There has been tons of interesting commentary and analysis surrounding cablegate. I have been interested and have read quite a few of the original cables, especially the ones about Somalia as well as much of the journalistic coverage of the story and the analysis (punditry) side of the story. I do not think I can add much to the really interesting and relevant commentary, from the punditry side, found in the below articles so I’ll just link to them. (list in semi-chronological order)
- Drezner: There are no Big Lies in the latest Wikileaks data dump
- Rothkopf: WikiLeaks: How the world is really run
- Spiro: Wikileaks: It’s Tough Being a State (Some Are Taking Pity)
- Walt: What if Wikileaks Became the Norm?
- Thorpe: Working and living out loud
- Drezner: Robert Gates gets the last word on WikiLeaks
- Rothlopf: WikiLeaks winners and losers: Early edition
- And to top it off, some legal analysis: Steve Vladeck on WikiLeaks
As to the more journalistic, rather than pundit coverage of the story, the first article I read in that sector is still my favorite. I was struck by this quote in the second paragraph of this NYT article:
The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks posted 220 cables, some redacted to protect diplomatic sources, in the first installment of the archive on its Web site on Sunday.” It seems quite arrogant to me that WikiLeaks would redact the documents (if, indeed, they were the ones redacting), surely this must be an all-or-nothing organization. It is not capable nor positioned to make the determination about sourcing which redacting would require. I hope that the redactions were done within the cables themselves rather than by WikiLeaks. The redactions were done by the NYTimes, which seems to me to be quite responsible journalism. ”The Times, after consultations with the State Department, has withheld from articles and removed from documents it is posting online the names of some people who spoke privately to diplomats and might be at risk if they were publicly identified. The Times is also withholding some passages or entire cables whose disclosure could compromise American intelligence efforts.
The main thing I was struck upon reading the entirety of this article is that this entire deal is quite anticlimatic. Most everything I’ve seen so far in the entirety of the coverage we knew more or less was happening. Sure it lends some authority that official diplomatic cables contained the information and the clarity and precision of some of the information is quite striking, but all in all it seems quite benign for the most part. Which leads me to question the utility of the leak. I completely understand the vehemence of the Obama administration’s response, but I don’t really understand what all the hullabaloo is.
The most interesting thing about all this is that everyone from the USG to the lowest individual here with me in Somaliland, we are learning together how to communicate in a web dominated world. The technology keeps moving the ball before the norms and legalities of a situation have caught up with it and then technology moves the ball again, and again, and again. Most people still fail to understand that their companies are likely archiving the emails from their work computers, and sometimes even their personal email when it is accessed from a work computer because the company is forced to under watch for due diligence reasons. Much less to many people understand the privacy implications of their Facebook account. I don’t even need to bring up the rest of the methods and tools for modern communication. While the private / public barriers are still relatively strong, the grey area is widening and classifying itself. In other words much of where we currently are is in a grey area but where exactly we are in that middle part of the spectrum and what the rules and norms are within that are difficult to decipher.
I shared a few days ago the following comment on Buzz, and my brother, @kuhlman, had a nice response to which I cannot add much. I don’t agree entirely with his comment, but I’d like to give him the last word.
While I appreciate the suggestion that “compartmentalization will be back in vogue real soon”, this and Robert Gate’s comments (also excerpted by Drezner in a later post) which suggest the inevitable indispensability of America bespeak a posture of American arrogance. Drezner asks rhetorically if he’s missing something, but doesn’t really believe that there is anything more (the so-called Big Lie). Why is it that shallowness must be the accompaniment to transparency? I agree that there is a great difference between the things we say in public and the things we say in private, but if we are to substantively engage our fellow global cohabitants in a meaningful discourse we must accept a conversation which allows for both deep, nuanced exchanges and the possibility that America is not indispensable.
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