I’m going to take a break from talking about dad today.
Wikileaks finally screwed up and managed to make some of its strongest supporters (or at least those governments who stayed silently on the sideline) turn on it. A classic screwup!
It is sad that an organization like Wikileaks ever thought that it was needed. Ideally, if the governments of the world are doing anything immoral, then the press should be doing some investigating. Of course, the credibility of the American press can be found on a shelf in the Smithsonian along with other things that are a part of our collective past.
However, it exists, and frankly I have little problem with them exposing immoral actions. The problem is, even from the beginning, you had to wonder if that really was their mission. I don’t care who is at fault (China, Russia, Iran, or even the United States).
Take for instance, Scientology. I don’t know much about Scientology except that it was founded by a science fiction author and has incorporated into it many aspects that the average person would consider “science fiction”. To my knowledge, any crimes that they may be perpetrating are relatively small ones, but given that Scientology is linked to famous people, people want to know what its deal is. Thus, Wikileaks publishes the secret documents outlining Scientology, in a manner akin to the National Enquirer. That was the first thing that had me scratching my head. What was the real purpose for releasing information that does not really appear to outline highly immoral actions?
Then the whole diplomatic cable escapade happened … the shocker was: there was next to nothing shocking. This is something that Wikileaks should have known, but apparently didn’t. Instead of the United States having egg on its face, the United States is being painted the victim, and Wikileaks the bully. Even Iran went public calling this a false flag operation by the CIA to make Washington look good.
But wait, there’s less.
Since Wikileaks has now decided that diplomatic cables are open for publication, there are not too many governments who want anything to do with them. In short, there was no reason to publish those cables except to try and embarrass the United States. There were no unbelievably bad things being described. Certainly most other governments agreed with what was said about their neighbors (note how there were no protests about Silvio Burlesconi being “on the take” and “a weak leader”, or Angela Merkel being described as “safe and uncreative”). Wikileaks announced that these cables would reveal how the U.S. uses diplomats as spies … but not knowing much about diplomats, they mistook “spying” for what anyone else would see as routine correspondence between embassies and Washington.
Let’s go back in time … for those of you who have ever read The Guns of August, you know that Barbara Tuchman postulates that the entirety of World War I was based on a breakdown in communication between the major powers of Europe. In an era when communication and translation took much longer, and diplomacy was based more on assumption than on direct communication, the European powers fooled themselves into believing that they could interpret the meaning of each other’s moves. Purely defensive moves were interpreted as overtly hostile acts, and before you knew it, armies were clashing and millions were dead in a war that on many levels could have been prevented easily in the modern world through diplomacy. Some of you may recall that even within the Japanese government of 1941, there was a breakdown in communication between the home islands and their Washington embassy which caused the Pearl Harbor attack to proceed before the official notification of the declaration of war, putting Japan in the uncomfortable position of being an aggressor in an undeclared war instead of the strategic victor after informing the United States that a state of war formally exists (imagine how that might have historically affected the justification for the use of nuclear weapons later on …). The famous red line between the White House and the Kremlin was installed after the Cuban Missile Crisis after President Kennedy began seeing parallels between that crisis and the start of World War I; that is direct diplomatic contact could have averted a crisis that nearly led to a nuclear holocaust.
So, we all accept that diplomacy is a good thing, and that anything harming the diplomatic process is a bad thing. That’s where Wikileaks royally effed up! In publishing these cables, I think it can be safely interpreted that their organization was directly attempting to disrupt the diplomatic relations of the United States with other nations by spreading distrust. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to paint the American government as being eternally saintly in its diplomatic relations, but I think it is ignorant to assume that other nations don’t know that. They all do, and they all know that they are all pretty equally guilty of the same thing (would anyone be shocked if Sweden’s Foreign Minister sent a diplomatic cable to the Prime Minister saying that Hilary Clinton was “bitchy”. She is the Secretary of State … she had better be bitchy!).
It is a long standing point of international relations: you have the military, you have your intelligence apparatus, and you have the diplomats. The diplomats are there for communication only, and are afforded certain protection, because interfering in the job of a diplomat is what leads to breakdown in communication, and we have seen what happens when that takes place. Since there was nothing in the diplomatic cables that showed the United States abusing the diplomatic relationships with other nations, or using their diplomats in contravention of their diplomatic uses, it is possible to conclude that Wikileaks was attempting to interfere in the jobs of diplomats. I will not sit here and say that war is going to be the result … but there are certainly a great many international disputes the U.S. is a party to (Korea, the Middle East being two big ones), and if the U.S. is unable to actively participate in them because some level of cultural mistrust now exists, the possibilities of conflict increase, even if it is slightly.
Wikileaks may have reduced its reputation to that of tabloid journalism now, which on one hand is good, since they have shown what may be their true colors: rather than trying to expose the truth, they were mostly a bunch of hackers trying to thumb their nose at authority.
On the other hand, if Wikileaks is gone, who is watching the watchers?