Advancing a Free Society

WikiLeaks and the Art of Diplomacy

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is no Daniel Ellsberg. Say what you will about the man who put out the secret history of the Vietnam War, he had skin in the game. He had been a hawk and had grown disillusioned with the war before leaking in 1971 the classified documents that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

Not so this Australian practitioner of electronic piracy. Mr. Assange feeds off the taste for high gossip. Doubtless, he sees himself as truth-teller at war with an American "empire" with a lot to hide. But he communicates brazenness and a love of the limelight that is of a piece with this time when all discretion and privacy are now things of the past.

There can be no denying the appeal of this big dump of diplomatic cables. We want to see the political deities in Ankara and Rome and Riyadh as they are, unmasked. We now know what we knew before, but on official paper. So Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is "feckless, vain and ineffective," a man whose "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest." We now know that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is "mercurial and eccentric," that he loves horse racing and flamenco dancing, that he fears flying over water. In short, he is the "flake" that Ronald Reagan dubbed him a quarter century ago.

Continue reading Fouad Ajami’s Wall Street Journal op-ed…