In order to get to know Central Asia, my soon-to-be home, I decided to do what I never did in college: read a book. Or, in this case, multiple books. First came The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk, a quick-pulse tale of Tsarist Russia's and Victorian England's arm-wrestle for control of the area, followed closely by The Dust of Empire, Karl Meyer's brief skein of the histories of each nation. I'm currently waiting to jump into Kim, Rudyard Kipling's coming-of-age tale of British India, before moving back into the realm of hard history.
But as good as these books have been, they've got nothing on the world of WikiLeaks. Through WikiLeaks, I've learned not just that Vladimir Putin has his fingers in almost every nearby nation's pie—and that his "Robin," Dmitri Medvedev, is just hanging onto his coattails—but that Putin is also impressively uninvolved, preferring to work from home and yuk it up with Silvio rather than actually lord the halls of the Kremlin. I've also learned that the Kazakh Prime Minister Masimov has no problem grooving by himself and that Defense Minister Akhmentov "appears to enjoy loosening up in the tried and true 'homo sovieticus' style — i.e., drinking oneself into a stupor."
I learned that China offered Kyrgyzstan $3 billion to close the US's Air Force Manas Air Base, and that Azerbaijan is run in a manner more befitting feudal Europe—and that first lady Mehriban Aliyeva "has problems showing a 'full range of expression' following 'substantial cosmetic surgery.'"
Through the work of WikiLeaks—and what appears to be the highly illegal derring-do of Pvt. Bradley Manning—I've learned far more about the current lives of both the ruling and the ruled, to say nothing of my own government's occupation, than I could have otherwise. If for no other reason than that, I'd be thankful, and pushing the website's message, methods, and merit. After all, and in opposition to the site's detractors, WikiLeaks is not a demonic (and pasty) man's tool for anarchy; rather, it is the exact funnel that media purports and strives to be. It serves as a check against the powers-that-be, as a subversive way of highlighting, through otherwise illicit means, the actions and attempts of the powerful or entrenched.