The Arrogance of Brilliance

How many will die from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's reckless self-absorption?

If published reports describing the alleged source of tens of thousands of Afghan war logs to WikiLeads are true, then WikiLeaks founder and convicted computer hacker Julian Assange appears to have found a truly kindred spirit. The Wall Street Journal describes the suspected leaker, Pfc. Bradley Manning, in terms that suggest the twenty-one year old soldier is not just short in stature, but small-minded as well. Manning seems like just the kind of self-absorbed, inflated individual that would appeal to guy like Assange, who has spent the better part of his adult life redefining self-aggrandizement and self-righteous arrogance. Were not the consequences of the leaks so serious, the most fitting punishment for both would be to take them out to the woodshed. Since that’s not possible, we can only hope that Assange and Manning – or whomever Assange’s source is ultimately determined to be – are at least forced to take a time-out for several years in a federal prison.

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held Assange’s feet to the fire and we should demand that the administration continue to turn up the heat on the Australian rabble-rouser. "Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his sources are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier, or that of an Afghan family," Mullen said.

Assange is a prime example of that peculiarly unique product of Western, democratic institutions: a genius so blinded by his own brilliance that he sees nothing wrong with tearing down the society that grants him the freedom to exercise his arrogance, while remaining blissfully oblivious to the fact that his actions lend aid and comfort to an enemy who would not long tolerate his very existence. We’ve seen Assange’s sort throughout history. General Benedict Arnold was arguably the most gifted field commander of the American Revolution, but his wounded pride and monumental ego led him to betray the cause to which he was supposedly devoted. Bobby Fisher was perhaps the most original mind ever to sit astride a chess board, but he was consumed by self-loathing of his Jewish heritage. Intellectuals, or perhaps “pseudo intellectuals” is the better term, like Tom Hayden couldn’t see the forest for the trees during the Vietnam era. Both America and the Vietnamese people paid the price. Assange is of the same breed and it should come as no surprise that he is pals with Daniel Ellsberg, the infamous “Pentagon Papers” whistle-blower.

Assange smugly declared that he was above petty concerns about national security. "It is not our role to play sides for states. States have national security concerns, we do not have national security concerns," he said. That kind of pious naiveté only holds up if one doesn’t have personal security concerns as well. Yet, we can presume that Assange is greatly concerned for his own security, based on the fact that he lives a life on the run. He was convicted of computer hacking in his native Australia and he has admitted that he pretty much lives in airports, in order to keep his enemies at bay. By pushing the envelope of the liberties that the western world grants, Assange has managed to stay a step ahead of the law through a clever understanding of how much he can get away with and by staying on his toes. Would the Taliban or al Qaeda give a parasite like Assange the same benefit of the doubt if Assange somehow manipulated – say – Al Jazeera to reveal the inner secrets of terrorist organizations? In that eventuality, what has been a game for the Australian would become deadly serious. A particular head would roll, literally.

By publishing the documents that Manning, or someone like Manning, provided, Assange has undoubtedly put the lives of Afghanis who have been cooperating with coalition forces, as well as coalition troops themselves, in grave danger. Assange may not be willing to admit that he has blood on his hands, but the fact is that his hands are soaked in crimson. As bad, or possibly worse, Assange’s treacherous actions have further weakened America’s already perilous position in Afghanistan. We can’t possibly stabilize the situation in that eternally war-torn country unless we enjoy the confidence of the people who live there, but Assange has undermined whatever tenuous hopes we have enjoyed for a mutually-beneficial relationship. "That is one of the worst aspects of this: will people trust us?" Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused.

The answer to Gates’ question is self-evident. As long as there are bitter, inflated egos like Julian Assange and the people who feed him information occupying positions that allow them to attack the very society that nurtures them, nobody will trust us and nobody should trust us. If so many innocent lives were not at stake, it would be poetic justice for Julian Assange to achieve his goals; to allow him to undermine the Western world until it is inert and emasculated. In that circumstance, you don’t have to be George Orwell to know that a rabble-rouser like Assange would be one of the first to be lined up against a wall, or – given the nature of our current enemies – to bend his neck over a cinder block once the new order hit the streets. But it goes without saying that a brilliant idiot like Julian Assange wouldn’t be able to figure that out until it was far too late.