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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

WikiLeaks: secret diplomacy « Previous | |Next »
December 9, 2010

Here are some good questions about the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable dump from Dan Gilmor, who is within the Berkman Center for Internet & Society community.

What is emerging strongly is the defence of diplomatic secrecy in international affairs in opposition to Assange's views about shifting US regime behaviour. Aaron Brady has a good analysis of Assange's view at zunguzungu. In contrast to this kind of nonsense in the Australian media, Brady starts from Assange's premise that authoritarian governments--among which he includes the U.S. and other major and semi-major world powers--are, at root, conspiracies. This allows Assange, ever the hacker, to put secrecy at the heart of his political philosophy.


This is a defence of diplomatic secrecy by a former US diplomat who was based in Indonesia during the Suharto regime. The heart of Scott Gilmour's argument is that what US diplomats do is work for human rights; that they use secret cables to do it; and that Wikileaks today is impeding the efforts of American diplomats to “make the world a little better.” It does so because it destroys the trust and reputations of many American diplomats who do good work.

A convincing rebuttal, which highlights why citizens need to know what their governments are doing in their name, is provided by Aaron Bady at zunguzungu.

The US did little to prevent the 24 years of institutionalized repression, torture, murder, and more torture and murder by the Suharto regime, reckoned that the Indonesian military could keep the peace in East Timor during the referendum for independence and opposed UN peacekeeping action in East Timor. The US military was behind Indonesia’s military which was behind the militia violence in Timor because Suharto was anti-communist.

So we need to treat the claims made by US diplomats about the significance of their information with skepticism. The inner nexus of power in Washington maintains an unbending commitment to the idea of the “new American century” and the status of the United States as the world's only military superpower. The diplomats work for an empire that kills innocent people to protect its global and geo-stratetgc interests. So they cover their tracks.

What we have learned from the WikiLeaks is that Australia's brutal realism about the US needing to contain China with force if necessary:

Calling himself "a brutal realist on China," Rudd argued for "multilateral engagement with bilateral vigor" -- integrating China effectively into the international community and allowing it to demonstrate greater responsibility, all while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong.

This does not involve a realist analysis of what circumstances would that course of action be necessary, as opposed to helping to incorporate China into multilateral global institutions. As Hugh White points out Australia is not doing the hard geo-strategic thinking, even though it stands between China and the US.

Australia's foreign policy under Rudd appears to be accepting, working within, and endorsing the current American approach to China, which more or less guarantees contested and possibly hostile relations between Washington and Beijing in future because China will contest American hegemony in the Asia Pacific Region.

Yet power is shifting in this region towards China. As Clinton stated China is now the USA's banker. Australia's economic interests lie with China. That means Australia's national interests in the region are quite different to the global interests of the US.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:04 AM | | Comments (24)


Hugh White concludes his post on The Interpreter at the Lowy Institute for International Policy thus:

All of which shows that on the most important foreign policy issue for a generation, Australian diplomacy is at best indolent, muddled and incoherent, and perhaps profoundly and tragically mistaken.

The foreign policy of the Rudd+ the Gillard Governments is a continuation of the Howard Government's. All the way with the USA.

Where is the independent thinking?

Australian's foreign policy is being run by the little Americans in the Gillard Government. Their main concern is to please the Americans by showing that Australia's national interest is identical to America's.
They cover their obsequious by referring to Australia's 'special relationship' with a global power that is in decline.

Let's see if I understand this...

To the square-jawed, rugged "realists" on the right... the INDIVIDUAL is paramount. The individual is wise and resourceful enough to know what is good for their community. Big government is intrusive and cannot be trusted. The INDIVIDUAL should decide what is best. It's all about freedom! And.... of course, being elitist is a bad, baaad thing!

Yet these flinty-eyed wingnuts are frothing at the mouth and screeching for the blood of someone who... is challenging the machinations of the power elite and amoral governments.


Aaron Brady’s summary of Assange states is better than the texts they paraphrase:

[Assange] decides…that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s information environment…. The idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire.

Assange's strategy is to bring about a state of affairs in which secrets cannot be securely held, and he wants it to do this so that the currency of all secrets will be debased. He wants governments-cum-conspiracies to be rendered paranoid by the leaks and therefore be left with little energy to pursue its externally focused aims.

Gilmour's self-serving (and pretentious) piece is a terrific example of the mentality that has afflicted Western governments for decades: the fatuous notion that they can influence tyrannical governments to do the right thing as long as they conceal the truth about these regimes from their own citizens. No doubt the exact same mindset is guiding Canberra today in the way it spins news out of Afghanistan.

"We need to tell lies to do good" is a convenient all-purpose excuse for secrecy. The real reason is usually that lies serve the interests of those who tell them.

In all the sound and fury over WikiLeaks, hardly anyone seems to be pointing to the unbelievable ineptitude of a system that allegedly allowed a lowly army private to download so much supposedly sensitive material. If the leaks will really do the harm asserted by their critics, the entire command structure responsible for US State Department security should face disciplinary action.

On a related note, the pompous prat Victor Davis Hughes is the latest pundit to equate WikiLeaks with the theft of personal communications between private individuals, a misconception I've also read in Australian blog comments. The distinction between the private and public spheres seems to escape these people completely.

A loss of trust among diplomatic actors leads to the breakdown of backchannels and the hoarding of secrets. The WikiLeaak cable dump is having an effect already.

