Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sun Rises in the East

Everyone and their cousins are all excited and agog about yesterday's Wikileaks exposure of 90,000 (exactly 90,000?) documents from the war in Southern Asia. I expect the story will serve well as a litmus test or Rorschach blot to demonstrate what everyone thought previously. Me, I don't have the time for 90,000 documents, so that leaves me to chose which pontificator to believe. On balance, I think I'll follow The Economist, which itself follows Andrew Exum aka Abu Muqawama: The macro story in the documents is novel only if you haven't been watching anyway these past few years.

As for the micro-story, that's a different matter. Will any ISAF troops be killed now or later because their enemies are carefully reading the documents and making tactical changes to the way they wage war? I expect so. Any civilians? Any of us?


Menachem Mendel said...

The New York Times wrote that it had refrained from publishing documents whose publication it thought would endanger American lives and operations. The statement can be read here.

Yaacov said...

Yes, Menachem, I saw that. Indeed, the NYT comes off marginally better than the Guardian, not to mention Wikileaks. Yet my conviction that anybody at any of those agencies has much of an idea what meaningful intelligence in military matters might look like is quite non-existent. My own experience as a gatherer of military intelligences is quite limited, but I recollect that the officers telling us what they needed to know were interested in all sorts of things I would never have thought of, and they could explain why, too. Unless the Islamists are total idiots - I doubt they are - Wikileaks has blood on its hands, or soon will.

Anonymous said...

Gabriel Schoenfeld says something worth to read. (he is my informant on intelligence matters for many years) If I got it correctly it doesn't matter if the NYT acted "responsibly"
- in the age of websites the Guardian and Spiegel may be glad to help out. It seems Spiegel is eager to get his "higher" insights out in English also.

I still want to know how much money these papers spent for the "privilege" to get a head start on the filth and the honour to provide Wikileaks with a clean bill of health so to speak


AKUS said...

I am pretty sure, for example, that the "news" that the drones are controlled from a command center in Nevada was actually shown live on a program like 202/20 or 60 Minutes about a year ago.

What is really going on here is that - amazingly - people have the idea that in a war against terrorists who hide among the population, innocent (more or less) people get killed.

That is something that the West is going to have to get used to as groups like Hamas, Hizbollah and the Taliban proliferate. In fact, the West has tried to hide from its memories the fact that in the European and World Wars civilians died on a massive scale.

Anonymous said...

I remember having read a longish piece about the drones being controlled from the US and a piece about Korengar Valley? where the drone controller's voice was female, liked by the soldiers and mentioned that the controller was in the US.

as Richard Cohen says in WaPo today
Government is entitled to some secrets; it needs them to protect us.
and these kids from Kouchner to Assange to IHH aiming at calling the shots on how the World should be run claiming that they possess "superior" knowledge, ethics, whatever frighten me because of the support they are getting from people who should know better.


Yaacov said...

Very massive scale. The Americans and Brits (supported by Canadian, Austraians, Zealanders and others) killed about 70,000 FRENCHMEN in the summer of 1944, merely in order to be able to get at the Germans behind them. That's more than all the American casualties in Vietnam, for example.

Anonymous said...

death and war:

these days mankind is allowing itself to be deluded into believing that one can take out the bad guys by "surgical" strikes.

Of course that's a goal urgently to be wished for but the way I am getting it fed as something easily achieveable seems to me to be of the same category as the promises earlier generations were fed that war would be akin to a pleasure cruise.
i.e. the promise that "surgical" war is possible is fantasizing a different kind of pleasure cruise.

if your neighbour infringes on your territory you either resist pre-emptively or after the attack or you offer it all to him for free. Just watch how you react if somebody jumps queue in front of you


PS: in the context of WW2 70.000 seems small - somewhere I read that in preparation/training by the allies for the landing in Normandy there were 1400 casualties or deaths, I think it was deaths.

Scott said...

To answer your question, Silke. The pre-Normandy rehearsal at Slapton Sands resulted in 946 dead through a combination of E-boat attack, poor training, friendly fire, and poor inter-service coordination. So a total number of 1400 dead doesn't seem unreasonable when you count in other trainign accidents such as paratroop training mishaps, live fire, and so on.