Jul 28, 2010

On WikiLeaks, Afghanistan, and Server Limitations

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I have been reading with some interest the news that an as-yet unnamed military sources leaked approximately 90,000 pages of classified documents related to the Afghanistan conflict to the website WikiLeaks. One of the reasons for my interest is that I am simultaneously teaching a class on the Vietnam War, and I was curious if this documentary leak would parallel the notorious Pentagon Papers that began being leaked in 1971.

The documents are collectively known as the Afghan War Diary, and these purportedly consist of internal U.S. military logs from the Afghanistan war. Unfortunately, public interest in the Afghan War Diary has been massive, and when I have attempted to access the site, I receive server overload error message like those in the screenshot on the left.

My suspicion is that the institutional intelligence of the U.S. government with regard to public relations has improved somewhat since the Vietnam War, and that there will be few instances of overt deception on the part of American military and political leaders uncovered in the Afghan War Diary, at least not of the magnitude of the flat-out lying by the Johnson and Nixon administrations depicted in the Pentagon Papers.

Unfortunately, the excessive demand on the WikiLeaks servers means that I will have to wait to examine the documents. I suppose, however, that I will learn little that I did not previously know about the Afghanistan conflict from the Afghan War Diary, and my semi-educated guess is that this cache of documents will have little bearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

I also think the American populace is simply too indifferent toward the conflicts in Central and Western Asia for any documentary bombshells that might be uncovered in the Afghan War Diary to create a stir. Unfortunately, any antiwar sentiments in the United States today pale in comparison with the antiwar movement during the Vietnam conflict, and too many folks are more interested in the demagogic distractions of the present-day neo-McCarthyism to pay attention to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

4 comments:

Matthew said...

Dr. Brooks --

I was able to see the WikiLeaks posts before they started having server issues. I don't think this is very much like the Pentagon Papers, though your mileage may vary.

The WikiLeaks stuff is mostly information that we already knew definitively, or were pretty certain was the case.

The two most striking things, though, are that the government/military would both privately acknowledge these things while not really being interested in a resolution, and the extent to which Pakistan is playing for the other team.

Hope their servers get back up soon so you can give it a look.

- Matthew

Paul Swendson said...

The conflicts do not touch most people personally. During The Vietnam War, people knew that they might be called up to serve. A military draft definitely makes people pay more attention. The number of casualties was also much higher in Vietnam.

The government has done a good job of shielding most Americans from the costs of these wars. Since most of our lifestyles are not significantly affected, people pay as little attention to these conflicts as they do to foreign affairs in general.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brooks! Do tomorrow's entry on this:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100721/OPINION02/7210320/From-cell-block-to-Detroit-police-board

Mad Jack said...

I think it's worth noting that prior to Watergate the U.S. didn't really have scandals of this magnitude, and while it's true that the Pentagon Papers precede Watergate, the impact wasn't the same in that the political parties were not directly involved. I don't think the Stupid Party has ever forgiven the Moonbats for blowing the whistle on Tricky Dick, and the one reason that we'll see fewer political scandals (real scandals, not just mud slinging) these days is because both parties know the other will blow the whistle.

Wikileaks is back up and the Afghan War Diary has been moved to its own server.