- By Dov ZakheimDov Zakheim is Senior Advisor, Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Under Secretary of Defense.
So what to make of the WikiLeaks story? First of all, it covers a period of several years; and there is no doubt that the United States and NATO didn’t get everything right in all of those years, especially from 2004 to 2007. The two big stories — ISI’s fishing in troubled Afghan waters, and the deaths of civilians — are not really news at all.
If the Department of Defense’s leadership is to be believed — and I for one, believe them — Pakistan has put a lid on ISI. No doubt the Pakistani experience with its own Taliban gave the military and intelligence community something to think about. Equally, the Karzai government has gone out of its way to work with Islamabad, often to the chagrin of New Delhi. And no one denies that civilian loss of life, a by-product of every war ever fought, has diminished since General McChrystal issued new rules of engagement that themselves have frustrated many in the military (proving yet again that one cannot satisfy everyone — would WikiLeaks have leaked disgruntlement with the new ROE’s? I doubt it.)
The people behind WikiLeaks make no secret of their opposition to the Afghan war. Some would like to see American troops prosecuted as war criminals. WikiLeaks sees itself as providing the world with the Pentagon Papers Redux, though no one in his or her right mind could compare the Gulf of Tonkin incident that prompted the Vietnam War buildup with the destruction of the World Trade Center. That says more about the WikiLeaks crowd than about the sins their papers purport to reveal.
At the end of the day, the WikiLeaks papers will change few opinions. Those who want us out of Afghanistan will cite them ad nauseum; those who recognize the stakes for what they are — the need to preclude that country from once again serving as a breeding ground for al Qaeda and their copycats — will give them short shrift. What matters more is whether General Petraeus can affect the turnaround that made him a war hero in Iraq. If he does, the WikiLeaks papers will make good grist for historians’ footnotes, and nothing more.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |