WikiLeaks Reports on Afghanistan Might Not Be The Pentagon Papers, But They Might Influence Policy

So far it appears that the release of reports on Afghanistan by WikiLeaks has no smoking guns and contains nothing which will harm U.S. national security or harm the troops. A comparison to the Pentagon Papers was inevitable, even if there are major differences here. The leaked papers do not demonstrate dishonesty on the part of either George Bush or Barack Obama regarding Afghanistan comparable to what was revealed about American leaders regarding Vietnam. The Obama administration might complain about the leaks (as we would expect any administration to) but we are not going to see the type of battle to suppress them which Richard Nixon engaged in over the Pentagon Papers.

This does not mean that the leaks will not have an effect. The publicity might still revive the debate over why we are in Afghanistan and whether it serves U.S. interests to remain. John Kerry, a leading critic of the Vietnam war (as well as an opponent of the Iraq war before it began, despite the attempt of 2004 primary opponents to distort his record), had this comment:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released the following statement this evening in response to the New York Times story on the leak of classified documents concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan:

“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”

I doubt we will see open battle between the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Obama administration as there was been Democrats and the Nixon administration in the later days of the Vietnam war, although the committee might raise some uncomfortable questions for the administration. I suspect it is more likely that if Kerry turns against this war he might have some success in making Obama reconsider.

John and Marsha

For those wondering about Peggy and Joey repeatedly referring to John and Marsha on the season premiere of Mad Men, the audio of Stan Freberg’s 1951 recording is above. The reason for this is still not clear. Literature professor Toril Moi offered some ideas:

I’m also interested in why Peggy and her assistant Joey keep enacting Stan Freberg’s 1951 satirical novelty hit “John and Marsha” (widely available on YouTube.) Why do the characters obsess about a 1951 hit in the 1960s? Is it a sly hint that Freberg may be one of the models for Don Draper’s character? For Freberg wasn’t just a radio personality, he is also considered to be one of the fathers of really creative advertising. In the late 1950s, Freberg introduced humor and satire in advertising, creating famous TV campaigns for Heinz soups and Sunsweet pitted prunes, among others. There are parallels here to Don Draper’s success with the cinematic plot-like structure of his floor cleaner campaign which he watches alone in his gloomy apartment.

To get back to Peggy and her male assistant. Playing at “John and Marsha” with her underling is surely not a particularly bossy move. It may be another indication that she doesn’t actually fear losing authority: she is confident that she has earned her place. But how many career women in the 1960s had male assistants?

Update: More on the season premiere of Mad Men has been posted here.