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The Silver Lining About Wikileaks December 6, 2010

Posted by Bill in Afghanistan, barack obama, Current Events, Korea, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, Uncategorized.
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While my first reaction to the Wikileaks adventure was to prosecute them and to wonder how bad the diplomatic fallout would be, my second reaction on reading the specifics was to applaud the professionalism of what our government is doing to solve the many problems around the world.  

What really tickled me was that  Sarah Palin, in an interview about her new book, was asked what she would do differently that President Obama about North Korea.  After going on about our need for energy independence and how vulnerable she feels as an American with President Obama in charge of our security she finally answered that she would pressure China to lean on North Korea to get them to behave. 

Sure enough that is what President Obama and his people are doing.  Guess we don’t need Sarah Palin as president after all.  And ain’t that a relief, you betcha. 

Anyway, these leaks giving our diplomats an embarrassing moment.  However they do have the virtue of showing that the Obama administration is doing the right things in protecting and furthering America’s security and interests.  

I thought that this column by Leslie Gelb that appeared in the Dallas Morning News today summed up my thoughts very nicely. 

From   http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN_1206edi_gelb.29020a91c.html

Leslie Gelb: How the WikiLeaks scandal actually helped the U.S.
In explaining his deed publicly, WikiLeaker Julian Assange suggests that what he’s doing is uncovering American misdeeds and lies. Yet here’s what he missed in what he turned over to the drooling press: Our diplomats were doing a good job.

Indeed, when you turn off his nonsense and stop listening to the strange commentary on cable news and even on the front pages of great newspapers, when you actually read the documents, here’s what you see: American leaders and American diplomats trying to solve crucial world problems.

U.S. policymakers and diplomats are shown, quite accurately, doing what they are supposed to do: ferreting out critical information from foreign leaders, searching for paths to common action and struggling with the right amount of pressure to apply on allies and adversaries. And in most cases, the villain is not Washington, but foreign leaders escaping common action with cowardice and hypocrisy.

Washington needs China’s help in bolstering sanctions against Iran, and China balks for fear of jeopardizing its oil and gas flow from that country. The Obama team arranges for Saudi Arabia to guarantee any loss in supply to China. If the world wants to slow or even prevent Iran’s march to nuclear weaponry, this is a key path to doing so.

The U.S. discovers that North Korea has manufactured medium-range missiles and is trying to deliver them to Iran through China. The Obama team discovers this, informs Beijing and asks Beijing to stop the transfer. Beijing declines. Really creepy.

Yemen’s leader takes public responsibility for American missile attacks against al-Qaeda in Yemen. He wants to diminish the power of these terrorists, as do Americans and most others in the world. The “lie” by the Yemeni president is a harmless way to get a critical job done — that is, the job of fighting international terrorism. WikiLeaks tears away the political cover of Yemen’s leaders.

No country has anywhere near as much influence over nutty North Korea as China. So, U.S. diplomats are searching desperately to figure out Chinese thinking about North Korea in order to compose a plan for avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula. So, the Wikileakers expose some Chinese leaders who are actually trying to give us some insight into Chinese thinking about North Korean craziness. They won’t do that again soon.

Time and again, as one actually reads these cables, one has to be heartened by the professionalism and the insights of U.S. diplomats. What are they doing? They are not lying, and U.S. leaders are not lying. They are actually, believe it or not, trying to solve problems. That seriousness of purpose and the professionalism to execute it is what jumps out at you in these materials.

So, the naïve say, it’s good to show the effectiveness of our diplomats. Give me a break. Ask any American diplomat to choose between looking intelligent in leaked cables and making progress toward avoiding war.

None of this is to say that there should not be leaks, or that the press should not pursue classified information that is necessary or very helpful to a sensible public debate on policy. If a U.S. administration is lying, or distorting the facts, or telling one story to the public and another to itself, then by all means, let’s have it out in public. If the U.S. government is concocting intelligence in order to justify wars, let’s hope an enterprising reporter finds it out for the rest of us.

But the WikiLeaks dump is not about providing essential information to Americans or to others — information they need for serious policy discussion. This massive trashing by WikiLeaks of a legitimate effort by the U.S. government to preserve confidentiality is the very least a shame and at the most, a crime.

 Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official, is author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy (HarperCollins 2009). A longer version of this essay first appeared in The Daily Beast, http://www.thedailybeast.com. © 2010 RTST, Inc.

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