Military Nesties
Dear Community,

Our tech team has launched updates to The Nest today. As a result of these updates, members of the Nest Community will need to change their password in order to continue participating in the community. In addition, The Nest community member's avatars will be replaced with generic default avatars. If you wish to revert to your original avatar, you will need to re-upload it via The Nest.

If you have questions about this, please email [email protected]

Thank you.

Note: This only affects The Nest's community members and will not affect members on The Bump or The Knot.

Wikileaks Washington Post OpEd

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/29/AR2010112902880.html

In seeking 'free speech,' Wikileaks strikes a blow against honest speech

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I am sure the Russian people will be shocked - shocked! - to discover that U.S. diplomats think the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." Italians will be equally horrified to learn that their prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is considered "feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader," just as the French will be stunned to hear President Nicolas Sarkozy called "thin-skinned and authoritarian." As for the Afghans, they will be appalled to read that their president, Hamid Karzai, has been described as "an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts."

And anyone perusing the semi-secret diplomatic cablespublished by WikiLeaks this week will find more of the same. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is a "crazy old man." Moammar Gaddafi of Libya travels with a "voluptuous blonde" whom he describes as his "senior Ukrainian nurse." In the coming days, there will be many things to say about the details of these newly public documents. But before we get into all of that, let's not lose the main point: Above all, this leak contains a treasure trove of things people regularly say off the record. These aren't records of human rights abuses, they are accounts of conversations. And - just like July's WikiLeaks revelations about Afghanistan - this one confirms much that was publicly known, openly discussed and even written about before.

The cables "reveal," among other things, that the United States is (surprise!) lobbying others to organize sanctions against Iran; that South Korean diplomats have discussed what would happen if North Korea collapses; that U.S. diplomats have been bribing other countries to accept ex-prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. (I suppose it is "news" that the United States spies on the United Nations, but forgive me if I am not as horrified as I should be.) Germany's Der Spiegel concludes, furiously, that the United States "seeks to safeguard its influence around the world." I'd be a lot more worried if the opposite were true. 

What is truly novel is not the information, much of which has been reported before, but the language. Normally poker-faced diplomats are quoted making unflattering and occasionally amusing assessments of their interlocutors. Not all of them are Americans: The Saudi king thinks the Pakistani president is "rotten." France's top diplomat thinks Iran is a "fascist state." Britain's national bank chairman thinks his prime minister is "shallow" and so on.

This is certainly embarrassing for those who made the remarks. I am less sure whether their revelation gets us anywhere: On the contrary, it seems that, in the name of "free speech," another blow has been struck against frank speech. Yet more ammunition has been given to those who favor greater circumspection, greater political correctness and greater hypocrisy.

Don't expect better government from these revelations; expect deeper secrets. Will the U.S. ambassador to Country X give Washington a frank assessment of the president of X if he knows that it could appear in tomorrow's newspaper? Not very likely. Will a foreign leader tell any U.S. diplomat what he really thinks about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he knows that it might show up on WikiLeaks, too? I doubt it. Diplomatic cables will presumably now go the way of snail mail: Oral communication will replace writing, as even off-the-record chats now have to take place outdoors, in the presence of heavy traffic, just in case anyone is listening.

In the modern world - at least the sloppy, open, hackable Western world - any other form of frank discussion will soon be impossible. The State Department isn't the first to learn this: No American general will ever again give a journalist full access as did the hapless Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Because he revealed that - like every other general in history - he sometimes disagrees with the politicians back home, and because his interlocutor chose to publish his grumbling, he had to resign.

The result: Very soon, only authoritarian leaders will be able to speak frankly with one another. A Russian official can keep a politically incorrect statement out of the newspapers. A Chinese general would never speak to a journalist anyway. Low-level officials in Iran don't leak sensitive information to WikiLeaks because the regime would kill them and torture their families. By contrast, the low-level U.S. official who apparently leaked this week's diplomatic cables will probably live to a ripe old age.

In fact, the world's real secrets - the secrets of regimes where there is no free speech and tight control on all information - have yet to be revealed. This stuff is awkward and embarrassing, but it doesn't fundamentally change very much. How about a leak of Chinese diplomatic documents? Or Russian military cables? How about some stuff we don't actually know, such as Iranian discussion of Iranian nuclear weapons or North Korean plans for invasion of the south? If the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is serious about his pursuit of "Internet openness" - and if his goal isn't, in fact, embarrassing the United States - that's where he'll look next. Somehow, I won't be surprised if he doesn't. 

