Boy, this is a tough one. At one point in my life, I thought that anyone publishing classified material was a threat to our safety and should be treated accordingly. I still do in cases of endangering agents in the field or troops on the ground. But Wikileaks?
First, a government that expects to receive deference on matters of security must continually earn its citizens’ trust. Between WWII and Viet Nam, a sea change in our attitude toward government occurred–we lost that trust. I respect both the men and women who served in Viet Nam and the people who made principled objections to it. After that war, though, a couple of important lessons sank in for me.
The first was that our government lies, often. The second lesson was that their willingness to lie is exceeded only by their rank stupidity. I cannot hear the phrase “limited war” without seeing the faces of all those brave souls who fell on the battlefield because some dunce enjoyed playing geopolitical chess. When the only solution is war, the only strategy is total victory. May we never send another soldier to such a cruel and empty fate.
Julian Assange has done us at least one big favor. He has forced the issue of government secrecy out in the open. From the tiny bit I have seen so far, the leaks corroborate my suspicion that only idiots are qualified to serve in the highest levels of government. Were I a cynic, I might suspect that fear of embarrassment rather than national security is foremost on the minds of our leaders this morning.
Another thing bothers me, and I don’t quite know what to make of it. Sex charges? If Assange is guilty of rape, he should be punished–severely. The timing of these charges, though, has all the elements of a setup. One gets the feeling that national leaders all over the globe might be willing to go to great lengths to silence a person like him, scruples be damned.
And this, really, is the point. Why is it that we have a world full of elites who play secret games like the ones we are seeing exposed? Does this make sense? I have my doubts. While I recognize the need for protecting ourselves from foreign threats and a limited requirement for secrecy, much of this seems, well, ridiculous. I would prefer to see us reduce the need for so much secrecy.
We should pull ourselves back from foreign entanglements and focus on true threats to our borders (and no, I am not talking about immigrants–only real threats). Let every other country on the planet know that there are two things that would provoke us to destroy them utterly and completely: 1) military aggression against our physical borders, and 2) supporting or allowing terrorists to operate within their borders.
I am under no illusion whatsoever that this policy would eliminate all the tension between our right to know and prudent military judgment. That will never go away completely. It would, though, focus our minds on what is truly worth fighting and dying for.