The various revelations emerging from the classified material acquired and released by wikileaks.org will certainly prove an embarrassment to U.S. diplomats and to security professionals whose job it is to protect government secrets. “But I just don’t think the world is going to end or diplomacy is going to shut down,” said Boston University’s Andrew Bacevich.
Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and History and author most recently of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, suggested that a period of discomfort is inevitable for U.S. diplomats “whose derisive comments” about peers and world leaders became public because of the Wikileaks release of digital reams of classified diplomatic cables, and he acknowledged that it was a shocking lapse that allowed one actor, presumably U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, to access so much classified material. But “the whole thing strikes me as somewhat concocted,” Bacevich said.
“I take note of the level of outrage expressed by U.S. officials and U.S. columnists and heaped on [Wikileaks founder] Julian Assange and Pfc. Manning: ‘They will have blood on their hands.’ Where’s the outrage at more than 4,000 Americans killed in Iraq and the manifest recklessness and incompetence that has informed U.S. policy for far too long.” Marveling at the eagerness of the media to swarm the wikileaks story—Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly called for the execution of Wikileaks’ volunteer staff—Bacevich dryly noted that there have been other vast intelligence failures in U.S. foreign policy in recent years that have cost the nation dearly, certainly at least as much as the so-far speculative losses associated with Wikileaks' data dump, but which remain less explored by the press.
Bacevich thought that within a short time U.S. diplomatic and intelligence gathering initiatives would revert to whatever passes for normal. And “presumably we are going to work very hard to make certain that this doesn’t happen again.” He did not think much of the political grandstanding that has erupted in the aftermath of the Web site’s latest coup. Noting Long Island Congressman Peter King’s call to brand Wikileaks a “terrorist organization,” Bacevich resisted the “cheapening” of the terminology, drawing a comparison to the use of “weapons of mass destruction.”
“When we first used that phrase we were specifically only referring to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.” Now the term has been used in charges filed against the Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad and the would-be Portland bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud.
Iran figured heavily in the revelations offered up last week. A parade of local Arab figures, including Saudi King Abdullah, were caught out in various exhortations to U.S. officials for a large-scale military operation to defang Iran before its nuclear ambitions made it a regional superpower. Bacevich thought the Iranian cables did not suggest an increased possibility of U.S. intervention in Iran. “I cannot imagine that this president or any other president,” he said, “would make decisions about war and peace based on what some foreign potentate was urging him to do. I think the likelihood of the United States using force [against Iran] is small and will remain that way.”