I've seen a lot of military surprise homecomings. It wouldn't work on me. I always have my back to the corner and my face to the door. Looking for terrorists, criminals, various other threats, and husbands.

Re: Wikileaks Washington Post OpEd

  • I'm still unsure how I feel about WikiLeaks. On one hand, I think it's irresponsible of them to publish these things. On the other, I think if these documents are really so important, the people responsible for them ought to do a better job of protecting them.

    I'm on the fence about this particular issue too. Do the people these diplomats are reporting to gain anything worthwhile by hearing foreign leaders described this way? Probably not. The diplomats could have been more professional in their choice of words. Then again, most of us aren't held to standards that high and we talk about co-workers and such in similar language. But, these are high ranking diplomats we're talking about - shouldn't they be subject to higher standards?

    I'm useless when it comes to debating this issue.

    Lilypie Maternity tickers
    Lilypie Second Birthday tickers
  • image meltoine:

    I'm still unsure how I feel about WikiLeaks. On one hand, I think it's irresponsible of them to publish these things. On the other, I think if these documents are really so important, the people responsible for them ought to do a better job of protecting them.

    I'm on the fence about this particular issue too. Do the people these diplomats are reporting to gain anything worthwhile by hearing foreign leaders described this way? Probably not. The diplomats could have been more professional in their choice of words. Then again, most of us aren't held to standards that high and we talk about co-workers and such in similar language. But, these are high ranking diplomats we're talking about - shouldn't they be subject to higher standards?

    I'm useless when it comes to debating this issue.

    The problem I have with the snippets of information coming out from the leaks is just that they are snippets.  The media is grabbing the sensational, juicy pieces and running with it.  I'm glad they're running with it instead of actual classified information that could damage an international relationship.  Unless you read the cables that these descriptions are coming from you have no idea the context in which the descriptions are being used.

    The author of the op-ed makes a good point though, this does nothing more than embarrass anyone who's made a "layman" observation of someone else and change the way diplomats do business.

    [center][url=http://www.thebump.com/?utm_source=ticker&utm_medium=UBB&utm_campaign=tickers][img]http://global.thebump.com/tickers/ttfe42b.aspx[/img][/url]
    [url=http://www.thenest.com/?utm_source=ticker&utm_medium=UBB&utm_campaign=tickers][img]http://global.thenest.com/tickers/ttd8d88.aspx[/img][/url] [IMG]http://i39.tinypic.com/29fci0i.jpg[/IMG]
    <p><p>

    [url=http://akathewife.com/]Also Known As...the Wife[/url][/center]
  • image Sgt M's Wife:
    image meltoine:

    I'm still unsure how I feel about WikiLeaks. On one hand, I think it's irresponsible of them to publish these things. On the other, I think if these documents are really so important, the people responsible for them ought to do a better job of protecting them.

    I'm on the fence about this particular issue too. Do the people these diplomats are reporting to gain anything worthwhile by hearing foreign leaders described this way? Probably not. The diplomats could have been more professional in their choice of words. Then again, most of us aren't held to standards that high and we talk about co-workers and such in similar language. But, these are high ranking diplomats we're talking about - shouldn't they be subject to higher standards?

    I'm useless when it comes to debating this issue.

    The problem I have with the snippets of information coming out from the leaks is just that they are snippets.  The media is grabbing the sensational, juicy pieces and running with it.  I'm glad they're running with it instead of actual classified information that could damage an international relationship.  Unless you read the cables that these descriptions are coming from you have no idea the context in which the descriptions are being used.

    The author of the op-ed makes a good point though, this does nothing more than embarrass anyone who's made a "layman" observation of someone else and change the way diplomats do business.

    No joke.  Everything has to be sensationalized for ratings and profit.  

    Honestly, if you are surprised by what Wikileaks is putting out there, you haven't been keeping up on current events. 

  • image brinreetardo:
    Honestly, if you are surprised by what Wikileaks is putting out there, you haven't been keeping up on current events. 

    I'm not surprised at all, but how much of the general population (not to mention electorate) don't keep up on current events? A lot of people seem to be surprised by these "revelations".

    I just feel like it's irresponsible journalism.  

    Lilypie Maternity tickers
    Lilypie Second Birthday tickers
Sign In or Register to comment.
Choose Another Board
Search Boards