Democracy Arsenal

« Why Would Someone Vote in A Rigged Election? | Main | The Wikileak That Didn't Bark »

November 29, 2010

About Wikileaks . . .
Posted by Michael Cohen

I had vowed not to write too much on the Wikileaks yesterday, but in rather predictable fashion Glenn Greenwald has roused me into action. He writes:

Beyond specific disclosures, WikiLeaks' true crime here is to strike a major blow against the U.S. Government's authority generally and secrecy powers in particular; how one views the American Government's behavior in the world is likely to determine one's reaction to WikiLeaks (i.e., is it a good thing or a bad thing when America's attempted power projection in the world is subverted and its ability to act in the dark undermined?).  

In an odd way I agree with this sentiment. After all, one can only make this argument if they view the US role in the world in a uniformly negative light (which appears to be the case with Greenwald)! Of course, the very notion that one can sum up US actions in the world in such a binary manner as being either good or bad is a tad simplistic. For example, I am generally pretty skeptical of US military intervention around the world and yet I think Wikileaks has done terrible damage to US national security. I wonder how that fits in Greenwald's black and white narrative of the world.

To be sure the anger about the erosion of our privacy rights is not an insignificant consideration and I have no doubt that it is driving Wikileaks behavior - and underpins the arguments of its supporters. And in defense of Greenwald he has been an important and often vital voice in raising attention to these issues. But his privacy concerns, writ large, are simply misapplied to this leak.

Anyone who has worked in international affairs would understand (and this goes for Americans and non-Americans) secrecy is an essential element of diplomatic relations. Henry Farrell makes the smart point here that effective diplomacy actually relies on a healthy level of hypocrisy. The simple reality is that effective diplomacy and effective counter-terrorism often must work in the dark. To suggest otherwise demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding about how diplomats actually operate.

First of all, we rely on our diplomats to offer candid, unvarnished and secret assessments of foreign leaders - and now Wikileaks has splashed those assessments across the Internet for all the world to see. Now, for example, Turkey's leaders can read first-hand the analysis of our diplomats in Ankara about them (by the way if anyone believes that the Turkish government hasn't done similar assessments of US leaders they're crazy). How does that help anyone and how that does strike a blow "against the U.S. Government's authority generally and secrecy powers in particular"?

Short answer: it doesn't. All that's happened here is that it will now be more difficult for US diplomats to do their job; it will fray relations with a key Middle East ally and ironically it will probably lead to more not less secrecy, because diplomats will be more fearful of putting their thoughts down in cables that can then be leaked to the New York Times (a point made well here by Charles Hill). 

Or how about this story, now on the front page of the New York Times:

Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

Well now that Pakistan's media has a hold of this story how successful do you think the US will be in securing this highly enriched uranium? All that has happened here is that US diplomats in Pakistan will now find it that much more difficult to do their jobs and will likely be blocked in their efforts to secure materials that could potentially be diverted into a makeshift nuclear weapon. In the end, isn't the sort of thing that we want our diplomats to be doing?

There is a reason these deliberations were kept secret - and it's not because the US government desires lying to the American people; it's actually to protect the Pakistani government and make some sort diplomatic arrangement possible.  

Again, too much secrecy in government can clearly have dangerous consequences (See: Bush Administration 2001-2009) and there is a vital role not only for journalists, but also for whistleblowers in leaking information of illegality or mistruths by public officials. But what Wikileaks has done is something altogether different; they have basically rejected the notion that governments can EVER operate in secret. They have rejected the notion that US actions on the global stage are legitimate or serve a global public interest. They reflect a view of American power that is nearly uniformly negative and adversarial.

And in the end they have fundamentally undermined US national security and effective US diplomacy (in just one other example, leaked cables may be used as the final weapon for Republican Senators to justify their vote against the New START treaty).  So I suppose Greenwald's argument that these leaks will weaken US authority and secrecy in particular is basically correct.

What is wrong is the misguided belief that this is a good thing.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c04d69e20134899a0be0970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference About Wikileaks . . .:

Comments

"terrible damage to US national security" is a bit much, given that the quoted sources point out that the documents jeopardize little, in contrast to Koh's unfortunately hyperbolic claims. The only likely casualty I found is the FDP notetaker, and that is due as much to poor tradecraft on the part of the cable's author. The source on the Iranian journalist in London was redacted either by the leaker or Wikileaks.

Leaks are potentially dangerous but either the leaker's access was limited or the leaker omitted genuinely harmful material. There is nothing here that it not broadly known -- US cruise missiles hit Yemen -- and many items that bolster the governments' credibility -- Yemen will not allow US personnel in the area of counter-terrorist operations.

These leaks could raise the tenor of debate: the Israeli government does not fear an Iranian bolt-from-the-blue if Iran acquires nuclear weapons. Rather, Iran will be better positioned to support HAMAS and Hezbollah, and other states will seek nuclear deterrents of their own. (09TELAVIV2482)


' Oh, hullo, Alan,' I said, unencouragingly.
I waded to the rock and picked up Sophie's shoes.UGG Boots Clearance
' Catch!' I called as I threw them to her.
One she caught, the other fell into the water, but she re?trieved it.
'What are you doing?' Alan asked.
I told him we were catching the shrimp-things. As I said it I stepped casually out of the water on to the rock. I had

never cared much for what I knew of Alan at the best of times, and he was by no means welcome now.
'They're no good. Fish are what you want to go after,' he said contemptuously.UGG Boots Clearance
He turned his attention to Sophie, who was wading to the bank, shoes in hand, some yards farther up.
'Who's she?' he inquired,UGG Boots

