08/22/2013 03:31 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2013

Profile or Courage?

Many self-defined patriots find it easy to disparage Manning -- a seeming wimp, physically unimposing, effete and now apparently transgender. He looks like anything but the soul of bravery. Yet let's keep in mind that this kid underwent a year of brutal treatment -- physical and psychological -- that aimed to break him (as well as to punish him) so that he would exchange a lenient sentence for fabricating lies about Wikileaks and Assange. Lies about who initiated the contacts, the sequence, the terms of the relationship. In near total isolation, he resisted.

There are those who genuinely feel that his action was reprehensible. Whether or not his revelations did harm to the country's military actions or foreign policy, they stress the violation of oaths and the imperative to maintain discipline. That line of argument is highly debatable; yet it can reasonably be made by honorable people. What is unacceptable, though, is the abuse directed at his personal integrity. There is no denying the truth that he showed some guts and character that many of our macho types in and out of the military lack -- not to speak of the beltway pundits and Congressional loudmouths. I doubt that Petraeus, Clapper or Alexander have it in them to do anything similar in any cause they considered virtuous. The same can be said of Obama, Holder, Clinton et al.

At another level, Manning's example may have been one contributing reason for the readiness of Snowden to do what he did in full awareness of the personal risks he ran. Snowden's actions, surely, leave the country far better off than if he had taken the path of least resistance and just followed the rules as the flag-wavers claim is the model of good citizenship.