the type of horse trading we all know takes place but rarely see. The greatest damage of such revelations is not to those discussed, or even to the level of trust that is certain to falter in foreign officials who’d previously been friendly to American operations overseas. Rather, the most alarming fact is the clear signs that our President’s priorities are conflicted and that he is losing respect with foreign leaders and among core constituencies at home.
Wikileaks was founded by self educated internet programmer Julian Bond. Assange, somewhat of a mystery, was arrested in Australia in the early 1990s for hacking into computer networks in Australia. He has lived a largely itinerant life and most of his public appearances have taken place at events featuring computer hacking and freedom of the press. Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006, and while he claims to only be one of 9 board members, is clearly the final decision maker on its content. In November of this year, he was involved in a series of rape allegations in Sweden, and Interpol issued an arrest warrant in his name on November 20, 2010. Assange and Wikileaks were responsible on two prior occasions for leaking classified documents, the main critique of which was that they endangered Afghan families who’d offered their assistance to NATO leaders and would surely face severe retribution from local Taliban forces.
The brief history lesson on both Julian Assange and Wikileaks is critical because Assange is clearly anti-American and desires nothing more than to embarrass both the United States and its allies in front of world leaders. He has, on three separate occasions, singlehandedly released close to one million pages of formerly classified documents full of names, descriptions, and operations involving U.S. diplomats abroad. A programmer based in Cairo aptly described Wikileaks as “a project against American power projection around the world, or U.S. imperialism…”
People like Julian Assange and Jeremiah Wright speak for certain political constituencies in the United States that dislike the sovereignty of the United States. Those constituencies believe that America is too strong, too aggressive, and applaud anything that restricts our national interests in other countries. Unfortunately, these constituencies are a large majority of our President’s natural political base. It is these constituencies that, due to the result of the recent elections and the Democratic party’s loss of the independent vote, MUST be retained by President Obama and his political allies to have any hope at retaining the White House in 2012.
So…White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs “condemned” the move, saying the leak could “…endanger the lives of human rights activists, dissidents, and opposition leaders around the world who regularly speak to U.S. officials.” That is a remarkably tepid response for a situation that other senior state department officials have described as no less than alarming. Unfortunately, this is but the latest in a series of incidents involving American interests abroad in which the President has accomplished nothing. Iran and North Korea have continuously thumbed their noses at this administration, while even small allies such as South Korea have politely but firmly rebuffed American advances over trade issues.
The administration is clearly sitting between a rock and a hard place: the rock of the pressing duty to prioritize our national sovereignty and protect U.S. assets abroad, and the hard place to trying to placate a natural and desperately needed political constituency that, at the very least, would look the other way. Right now, the Administration appears to be paying lip service to the former while secretly placating the latter. And that, for all Americans, should be more concerning than any other effect of this Wikidump.