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Re: Why is Julian Assange un-American?
My personal feeling is that any allegedly democratic government that is so hubristic that it will lie blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade probably needs a self-correcting mechanism. There are times when it's necessary that the powerful be shown that there are checks on its behavior, particularly when the systems normally designed to do that are breaking down. Now is one of those times. . . . .As for the substance of the revelations, I don't know what the results will be. But in the world of diplomacy, embarrassment is meaningful and I'm not sure that it's a bad thing for all these people to be embarrassed right now. Puncturing a certain kind of self-importance --- especially national self-importance --- may be the most worthwhile thing they do. A little humility is long overdue.
The Economist's Democracy in America blog has an equally excellent analysis:
The careerists scattered about the world in America's intelligence agencies, military, and consular offices largely operate behind a veil of secrecy executing policy which is itself largely secret. American citizens mostly have no idea what they are doing, or whether what they are doing is working out well. The actually-existing structure and strategy of the American empire remains a near-total mystery to those who foot the bill and whose children fight its wars. And that is the way the elite of America's unelected permanent state, perhaps the most powerful class of people on Earth, like it.
As Scott Shane, the New York Times' national security reporter, puts it: "American taxpayers, American citizens pay for all these diplomatic operations overseas and you know, it is not a bad thing when Americans actually have a better understanding of those negotiations". Mr Shane goes on to suggest that "Perhaps if we had had more information on these secret internal deliberations of governments prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we would have had a better understanding of the quality of the evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."
I'd say providing that information certainly would have been a socially worthy activity, even if it came as part of a more-or-less indiscriminate dump of illegally obtained documents. I'm glad to see that the quality of discussion over possible US efforts to stymie Iran's nuclear ambitions has already become more sophisticated and, well, better-informed due to the information provided by WikiLeaks.
If secrecy is necessary for national security and effective diplomacy, it is also inevitable that the prerogative of secrecy will be used to hide the misdeeds of the permanent state and its privileged agents. I suspect that there is no scheme of government oversight that will not eventually come under the indirect control of the generals, spies, and foreign-service officers it is meant to oversee. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy.
The central goal of WikiLeaks is to prevent the world's most powerful factions -- including the sprawling, imperial U.S. Government -- from continuing to operate in the dark and without restraints. Most of the institutions which are supposed to perform that function -- beginning with the U.S. Congress and the American media -- not only fail to do so, but are active participants in maintaining the veil of secrecy. WikiLeaks, whatever its flaws, is one of the very few entities shining a vitally needed light on all of this. It's hardly surprising, then, that those factions -- and their hordes of spokespeople, followers and enablers -- see WikiLeaks as a force for evil. That's evidence of how much good they are doing.
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Two related items: FAIR documents how severely and blatantly the New York Times reporting distorted some of these documents in order (as always) to demonize Iran and the "threat" it poses. And Assange, in an interview with Forbes, says that the next leak will target a major U.S. bank.
And here is the above-referenced BBC segment with Bill Keller:
UPDATE: Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked today about the WikiLeaks disclosures and he said this:
“Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. . . .
“Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.’’
To recap: warnings about the dangers from WikiLeaks are "significantly overwrought" and the impact on foreign policy: "fairly modest." So it appears that the political class and its eager enablers in the media world and foreign policy community have -- as usual -- severely exaggerated national security threats in order to manipulate the public and its emotional reactions. Shocking, I know.
UPDATE II: I was on Canada's CBC earlier tonight talking about these issues; it can be seen here. I'll also be on MSNBC tomorrow, at roughly 10:00 a.m., on the same topic.
More: Glenn Greenwald