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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The NYT and Wikileaks: A puzzle I cannot crack 


It will surprise nobody that the editors of the New York Times are all for the Wikileaks dump, and that they conclude that the Obama administration is far more creditable than its predecessor. Quel surpise. Their editorial on the subject is, however, a classic example of the just plain strange reasoning and intellectual dishonesty that characterize that paper's usual editorial voice. There are at least two examples.

First, the editorial concludes that the leaks are in and of themselves a good thing:

There are legitimate reasons for keeping many diplomatic conversations secret. The latest WikiLeaks revelations will cause awkward moments not least because they contain blunt assessments of world leaders. The claim by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the leaks threaten national security seems exaggerated. The documents are valuable because they illuminate American policy in a way that Americans and others deserve to see.

Bizarrely, the editors do not address or even acknowledge the principle concern of the sainted Obama administration and its more thoughtful critics: That these disclosures will make future diplomacy much more difficult because our interlocutors around the world will be much less likely to be candid with us, and our foreign service officers will be much more guarded in their internal communications. If our State Department becomes (even) less effective as a result, will that not as a bureaucratic matter raise the influence of the intelligence agencies and the military, both disfavored by the Times? How do you write such an editorial and not deal with that?

Then there is this (emphasis added):
The administration may well be uncomfortable about disclosures of its wheeling and dealing to try to get governments to accept prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Slovenia was told that taking a prisoner was the price for a meeting with President Obama. We wish that the White House had been as energetic and inventive in its attempts to get Congress to shut down the prison.

Huh? How do you shut down Gitmo without first moving the prisoners? Since the number of Americans who would accept the transfer of those prisoners to the United States is roughly the sum total of the editorial board of the New York Times and the management of the ACLU, transferring the prisoners elsewhere is the only practical way to "shut down the prison." Even if you disagreed and support the transfer of the Gitmo detainees to the United States, the editorial would be more honest -- and orders of magnitude more credible -- if it made that point instead of eliding over it.

The editors of the Times are not just liberals, they are liberals who actively make their own side look thoughtless by pretending not to know -- or simply not knowing -- the main counterarguments against their position.

10 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 30, 10:37:00 AM:

Much of academia has gotten to the point of teaching only a single perspective and not preparing students to appreciate counterarguments. While the ideological perspective of faculty has changed little since at least the Great Depression, the teaching methodology has changed significantly since the anti-war movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For example, it was common to hear Eric Goldman at Princeton, a strong New Deal supporter, articulate well the counterarguments to New Deal policies -- and not in a belittling tone. That no longer happens. Students are not taught to seek and wrestle with counterarguments, only to know the "right" points of view. This shows up strongly in President Obama's inability to even begin to articulate, say, even a few of the more conservative health care positions or tax positions -- only defining Republicans as the party of "No" because they oppose the "right" policies.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 30, 11:08:00 AM:

Meh. Diplomacy's for librul limp-wrists anyhow.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Tue Nov 30, 11:46:00 AM:

You have to get your mind wrapped around Liberal Theology to make sense of this. Things are "Good" that make Republicans look bad, or that you think make Republicans look bad. Since there are so many of these items that can be used to criticize Bush, it must be good. We'll just ignore those things that make our guy look bad.

I'm more worried that releasing the plain-text of these encrypted messages will allow enemies of the US to decrypt even more of our Classified/Top Secret messages. Plus there will be a chilling effect on *all* future communications between our embassies abroad and the President for decades to come, resulting in even more distortions of communications than we have now.

I don't know how many more people this idiot (Assange) is going to get killed, but it could be very bad.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Tue Nov 30, 03:07:00 PM:

If you look at this chart , which I think originally comes from The Guardian, you will see that only 11322 out of a quarter of a million diplomatic cables are actually classified as secret.

Almost all are either "Confidential" or "Unclassified".

I welcome the leaks, mainly because I'm nosy. Also being trained as a scientist, I like raw data rather than the smoothed out version for public consumption.

But I expect people will be more careful what they say to US diplomats from now on.


It is odd that Clinton has not resigned. Shouldn't she take
responsibility for such a big security failure on her watch?

It isn't Wikileaks which is a threat but sloppy security practices in
the State Department. (And elsewhere in the US government.)

I don't suppose the UK government is any better.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Nov 30, 03:13:00 PM:

"It is odd that Clinton has not resigned. Shouldn't she take responsibility for such a big security failure on her watch?"

That's ridiculous. For one thing, the leak seems to have come from the Department of Defense.

For another, what good would that do? Do you intend to axe the head of every agency any time one of their peons does something wrong? Should the CIA chief be removed each time there's a turncoat in the agency? Director of the FBI every time an agent misplaces classified information? Fire a general because one of his soldiers shot a civilian? That's both bad management and unfair.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Tue Nov 30, 09:12:00 PM:

My recollection in the run-up to OIF was that those opposed believed that we should continue our diplomatic efforts instead, apparently forever, until they worked. It was taken as an article of faith that they would eventually work, rather like the Dead Parrot who was just coming around until we stunned him.

A rather touching faith in diplomacy. How's that working out?  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Tue Nov 30, 10:56:00 PM:

I am amused that there was no umbrage from the Obamateurs three months agowhen the leaks were military. The "worst" effect of those leaks would be to make George Bush look even worse than the Domocrats portrayed.

Now that the leaks are CURRENT and make the Obama suit-and-tie crowd look like fools, the response is swift and terrible.

Bush and Reagan would have had this treacherous little piss-ant on the carpet for even threatening to release information that would put our troops in harm's way.

For Obama, the threat had to be more personal before it deserved a nod from the illuminati.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Wed Dec 01, 02:55:00 AM:

"A puzzle I cannot crack"

Oh, this puzzle is easy to solve - the NYT is run by idiots, Pinch Sulzberger in particular. This isn't just some idle snark. I have some firsthand knowledge because I went to high school for a year with Sulzberger until he flunked out. I was pretty naive at the time but remember wondering, "Sulzberger from the New York Times? How did a powerful and influential family like that produce such a nonentity?" Trust me, if he hadn't inherited his job he wouldn't have gotten as far in journalism as Jimmy Olsen.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Wed Dec 01, 04:09:00 AM:

"Do you intend to axe the head of every agency any time one of their peons does something wrong? "

A security setup that gives access to "confidential" files to millions of people is a structural fault. A leak of this kind is going to happen sooner or later when security is non-existent.

Why would a lad at Defence have access to diplomatic cables?

That is the responsibility of those at the top.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Wed Dec 01, 08:46:00 AM:

The New York Times said it wouldn't cover the ClimateGate e-mails because they were improperly leaked. But they have no compunction with publishing the WikiLeaks. Go figure.  

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