Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time to Call the Plumber?

Loose lips sink ships.

 Advice given to service men and women during WW II

It’s kind of amazing to think about it but prior to World War II, there were no rules provided to members of our military on what they could and couldn’t communicate to people outside their unit.  I assume it was a little easier to be a spy before that time.

Espionage has been around for centuries, of course. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians used agents to assess enemy forces. And, the very quotable Sun Tzu said, “It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you…. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used”.

Leaking is different than spying. Pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, famously published (leaked?) information about a secret alliance between the Americans and the French, which was news to the British at the time. He was forced to resign as secretary to a committee of Congress.

French revolutionary, Joseph Fouche, is often credited with establishing the first government institutions dedicated to espionage. He was a popular guy by the time Napoleon began his campaign.

During the Civil War, the Confederacy developed an extensive network of spies who were managed from an office in Richmond down the hall from Jefferson Davis. One agent brought a copy of the Philadelphia Enquirer to General Robert E. Lee outlining troop movements by Union General McClellan. Lee cancelled his battle plans and moved his own forces to counter the moves.

The CIA is perhaps more famous for its failures than its successes. (How would we know about their successes?) There was the Bay of Pigs, of course. And, the CIA missed important developments leading to India getting the bomb in 1974, the collapse of the USSR and the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

While the Iraq war continues to have daily impact on the United States, those other events of the last 50 years are now part of history. It is unlikely that a Wikileaks event would have changed the outcome. There are inexorable forces at work that will affect our security long after this controversy becomes part of the history books. So, it strikes me that we need to take a long term view of Wikileaks.

It is important that we pay careful attention to the interests of Russia in Eastern Europe. During the Cold War, the Iron Curtain represented the western most boundary of the Russian sphere of influence in their entire history. Conversely, the current western border of Russia is set more to the east than it has ever been. Noting that Vladimir Putin is an “alpha dog” should surprise no one, least of all Vlad. What he might do next could surprise us all.

China’s economic growth rate is unsustainable in the long term. The cracks are already starting to show. Yet, they continue to be the single most important influencer in Asia. Are we prepared to deal with both the short term and long term developments?

The Arab world has been unstable for decades. Their only economic asset is oil. They have no middle class to speak of and the ongoing Jihad makes even our best allies suspect over the long term.

And, then there’s Korea……

Nothing that Wiki leaked will have a serious impact on these inexorable trends.

At the end of the day, it reminds me of when your high school teacher intercepted a note being passed around the class and read it out loud. A little bit of name calling and characterizations that are embarrassing to hear out in the open but no real harm done in the long term. (I suppose kids send text messages now. What’s a school teacher to do?)

There were two things that really struck me during the airing of all this gossip. When I was a young military officer, I had a Top Secret clearance. It was granted to me because I had access to encrypted messages. However, during my brief career in uniform, I never once saw any Top Secret information. Why? Because I didn’t have a “need to know”.

So, how is it that a private first class in the US Army had access to all this information? Did he really need to know what was being said between the Ambassador to Pakistan and the Secretary of State? What possible purpose could that serve?

My second observation has to do with LEADERSHIP. Despite our hyper partisan political environment, the opposition Republicans refrained from attacking the administration’s policies. It was a rare display of LEADERSHIP on their part.

“You don't lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.”
                                          ----  Dwight D. Eisenhower

1 comment:

  1. Talking about Leadership ...... if you reverse the view of the top from the other end of the telescope .......... all you see and hear is, "It's Bush's fault" ....... I don't know if you caught Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Bush, but President Bush refused not once, but everytime, the opportunity by O'Reilly to comment on or second guess the decisions of the current seat warmer in the Oval Office ...... at each instance, President Bush refused to do so. Who will Lead, the void that was left when President Bush left office has not been filled and I doubt it will be during the 4 year term of obama.

    WikiLeaks ....... so much petty cable traffic between politicians and bureaucrats ...... I think one foreign bureaucrat said ....... and I paraphrase, "no big deal, you should hear what we say about you" ......

    When it comes to the current administration, maybe the question should be, "Can anyone lead?"