The Left Getting Off the WikiLeaks Train?

by Daniel Foster

The release of a quarter-million diplomatic documents appears to be a bridge too far for at least two liberal bloggers.

Here’s Steve Benen on WikiLeaks apparent desire “to to undermine American foreign policy, just for the sake of undermining American foreign policy.”

I’m not convinced that the release of these secret materials — some have begun calling it “Cablegate” — will be too devastating to international diplomacy, though it certainly makes the State Department’s work much more difficult, especially in the short term. I don’t doubt that foreign diplomats will be reluctant to engage their American allies for a while, which may very well undermine U.S. foreign policy, but we’re still likely talking about bruised feelings and hurt egos, not blockbuster secrets from around the globe.

I would, however, like to know more about the motivations of the leaker (or leakers). Revealing secrets about crimes, abuses, and corruption obviously serves a larger good — it shines a light on wrongdoing, leading (hopefully) to accountability, while creating an incentive for officials to play by the rules. Leaking diplomatic cables, however, is harder to understand — the point seems to be to undermine American foreign policy, just for the sake of undermining American foreign policy. The role of whistleblowers has real value; dumping raw, secret diplomatic correspondence appears to be an exercise in pettiness and spite.

I’ve seen some suggestions that diplomats shouldn’t write cables that they’d be embarrassed by later if they were made publicly. I find that unpersuasive. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in the nuances of on-the-ground international affairs, but I am comfortable with the notion of some diplomatic efforts being kept secret. Quiet negotiations between countries can lead, and have led, to worthwhile foreign policy agreements, advancing noble causes.

If the argument from the leakers is that there should be no such thing as private diplomacy, they’ll need a better excuse to justify this kind of recklessness.

And here’s Oliver Willis, in even more direct terms, in a post entitled “Sweet Jesus, WikiLeaks Sucks.”

I don’t think designating Wikileaks as a terrorist organization is quite sane, but overall what a horrible organization this is. The leaked info shows – in my view – that behind closed doors we’re still negotiating pretty honestly with the world, despite all the ways we could go forward. Wikileaks, again, is playing God, making the revelation of this material some sort of morality play.

Unlike the previous releases, there’s no actual crime or abuses being reported here, just Wikileaks – particularly Assange – getting jollies off by trying to make America look bad.

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