The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Let’s whack them

December 1, 2010

Got to love the neocons. They are outraged by Wikileaks and by the Obama administration’s response. William Kristol challenges President Obama with a series of questions:

Why not use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can’t we disrupt and destroy WikiLeaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible? Why can’t we warn others of repercussions from assisting this criminal enterprise hostile to the United States?

Of course the irony here is that perhaps the top beneficiary so far from this batch of documents has been the neocons’ number one project: strengthening Israel’s position on stopping the Iranian nuclear program. In the cables from the Ankara, Amman, Cairo, Ryadh, and several embassies in Europe there is a strong and unambiguous consensus that Iran is isolated in its position. This has been reported for some time in the press, but the press reports have not always been consistent or clear. The raw language from so many foreign leaders disclosed in these cables now sends an unmistakable signal to Tehran and seriously limits Iran’s room for maneuvering here. It also almost certainly lowers the risk of Iranian miscalculation (i.e., that they can play different regional and international actors off of one another and avoid serious repercussions for continuing their program). It’s clear the Saudis and other Gulf States are serious in their objections and may well acquiesce to an Israeli strike , there is no room for Tehran to leverage Turkey, both Egypt and Turkey are aggressively working to pull Syria away from Iran, and the Russians can’t be counted upon. Furthermore, the Israelis and others now have a comprehensive, and open record of Arab and European positions that they can exploit for stronger action against Iran.

It’s probably too early to see any indication of the diplomatic implications of all of this next week when Iran and the EU resume nuclear talks. But, the release of the documents, despite the various embarrassments and other damages, does have the potential to alter the strategy and outcome of diplomacy on this. Through a new blend of pressure and engagement, we may be able to resolve this without war.

If that happens, Kristol and company may want to thank Assange and Wikileaks before they “whack” them.

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.