Based on the content of these leaked documents, I'd say those backchannels are in need of a damn good enema!

Oh... and about today's Mark Arbib story...

Try this little exercise: Replace the word "American" in that story, with the word "Japanese".

Now, is it that hard to picture a host of politicians, reporters and media commentators asking (very loudly) about what sort of "payoff" Arbib was expecting for his loyalty?

But today we heard... what?

Wayne Swan said something smart on my tv the other night...he said something like 'Leaks arent always true'

Apparently Assange is getting messages of support pushed under his prison door by other inmates at Wandsworth:

But in the US, Glenn Greenwald complains that defending Wikileaks is a very uphill job:

I see Ken
Lovell is here.
Been censored off the other site, too, have you?
Gutless as as much as vindictive and dishonest aren't they?

what site? What kind of censorship?

the Murdoch online journal larva prod.
They are currently doing a job on Assange. My comments, starting with a question about a thread starter of Anna Goldsworthy, have been censored (again).
I think because I showed up one the moderator sock-puppets.
No foul language, no abuse just a few points and a question.
The current thread there, from Kim, tries to talk about "free association of ideas", but you don't get a go there unless you slavishly accede to their weird theories about blokes,in particular.
They are as megalomaniac and propaganda oriented as the Murdoch press.-if you dont "buy" their line, lock stock and barrel, you are booted.
I'd rather Chris Mitchell than that mob, actually.
At least you know what to expect from him, at least the knife goes for your front rather than your back.
I suppose that's the difference between mere reaction and true fascism.

think they may be talkin bout the blog for the criminally spasticated

On the thread topic, am rofl.
How dare that liar write crap like that.
"do good work"
Like setting up coups, assasinations, dare we say the forbidden word;"
honey traps" to trap activists and hand them over to reactionaries in their debt to deal them later, private. Australia "thinking" about it's role in the world, rofl.
Only louder.

I tried to have a look to see what was going on re LP currently doing a job on Assange. I would have thought that they would be supportive of Assange's making public the leaks.

But I got this message: "This domain name expired on Dec 09 2010 09:39PM Click here to renew it."

What is happening, from what I can make out, is that there no real distinction between most of the establishment journalists and the government; the former serve the latter. The USA it seems is involved in a secret war in Yemen: --it has secretly launched missile attacks on suspected terrorists in Yemen, strikes that have reportedly killed dozens of civilians.

Paul to be fair I don't believe I've ever been censored at LP. I'm a long-time commenter here; I find Gary's site an oasis of calm rational discussion amongst the chronic ill temper and hysteria of the rest of the blogosphere.

LP seems to have been taken down in another hacking attack. Contemporary hacking attacks are the equivalent of sending a gang of thugs to break up an opponent's political meeting. At least nobody gets to bleed this way, which I guess shows how the human race is becoming more civilised.

For this thread, can announce that having let off steam and then watched the Reds beat North Queensland Placidity in the soccer, am back to echo wholeheartedly
Ken's view concerning this blog site. It is a good, quiet place to come to.
Quiggin's blog is like it, too.
Larvatus Prodeo?
OK, it's a good blog and it has the blessing of immediacy.
But you do get sick of the harsh atmosphere at big blogs and worse still, media run blogs. If they were buggered around by flying squaddy technos, it could explain much.
Never mind, they'll hate me guts again and I'll resent them for it and maybe even find something more constructive to do, than sit on my butt yapping thru a word processor about politics, after all what can a dolt with two left legs do about the so called real world, anyway?

I've been stewing over Gillard's initial comments on Wikileaks. She said:

I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It is a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do.

Assange has broken no Australian law. Gillard has never said what Australian law has been broken. Does she mean an American law?

Assange is an Australian citizen whose rights should be supported by the state instead of seeing how his passport could be taken off him. It's another indication of an Australian Government seeking to please the Americans the expense of standing up to looking after it owns citizens.

This has pushed me further away from the ALP.

About that cartoon...

I notice Uncle Sam's largish security blanket does NOT cover the whole planet.

And surely that's part of the problem, isn't it. The US government and it's people will NEVER feel entirely secure. Their lifestyle, paranoia, and sense of entitlement requires the ENTIRE globe to be under some sort of control. But that won't happen any time soon.

That's a very perceptive remark from mars 08.
Yes, the paranoia.

In The net will win against deception Paul Barratt says that deceptiveness around Afghanistan is unconscionable:

The situation it suggests is that all Western governments involved know the outlook in Afghanistan is bleak, but none is prepared to confess this to the public. They all cling on, feeding us their bromides, hoping that when the war is lost it will be on someone else's watch. Meanwhile, they attend the funerals, praise the fallen and comfort the families.

He goes on to say:
This particular game is up - governments will sooner or later be outed when they say one thing to foreign governments and another to their public. The world is witnessing something like a collision between galaxies; the hot, swirling mass of secret diplomatic correspondence has come into collision with the rapidly changing and supremely adaptable mass of the internet. The latter will devour the former, and governments had better get used to that. The leaks are technology-driven, occurring because they can.

About time too. I am very tired of the deceptions, the spin from the spin doctors and the withholding of information about the real agenda of the political class.

international diplomacy is just a type of lying. It's time we put a stop to the political class deciding what's good for us in order to defend their status quo.

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