This latest Wikileaks document dump reveals a simplistic, even childish, understanding of democracy on the part of Assange and his enablers. Popular control of government does not mean that there can be no delegation of power. The public can delegate power to conduct diplomacy, with the understanding that secrecy and discretion are its essence. Secrecy in foreign negotiations does not violate popular sovereignty or consent.
The minimal bright side to this latest data dump, which will surely have a chilling effect on our ability to negotiate on the world stage, is the revelation of how normal the Arab diplomats sound. We have been bombarded with the idea that Islam is the Other, fundamentally at odds with the Western world. And in certain respects it is. But it is nevertheless somewhat reassuring to hear the Arab leaders and diplomats act just as calculating and rational in their assessments of security risks as anyone else. Undoubtedly, Brezhnev’s diplomats sounded just as urbane. Still, rational discourse is a powerful, universalizing endeavor, as Habermas would say, with at least the potential to start breaking down irrational difference.