Gordon Crovitz sides with Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks against the New York Sun and Lee Smith in the divide within the pro-freedom camp over Wikileaks.
I know and like Mr. Crovitz, but I don't find his criticisms of Wikileaks here particularly persuasive.
He writes, "The irony is that WikiLeaks' use of technology to post confidential U.S. government documents will certainly result in a less free flow of information. .... This batch includes 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, the kind of confidential assessments diplomats have written since the era of wax seals. These include Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah urging the U.S. to end Iran's nuclear ambitions—to 'cut the head off the snake.' This alignment with the Israeli-U.S. position is not for public consumption in the Arab world, which is why leaks will curtail honest discussions."
If King Abdullah has a problem with his public, it relates to the fact that he is not democratically elected and his government deprives many Saudis of basic rights. If one comes at this from the perspective of a desire for "free flow of information," as Mr. Crovitz says he does, one might observe that "The media environment in Saudi Arabia is among the most repressive in the Arab world" and that "The government owns and operates all domestic broadcast media, and content is heavily censored. Most privately owned print media are connected to the government or royal family, which exert control through means including the approval or rejection of new editors." Mr. Crovitz's concern for "honest discussions" between King Abdullah and American diplomats is touching, but what about honest discussion within Saudi Arabia? It's hard to have much of that when the government owns all the TV and radio stations and most of the newspapers and magazines.
The problem, in other words, is not Wikileaks but the Saudi government's relationship to the people of Saudi Arabia. What might impair the Saudi King's candor is less the chance of what he says leaking than the underlying problem that what he says might not please his people. Why should the American government play along with this by keeping it a secret from the American people or from, for that matter, the Saudi people what the Saudi king says? In any event I think the idea that the Saudi position is "not for public consumption" is not exactly true — it's not the "Arab world" the Saudis are most afraid of, but the non-Arab Iranians, who will be a nuclear power if America or Israel don't follow the Saudi advice to cut the head off the snake.
The other example Mr. Crovitz gives is similar. He writes:
Consider the case of a 75-year-old dentist in Los Angeles, Hossein Vahedi. According to one of the confidential cables released by WikiLeaks, Dr. Vahedi, a U.S. citizen, returned to Iran in 2008 to visit his parents' graves. Authorities confiscated his passport because his sons worked as concert promoters for Persian pop singers in the U.S. who had criticized the theocracy.
The cable reported that Dr. Vahedi decided to escape by horseback over the mountains of western Iran and into Turkey. He trained by hiking the hills above Tehran. He took extra heart medication. But when he fell off his horse, he was injured and nearly froze. When he made it to Turkey, the U.S. Embassy intervened to stop him being sent back to Iran.
"This is very bad for my family," Dr. Vahedi told the New York Daily News on being told about the leak of the cable naming him and describing his exploits. Tehran has a new excuse to target his relatives in Iran. "How could this be printed?"
Again, the problem is not Wikileaks but the Iranian regime, which is so undemocratic and unstable that it fears pop-concert promoters and 75-year-old dentists. If Dr. Vehedi's relatives are at risk, America should help rescue them or help those Iranians who want to free their country, rather than hushing up the whole situation.
I'm not defending everything Wikileaks has done, but on this one I tend to side more with Lee Smith and the Sun editorial than with Messrs. Brooks, Krauthammer and Crovitz.