U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates understands people and diplomacy, and his assessment of Assange's info dump is as clear as it is historically and psychologically informed. At the Pentagon last week, Gates said: "The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments -- some governments -- deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation."
Gates added that the cables were "embarrassing" and "awkward," but the ultimate effects on policy would be "modest."
Pray that Gates is right about modest impact, but right now and for at least the next six months, the world confronts the possibility of a nuclear war in East Asia ignited by North Korean aggression. This is a time period when the world absolutely needs close -- and trustworthy -- cooperation between the U.S. and China. A big war in Korea could kill millions but will guarantee a global economic depression. Leaked cables discuss corruption in China's Communist Party and names hypocritical party elites.
Even if the information is accurate, this is a case where revealed candor damages personal relationships among key U.S. diplomatic personnel and Chinese leaders. China is a face culture, and the leaders have lost face. A mature appreciation of the common danger should override personal anger, but another leak revealed that China sees North Korea as a "spoiled child" and that it believes Korea will ultimately be reunited with South Korea absorbing the North. This revelation weakens China's political leverage with North Korea at a moment when any leverage is precious.
Assange, of course, did not consider how he increased the threat to the lives of millions of Korean, Japanese and Chinese when he dumped his filched documents. His faith-based narrative of American evil excludes the possibility that American diplomats are collaborating with China to avoid war and eventually put an end to North Korea's armed brinksmanship without a nuclear explosion.
Here's WikiLeaks' bottom-line revelation: Assange and ideologues like him promote an ignorant and destructive solipsism that has nothing to do with peace and justice but a lot to do with sociopathic narcissism.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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