Bob Franken

Last Week’s Hearst-New York Times Column

(Writer’s note: By arrangement with my syndicators, this column appears a week after it is released to newspapers.)

^IT’S TIME FOR A CALM LOOK AT THE WIKILEAKS PHENOM@< ^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@< ^By BOB FRANKEN@= ^C.2010 Hearst Newspapers@= WASHINGTON December 2, 2010 _ Let's go against the grain and try and temper some of the hand wringing about the latest WikiLeaks dump. Let's clear the air about what it means and what it doesn't. It definitely means chagrin, the same kind we feel when writing a scathing email and accidentally hit ``Reply All.'' Everyone can read the ridicule, including the target you were trying to trash behind his or her back. If we're now front-stabbing someone we've been buttering up, we suddenly experience the agony of deceit. It also means we have a system of secrecy that is so klutzy that the lowest level malcontent has the ability to open the leaky floodgates. Let's not overlook the fact that the main suspect here is an Army private. For an analysis of what the content of the deluge means, we can rely on Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who's been around the track a few times. Here's his reaction earlier this week: ``Now I've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a melt-down, as a game-changer and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought.'' So let's be wrought about this and sift through the pile of cables. _ The Saudis, other Arab countries and Israel are terrified about a nuclear attack. Imagine. _ Nuclear Pakistan is a troublesome U.S.partner. We're shocked. Shocked!! _ North Korea is suspected of supplyingIran with strategic weapons. And South Koreahas pondered the implications of a possible collapse of the North. OMG!! _ American officials occasional use snarky language to describe leaders of other countries like France,Germany, Russia, evenLibya. Gasp. _ There's more but I'm sure your heart can't take it. And if anyone thinks it all seems familiar, it's probably because he or she has read just about any newspaper or maybe even watched TV news over the last few years. Still, just about anybody in the national security game can be heard huffing and puffing again about how this release, like the WikiLeak dumps that proceeded it, completely blows up the old way of doing business, which is to keep information about the world's momentous decisions from the very people who are affected by them, namely us.

There is little question there is a need for secrecy. Weapon program development can demand it. High level deal-making in the most sensitive areas can require it. Sometimes. But not all the time, which is what the insiders would prefer. These documents once again show how much of their intrigue is mundane, unworthy of any cloaks or daggers.

The truth is that most diplomatic work is humdrum tedium, which flies in the face of the carefully crafted elitist image of those chosen to operate the planet from their lofty perches.

One of the cables describes French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a “thin-skinned and authoritarian…emperor with no clothes.” What this public unveiling reveals is naked emperors in all governments, who play their games in the name of personal interest as much as national interest.

These same national calamity arguments were made a few years ago about the explosive evidence of torture and other abuse that would have stayed hidden had someone not decided the dark deeds needed to see the light of day.

Now we’re hearing WikiLeaks plans next to lift the shrouds obscuring the financial machinations of the Bank of America. Is there anybody who doesn’t want to get that sneak peek?

As for this latest batch, there have apparently been some cyberattacks on them, meaning hackers have flooded the WikiLeaks computers with data and caused temporary Web site crashes. It’s kind of silly, considering the stuff is already out.

In all probability we won’t find out the full extent of U.s. Government until some later Wikileak.

^–@< (E-mail: bob(at) Web:

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