The Corner

WikiLeaks Least of White House Problems


The Obama Doctrine presumed the U.S. could manage the world via the deft exercise of soft power and — when things got sticky — an occasional assist from the U.N. But the wheels started coming off that cart almost from the start. 

The last week has been one of the worst yet for the doctrine.  Less than cowed by soft power, the North Koreans revealed they had vast, previously unsuspected nuclear facilities before proceeding to lob shells at South Korea

Under the circumstances, the White House might find the WikiLeaks release of a quarter million documents to be a welcome diversion — an opportunity to focus on the deck chairs while the decks go under.

Why not? WikiLeaks is not the end of the world.  Yes, the leaks could well get people killed — the tragic irony of a website that claims its mission is to be as a force for good.  [Note to Assange: Can you sleep at night?  Really?] Still, WikiLeaks is not likely to reorder the world order.

Nations are not going to stop cooperating because of leaks or, for that matter stop sharing secrets.  After all, what choice do they have? Nations cooperate with the United States not because they like Obama and his doctrine but because it is in their interest to do so. Leaks are not going to stop nations from acting in their self interest.

And after all what can the U.S. do? The WikiLeaks are like an evil genie, once out, the documents can’t be forced back in the bottle.

The administration can, however, do two things to repair the damage wrought by WikiLeaks.  First, it can embrace a foreign policy that our adversaries fear and our friends respect. Nobody gets more cooperation than a winner. For starters, the president should dump the New START treaty — its one-sidedness makes the U.S. look like a lousy negotiator in the eyes of the world… and a patsy in the eyes of the Russians. He should also reject out of hand calls to gut the defense budget and just flat out declare that America will stick it out in Iraq and Afghanistan until the job is done. And while he’s at it, he could stand up to China and stop extending the hand of friendship to regimes interested in a world without freedom or America.

Second, the administration can hunt down any American connected with these leaks, try them for treason, and seek the death penalty. They deserve nothing less. Ordered liberty rejects the notion that any one citizen can jeopardize lives and give away America’s secrets — just because they feel like it.

A vast number of individuals have access to classified materials. The fact that compromises like this happen so rarely is a testimony to the restraint, judgment, and patriotism of those who serve and represent our nation. Their peers who betrayed the public trust betrayed all of them and the rest of us as well.

 – James Jay Carafano is director of the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

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