There's all sorts of hysteria surrounding Julian Assange and this latest WikiLeaks revelations, although I would posit that "revelations" is a little strong a word for what essentially looks like confirmation of some well-known biases and actions on the part of the government. I also think the personal attacks on Assange are tactically unwise, as it appears to feed into his self-styled rogue anarchist mythology.
Fareed Zakaria takes a much bigger picture look at the alleged damage done by WikiLeaks instead of the wailing and vigilantism of some others.
A remarkably broad consensus has formed that WikiLeaks' latest data dump is a diplomatic disaster for the U.S. While there are debates over how the Obama Administration should respond, everyone agrees that the revelations have weakened America. But have they? I don't deny for a moment that many of the "wikicables" are intensely embarrassing, but the sum total of the output I have read is actually quite reassuring about the way Washington — or at least the State Department — works.
First, there is little deception. These leaks have been compared to the Pentagon papers. Which they are not. The Pentagon papers revealed that the U.S. engaged in a systematic campaign to deceive the world and the American people and that its private actions were often the opposite of its stated public policy. The WikiLeaks documents, by contrast, show Washington pursuing privately pretty much the policies it has articulated publicly. Whether on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or North Korea, the cables confirm what we know to be U.S. foreign policy. And often this foreign policy is concerned with broader regional security, not narrow American interests. Ambassadors are not caught pushing other countries in order to make deals secretly to strengthen the U.S., but rather to solve festering problems.
Zakaria makes the argument that the leaks are actually more embarrassing to other countries than to us, especially when it comes to the very delicate situation in the Middle East with Iran.
The most significant revelations in the trove are those relating to Arab views of Iran. We now have official confirmation of something many of us have been saying for years: Arab regimes share Israel's concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran. In fact, since they do not have the massive nuclear deterrent that Israel possesses, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are probably even more nervous about an Iranian bomb. It's one thing to have diplomats expressing these sentiments in private, quite another to have the direct and explicit words of the King of Saudi Arabia.
I understand that these revelations embarrass the Arab regimes, which publicly speak only of the Palestinian cause but privately plot against Iran. But why is that bad for the U.S.? The WikiLeaks data powerfully confirms the central American argument against Iran's programs: that they are a threat to regional stability and order, not merely to Washington's narrow interests.
Here, I have to diverge with Zakaria. He accepts the premise of the nuclear threat by Iran at face value, although there is significant evidence that the threat is exaggerated. There is little of face value in diplomacy, as the WikiLeaks data dump does reveal. What we say is not always what we know to be true and often designed to give us leverage for a completely different agenda. What Zakaria glosses completely over is any reason why Arab countries (of which, Iran decided is not) or Israel would have to cause suspicion and cause aggression towards Iran for reasons entirely separate from a nuclear arsenal.