Clearance
I delayed answering while I put on my shoes. Sophie had disappeared into the bushes now.
'Who is she?' he repeated. 'She's not one of the —' He broke off suddenly. I looked up and saw that he was staring

down at something beside me. I turned quickly. On the flat rock was a footprint, still undried. Sophie had rested one

foot there as she bent over to tip her catch into the jar. The mark was still damp enough to show the print of all

six toes clearly. I kicked over the jar. A cascade of water and struggling shrimps poured down the rock, obliterating

the footprint, but I knew, with a sickly feeling, that the harm had been done.

href="http://cheapestuggsclearance.com" title=Clearance UGGS">Clearance UGGS
' Ho!' said Alan, and there was a gleam in his eye that I did not like. 'Who is she?' he demanded again.
'She's a friend of mine,' I told him.
'What's her name?'
I did not answer that.
'Huh, I'll soon find out, anyway,' he said with a grin.
' It's no business of yours,' I told him.
He took no notice of that; he had turned and was standing looking along the bank towards the point where Sophie had

disappeared into the bushes.Ugg boots

clearance
I ran up the stone and flung myself on him. He was bigger than I was, but it took him by surprise, and we went down

together in a whirl of arms and legs. All I knew of fighting was what I had learnt from a few sharp scuffles. I

simply hit out, and did my furious best. My intention was to gain a few minutes for Sophie to put her shoes on and

hide; if she had a little start, he would never be able to find her, as I knew from experience. Then he recovered

from his first surprise and got in a couple of blows on my face which made me forget about Sophie and sent me at it,

tooth and nail, on my own account.
We rolled back and forth on a patch of turf. I kept on hitting and struggling furiously, but his weight started to

tell. He began to feel more sure of himself, and I, more futile. However, I had gained something: I'd stopped him

going after Sophie straight away. Gradually he got the upper hand, presently he was sitting astride of me, pummelling

me as I squirmed. I kicked out and struggled, but there wasn't much I could do but raise my arms to protect my head.

Then, suddenly, there was a yelp of anguish, and the blows ceased. He flopped down on top of me. I heaved him off,

and sat up to see Sophie standing there with a large rough stone in her hand.
'I hit him,' she said proudly, and with a touch of wonder?ment. 'Do you think he's dead?'
Hit him she certainly had. He lay white-faced and still, with the blood trickling down his cheek, but he was

breathing all right, so he certainly wasn't dead.
'Oh, dear,' said Sophie in sudden reaction, and dropped the stone.
We looked at Alan, and then at one another. Both of us, I think, had the impulse to do something for him, but we were

afraid.
'No one must ever know. No one!' Mrs Wender had said, so intensely. And now this boy did know. It frightened us.
I got up. I reached for Sophie's hand and pulled her away.
' Come along,' I told her urgently.
John Wender listened carefully and patiently while we told him about it.
'You're quite sure he saw? It wasn't simply that he was curious because Sophie was a stranger?' he asked at the end.
'No,' I said. 'He saw the footmark; that's why he wanted to catch her.'
He nodded slowly.
'I see,' he said, and I was surprised how calmly he said it.
He looked steadily at our faces. Sophie's eyes were big with a mixture of alarm and excitement. Mine must have been

pink-rimmed, with dirty smears trailing from them. He turned his head and met his wife's gaze steadily.
' I'm afraid it's come, my dear. This is it,' he said.
' Oh, Johnny -' Mrs Wender's face was pale and distressed.
' Sorry, Martie, but it is, you know. We knew it had to come sooner or later. Thank God it's happened while I'm here.

How long will it take you to be ready?'
' Not long, Johnny. I've kept things nearly ready, always.'
' Good. Let's get busy, then.'
He got up and went round the table to her. He put his arms round her, bent down and kissed her. Tears stood in her

eyes.
'Oh, Johnny dear. Why are you so sweet to me, when all I've brought you is — ?' He stopped that with another kiss.
They looked steadily into one another's eyes for a moment, then, without a word, they both turned to look at Sophie.
Mrs Wender became her usual self again. She went briskly to a cupboard, took out some food, and put it on the table.
'Wash first, you dirty things,' she told us. ' Then eat this up. Every bit of it.'

Then eat this up. Every bit of it

Michael, I think the example you're using is pretty telling. We have to act covertly in Pakistan because Pakistan's people would not support what we're doing.

What if I suggested to you that it would be okay for Pakistan to use secrecy to commit unpopular acts within the United States? There's no way you'd support that, right?

"Anyone who has worked in international affairs would understand (and this goes for Americans and non-Americans) secrecy is an essential element of diplomatic relations"

If you want to make this case effectively and persuasively to people who are not part of the "club" of which you speak, you need to do a lot more than just assert your personal authority and give one anecdote about uruanium in Pakistan. And sneering at someone as smart and dedicated to liberty as Glenn Greenwald doesn't really help your case at all.

I hope world place!

study it,maybe you will be famous on that!

'eat this up. Every bit of it.'I like this words!

In summer, we should wear a skirt that has swinging scene, wearing a small skirt that can expose body, with a variety of silver jewelry, pandora necklace, rings and pandora bracelets. Our youth should be bloom in this season.
Occasionally I pass a Pandora bracelet store, and that beautiful blue robin makes this hot summer more comfortable, and gives people a refreshing cool feeling. We can go the shop to take a look at that beautiful fine pandora jewellery. That beautiful jewelry on there is really very enjoyable. This makes me to think of San Mao. San Mao is a writer who I like most, I often read her book, he has a lot of collection of the treasure, those treasures may not be very valuable things, but each one has its own story.

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Emeritus Contributors
Subscribe
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Email: 
Powered by TypePad

Disclaimer

The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use