Wik­iLeaks re­veals an Amer­ica that needs to grow up and tighten its belt

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - Kath­leen Parker

Thanks to Wik­iLeaks, even Vlad the Putin can raise an eye­brow and pre­sume to know more about found­ing Amer­i­can prin­ci­ples, democ­racy and free speech.

It is con­ve­nient to blame poor lit­tle Ju­lian As­sange, the cy­berkind who pub­lished the leaks that some­one stole. He is now a mar­tyr to the brat bri­gades who oc­cupy base­ments and at­tics, keep­ing the com­pany of oth­ers sim­i­larly oc­cu­pied with vir­tual life.

As­sange is the king brat, but only du jour. He will be dis­placed soon enough by more am­bi­tious hacks whose delin­quent and, worse, sin­is­ter in­cli­na­tions are en­abled by technology. Alas, we now are at the mercy of giddy, power-hun­gry nerds op­er­at­ing be­yond the bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity or ac­count­abil­ity.

Do I want to hunt down As­sange as we do al-Qaida, as one fa­mous cari­bou hunter sug­gested? Uh, no. As­sange, who is in cus­tody await­ing ex­tra­di­tion on (du­bi­ous) rape charges, may be a naughty boy. But he is an ir­re­spon­si­ble pub­lisher, a con­duit, not the per­pe­tra­tor of the orig­i­nat­ing of­fense. What­ever cul­pa­bil­ity we may as­sign to him ul­ti­mately will have to be de­ter­mined in the way that we (but not so much the Rus­sians and those who can see Rus­sia on a clear day) pre­fer: Due process.

In the mean­time, a few ob­ser­va­tions are worth con­sid­er­ing as we pon­der the larger pic­ture.

It is hu­man na­ture to turn on the weak, and we ap­par­ently are to­day's feast. The world de­lights in our re­coil from the re­lease of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments be­cause the big dog has a limp, a weak spine and a soft belly.

Our pres­i­dent, though lik­able, is per­ceived as weak no mat­ter how many raids we per­form in Afghanistan. South Korea, which at least owes us an in-kind fa­vor, at first de­clined our kind trade of­fer. China, Rus­sia and oth­ers have crit­i­cized our mon­e­tary pol­icy.

Mean­while, the world sees our ca­cophonous Congress un­able to move for­ward with mea­sures to save our econ­omy, while watch­ing our overfed pop­u­lace stam­ped­ing to buy more junk made with cheap la­bor in un­friendly coun­tries.

China holds our debt while we can't agree on how to stop the hem­or­rhag­ing. At the same time, China's stu­dents are kick­ing our kids' tushies down the school­yard. From read­ing to math, they're so far ahead we in­hale their dust.

That is to say, the world sees weak­ness. This is a stun­ning recog­ni­tion for most Amer­i­cans who have grown up amid rel­a­tive plenty, a sunny na­tional dis­po­si­tion and mantra of good in­ten­tions. We've al­ways known that we're the good guys, as even some of our de­fend­ers have noted in the wake of Wik­iLeaks rev­e­la­tions.

Writ­ing for the cen­ter-right Le Fi­garo, French jour­nal­ist Re­naud Gi­rard said: "What is most fas­ci­nat­ing is that we see no cyn­i­cism in U.S. diplo­macy. They re­ally be­lieve in hu­man rights in Africa and China and Rus­sia and Asia. They re­ally be­lieve in democ­racy and hu­man rights." Yes, we re­ally do. If Amer­i­cans are guilty of any­thing, he said, it is be­ing a lit­tle naive. Let's plead guilty as charged and get on with it.

With grat­i­tude, we even find a friend on the left. An­other French jour­nal­ist, Lau­rent Jof­frin, edi­tor of the left­ist Lib­er­a­tion, con­ceded that we should not nec­es­sar­ily ac­cept a "de­mand for trans­parency at any price."

It would seem that we face sev­eral im­per­a­tives at this junc­ture: First, re­main calm. Hys­te­ria is not help­ful. Sec­ond, ac­cept that our world has changed in terms of what can be ex­pected as " pri­vate" and be­have ac­cord­ingly. Third, all hands on deck as we work to rec­on­cile our bet­ter an­gels with our fallen selves.

With the ex­cep­tion of our mil­i­tary, we are a flabby lot, and I'm not just talk­ing about girth. We are merely disgusting in that depart­ment. I'm talk­ing about our self-dis­ci­pline, our in­di­vid­ual will, our self-re­spect, our vol­un­tary or­der.

Note the op­er­a­tive words: self, in­di­vid­ual and vol­un­tary.

We don't need bu­reau­crats and politi­cians to dic­tate how to be­have; how to spend (or save); what and how to eat.

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