Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Nov/10

30

Wikileaks

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.

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18 comments

  • Snippet · November 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Interesting, as usual.

    Whatever the effect of this exercise, a more peaceful world seems unlikely to be among them. A far MORE secretive one does. (Gotta make extra sure the necessary secrecy is being respected.)

    Regarding the normalness of the Arab politicians, this is somewhat problematic.

    I have LONG suspected the “Arab World” is ruled by people more rational than the populace (Jordan in particular).

    In fact, I think this widely held suspicion is the reason we have not (until recently) been eager to unleash democracy over there.

    However, the MORE we support anti-democratic, but (semi) rational leaders over there, the more the population resents it and rightly views us as hypocritical.

  • Clark · November 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Witness Turkey. The idea that democracies don’t cause problems for each other is, I think, largely an artificial artifact of the nature of the cold war.

    BTW – the best thing I’ve heard on the Wikileakers naivete is Daniel Drezner who quotes (linking to YouTube) Don Draper from Mad Men. Draper has just encountered some beatniks who rip on to him for his square ways. Draper responds:

    I hate to break it to you, but there is no Big Lie.
    There is no System.
    The universe is indifferent.

    People want this grand narratives that are simple yet integrated into everything. Typically, however, there is far less than meets the eye. Or as Hanlon’s Razor puts it, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

  • Author comment by CONSVLTVS · December 1, 2010 at 2:26 am

    “Or as Hanlon’s Razor puts it, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    …or in the case of the government, by incompetence.

  • Elroy · December 1, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I kind of assumed that the things being alleged of Hillary and the state department were always going on to some degree. Its like baseball, its part of the game to try and cheat somewhat without getting caught. Trying to read a catchers signals, a pitcher loading the ball, corked bats. How can there be hard and fast rules in diplomacy? You are trying to win and you do what you think you can get away with. That is not violating the public’s trust. Granted some of this might have been for the Clinton’s personal gain too.

  • kurt9 · December 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I think the effect of the Wikileaks cable dump is way over-hyped. As “Spengler” has pointed out,

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LK30Ak02.html

    The cable dump did not tell us anything that any of us who spends time on the internet did not already know. The idea that it outed many “secrets” and is a “threat to national security” is hog-wash.

    Indeed, the wikileaks actually venerated a “conservative” worldview with regards to foreign relations and about the Middle-east in particular. It also largely absolves the Israel-Palestinian conflict as the driver of current middle-east unrest.

    Most significantly, the Wikileaks demonstrates more than anything the utter incompetence of the Obama administration in foreign policy and completely discredits Hillary Clinton as Secretary of state, for her spying on diplomats.

    In anything, the Likileaks is a shot in the arm for the conservative/right wing worldview.

    I think Assange did us a great favor.

  • Elroy · December 2, 2010 at 12:39 am

    kurt9 – Are you saying that diplomats from other countries don’t do the same thing? I find that hard to believe. Is there some honor among diplomats that makes this behavior unacceptable?

  • kurt9 · December 2, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Is there some honor among diplomats that makes this behavior unacceptable?

    Actually yes. It has been accepted for several hundred years that spying is a no-no among diplomats because it makes it impossible to engage in any meaningful diplomacy.

    Speaking of the wikileaks in general, I’m sure that Assange wanted to somehow “discredit” the U.S. However, the leaks strongly reinforce a conservative/right-wing worldview with regards to international issues. I find it ironic that conservatives are complaining most loudly about these leaks when, in my opinion, they have done more than anything else over the past 40 years to support their worldview about the world.

    I think the conservatives should stop whining about the leaks for this reason.

  • Stephen · December 2, 2010 at 2:50 am

    kurt9 says:
    “I find it ironic that conservatives are complaining most loudly about these leaks when, in my opinion, they have done more than anything else over the past 40 years to support their worldview about the world.”

    This sounds like an “end justifies the means” argument, which seems to be making a comeback. Or it never went away but I just now noticed it. In any case, I think it is ok to oppose something you consider morally wrong even if it helps your side.

  • Polichinello · December 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    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.

    What leak gives you this reassurance? We’ve all known the Sauds are a bunch of fat hypocrites for decades. Really, it’s this behavior that’s fueled the dissatisfied religious cranks in their own country.

  • Maciano · December 2, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Look, WikiLeaks is just using technology and possibilities that exist today, it’s a fact of life. If you eliminate them or tried to censor them, there will come others who will find new ways.

    Governments should learn to adapt to the new reality. I understand this will be hard, considering how stubborn the music, television and movie industry have been towards downloading — from P2P Napster to Torrents to Newsgroups to VPNs. If anything, the possibility to download has only grown; more availability, faster downloads, better quality.

    Mac Donald’s appeal to responsibility is also off target. In a world of 6 billion people you only need one ‘irresponsible’ (if that would be your preferred characterization) person to leak knowledge and the secret’s out. Even in the 60s, during the Cold War’s heatest moments, there were people who smuggled nuclear secrets to the Soviets. We might like humans to be different, but they’re not. You only need one leaker.

    I must confess that Assange seems to have balls, confronted with countries like the US. Let’s see if his organization will have equally big balls confronted with the Chinese or Putin.

  • Snippet · December 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    >>> We’ve all known the Sauds are a bunch of fat hypocrites for decades. Really, it’s this behavior that’s fueled the dissatisfied religious cranks in their own country.

    Precisely!

    This is exactly what I was trying to say, tho much more succinct.

  • John · December 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    I think it is ok to oppose something you consider morally wrong even if it helps your side.

    I agree. On the other hand, it is also OK to say that what somebody did was wrong, and you don’t condone it, but it did make you better off.

  • Clark · December 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Actually yes. It has been accepted for several hundred years that spying is a no-no among diplomats because it makes it impossible to engage in any meaningful diplomacy.

    Except during the cold war where nearly all spies worked out of embassies as diplomats.

    This is really selective history. I don’t know about pre-WWII but I’d be surprised if it were only a facet of the cold war.

    More to the point it has been accepted for hundreds of years that diplomats pretend to only be engaged in diplomacy. It’s standard procedure for some to be spies.

  • kurt9 · December 3, 2010 at 2:35 am

    This sounds like an “end justifies the means” argument, which seems to be making a comeback. Or it never went away but I just now noticed it. In any case, I think it is ok to oppose something you consider morally wrong even if it helps your side.

    No, not at all. Because I believe there is nothing morally wrong with the Wikileaks. All governments, including our own, are evil and corrupt. Anyone that strikes a blow against them, even a leftist like Assange (and you have to understand how much I truly despise leftist, so this is saying something profound about my attitude), is doing freedom-oriented people like myself a great service.

    I LOVE the fact that the wikileaks occurred. I think its great and wonderful and I tell everyone this every chance I get.

  • Jim · December 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Is anyone else concerned about Assange now being sought on “sex charges”? I know nothing about the guy, but doesn’t the charge, coming at precisely this time, that he is a “sex criminal” sound rather extremely suspicious? I know this is a separate issue from the (im)morality of Wikileaks, but this bothers me.

  • Clark · December 3, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    The sex charges were all over the news early this summer. The problem is that Sweden has some rather unusually broad sex charges. It’s not what I’d have called rape for sure. Someone told me that there was an influx of feminist law makers who made charges so broad as to be ridiculous. The person in question fully admits that the sex was consensual but that the condom broke. Apparently in Sweden that’s rape.

  • Jim · December 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    So you don’t think the sex charges have any connection to him having become rather unpopular among quite a few governments?

  • panglos · December 4, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Wikileaks’ Willileaked and surely that must be a criminal offense.

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