Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PBS Newshour on the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable dump

PBS's Newshour is, in my opinion, the single best layperson's source of comprehensive, objective, nonpartisan, and dispassionate analysis of the important political, economic, and social issues facing the United States (and much of the world). That, Sesame Street, and low-calorie cranberry-walnut muffin recipes is why we should support public broadcasting.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is to point you toward two Newshour pieces on the recent WikiLeaks dump of some quarter million diplomatic cables, something I've written about elsewhere at Monster Island (e.g., China's attitude toward North Korea and Tea Party Nation wanting to assassinate the WikiLeaks founder). Needless to say, the leak has a lot of people up in arms, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
Let's be clear: This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.

Now, I'm aware that some may mistakenly applaud those responsible, so I want to set the record straight.

There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations.
Well, it's hard to tell from her facial expression that she's actually up in arms, but her eyes were a bit wider and her voice slightly sterner, so I'm going to run with that.

The first Newshour piece provides a good overview that will bring you up to speed. Even if you're familiar with the issue, it's a good listen/viewing that includes a snippet of an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is not an American, explaining his motivation:
I'm a combative person. So, I like crushing bastards. It is deeply personally — personally, deeply satisfying to me.
Truly. Madly. Deeply.

The second Newshour piece includes discussion with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under President Jimmy Carter who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Stephen Hadley, who had the same job under President George W. Bush and is now at the United States Institute of Peace.

Mr Brzezinski at one point suggested that this might be "catastrophic but not serious," but he also suggested the ominous possibility that anti-US spy agencies may have been spoon-feeding Mr Assange information designed to embarrass the US and its allies in adversarial governments and/or disrupt its policies:
It's not a question of worry. It's, rather, a question of whether WikiLeaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments, because some of these items that are being emphasized and have surfaced are very pointed.

And I wonder whether, in fact, there aren't some operations internationally, intelligence services, that are feeding stuff to WikiLeaks, because it is a unique opportunity to embarrass us, to embarrass our position, but also to undermine our relations with particular governments.

For example, leaving aside the personal gossip about Sarkozy or Berlusconi or Putin, the business about the Turks is clearly calculated in terms of its potential impact on disrupting the American-Turkish relationship.
On that note, instead of seeing the WikiLeaks dump as a wake-up call to North Korea (as I wrote in the post linked above), he believes the revelations about Chinese leaders' attitudes toward North Korea may have been intended to hurt the US and its relationship with China:
Well, for example, there are references to a report by our officials that some Chinese leaders favor a reunified Korea under South Korea.

This is clearly designed to embarrass the Chinese and our relationship with them.
I don't know if Mr Brzezinski is being too cynical and paranoid, or if I'm just not being enough. If North Korea reacts to the revelations in the WikiLeaks dump by taking an even harder-line approach and resisting most or all of Beijing's efforts to rein it in, then maybe he's on to something.

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