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What You Should Remember About the WikiLeaks Story

July 27, 2010

Dov Zakheim:

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.

This is the reason everybody needs to be sober about this right now.  If we’re to remember anything about this, it ought to be that, as the NYT reporters conclude, “Over all, the documents do not contradict official accounts of the war.”  It’s going to be quite sickening in the coming months to see reporters and pundits cite WikiLeaks as a good reason to get out of Afghanistan — that the spin the White House and the feds are putting on the war effort is somehow affecting public opinion towards AfPak more than daily news reporters detailing the massive obstacles we’re going to have to overcome in order to succeed over there the way we want to do.

And it really boils down to a matter of sloth and repetition: I’m sure that rational commentators as well as pro-war pundits are going to grow quite weary of having to explain over and over again that this particular WikiLeaks gusher (as Peter Fearver aptly re-dubs it) isn’t a bombshell and that it’s not a good reason to pick our toys up and go home.  Unfortunately, 1000-word journalism has a way of incorporating shaky evidence in order to meet a space quota, and doubtless this story will find a way to seep into the public’s conscious as a reason to oppose the use of military force in Afghanistan.  And it will be a mistake.

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