When all is said and done regarding the WikiLeaks diplomatic-cable data dump, two things may be of special note. One is that on the day of the promised dump, WikiLeaks is suffering a massive but relatively low-tech cyber attack. Experts observe that the U.S. government has more sophisticated ways to commit cyber-sabotage; it’s not clear who would be doing this, or why.
The other noteworthy aspect of the event is the topic Max Boot discusses: the complicity of the mainstream media in publicizing the WikiLeaks gambit and creating buzz about it. I certainly agree that the media organizations have behaved as irresponsibly as Max outlines. And it’s worth reflecting, if only briefly, on the ambulance-chasing level to which they seem to have descended in a professional sense.
The New York Times’s top “revelation” from the cables is a case in point. The authors inform us breathlessly that the U.S. has been secretly pressing Pakistan to better secure the high-enriched uranium at a research-reactor complex. But who could be surprised by this? The New York Times itself published an extensive report in 2007 on America’s detailed, hands-on efforts to improve nuclear security in Pakistan. In April 2010, during President Obama’s nuclear-security summit, the Times documented the unique concern among Western leaders with the new research reactors being built in Pakistan. The UN is pressing Pakistan to place the new reactors under IAEA supervision. Nuclear security in Pakistan has been a major topic for pundits and diplomats for quite a while now. The U.S. has made it the focus of a key bilateral project since 9/11. The surprise — especially for faithful readers of the New York Times — would be if America were not actively working to make Pakistan’s high-enriched uranium more secure.
A free press has often meant an adversarial press, and that in itself is not inherently bad. But an adversarial posture is justified by the constructiveness of its goals. There is a noticeably sophomoric element in the mainstream media’s cooperation with WikiLeaks: an indiscriminate enthusiasm for anything that’s being kept secret by the authorities, regardless of its objective value as information. We can only hope that the New York Times editorial staff will eventually make use of its own archives to put today’s uninteresting parade of revelations in context.
I would disagree with Max on one thing. The worth of the latest WikiLeaks dump is greater than zero — and greater even than its value in notifying us about Qaddafi’s voluptuous Ukrainian nurse. Its true value lies in confirming what hawks and conservatives have been saying about global security issues. China’s role in missile transfers from North Korea to Iran; Syria’s determined arming of Hezbollah; Iran’s use of Red Crescent vehicles to deliver weapons to terrorists; Obama’s strong-arming of foreign governments to accept prisoners from Guantanamo — these are things many news organizations are reporting prominently only because they have been made known through a WikiLeaks dump. In the end, WikiLeaks’s most enduring consequences may be the unintended ones.