The Obama administration has condemned Wikileaks for its second release within a year of classified foreign policy documents. And some liberal commentators have backed up the administration’s complaints. And I am not going to argue that the administration doesn’t have a case. Governments rely on candid assessments from their diplomats; and if Americans in overseas embassies have to assume that they are writing for the general public and not for their superiors back home, they are not likely to be very candid. But there is also something to be said in defense of Wikileaks.
Back in March, Gallup found that while Americans named unemployment and the economy as the most immediate problems, they regarded the federal budget deficit as the most important future problem. Apparently the future is now. On the eve of the president’s deficit commission report, Gallup released a survey that asked a random sample of adults the following question: If you had to choose, which of these would be the best approach for Congress and the president to take in dealing with the U.S.
The food safety bill finally passed. First of all, this adds to the already enormous accomplishments of the 111th Congress (assuming, as I expect, that the House passes the Senate version). Democrats got clobbered in the 2010 elections, but they certainly put their victories in 2006 and 2008 to work. Second, the bill wound up passing easily -- the final vote was 73-25. The NYT story emphasizes how rare bipartisanship was in this Congress, but I think I'd put it a little differently. The truth is that Democrats in the Senate did, in fact, find some Republican votes on lots of things.
Yes, I know: Max Boot is a neo-con journalist. After all, he writes—amongst others—for Commentary. Commentary used to be edited by Norman Podhoretz. Right now, in fact, it is edited by John Podhoretz who is Norman P. and Midge Dector's son. I have my differences with them. Moreover, they have their differences with me. But they are more sensible than the editors of The Nation who, after all, don't like our country very much. And they certainly don't love it. Nor do many of its readers. Alright, that is another question. Anyway, Boot is a very good journalist, a provocative journalist.
Just about every principle of President Obama's foreign policy has been exposed as, at best, stupid and, at worst, treacherous. As of this writing, there have been no statements from the president. But it takes time to construct an appropriate apologia for such a wholesale disaster for such a haughty man. So, in the meantime, Hillary Clinton (why is she almost always called Hillary Rodham Clinton? is there another Hillary Clinton out there somewhere?) has been sent out to stem the damage. If the damage can be stemmed, that is.
Read parts one, two, three, four, and five of Zeke Emanuel's Africa diaries. Six boys sit on green plastic classroom chairs in gowns with their clothes neatly folded on a side table. Cloth booties cover their feet and lower leg. They smile nervously. They are waiting to be called for a medical circumcision. Eduardo says he is 16 years old, as is his friend sitting next to him. Why are they getting a circumcision? “For hygiene, and for HIV,” they tell us. And their classmates are getting one too. This is the Military Hospital in Maputo, Mozambique.
Will the latest Wikileaks dump really matter that much? It’s true, as both Laura Rozen and Kevin Drum have observed, that many of the secret messages don’t seem to reveal big secrets. As Rozen wrote yesterday: one is struck overall that the classified diplomatic discussions on Iran revealed in the cables are not all that different from what one would expect from following the public comments senior U.S.
The Wikileaks cables are certainly important: They make public the sort of first-hand, original-source information that, until now, it has taken historians and journalists years or decades to obtain. But does this mean that the days of secret diplomacy are over? Not even close. The reason is that the foreign policy bureaucracy will adjust, as it has before. True, Wikileaks has taken us well beyond the types of disclosures that the Freedom of Information Act, for the past several decades, has provided to journalists and historians.
Today we get yet another new proposal on how to restore some balance to the federal budget. Tomorrow we will get another. That will bring the number of new proposals to five or to six, depending on how you count. But, make no mistake: These latest additions to the mix are absolutely essential. In fact, they are what make the whole deficit reduction conversation worth having. Today’s proposal comes from the Century Foundation, the Economic Policy Institute, and the think-tank Demos (where I’m a senior fellow, although I had nothing to do with this proposal).
This is with regard to my two previous posts on "orientalism" and the "modern" Arabs. An old friend reminded me that "it was a Gérôme that was the cover of Said's expiring "classic," Orientalism. But, as for Said being buried in Lebanon, it actually speaks to his cosmopolitan rootlessness. On the other hand, he did once, in a pathetic display of the fighting spirit, throw stones at the Israeli frontier from the Leabanese side...and in front of a ghoulish Hezbollah poster, no less.