Friday, December 03, 2010

Wikileaks or the loneliness of Private Manning

For your eyes only

 David Seaton's News Links
The diplomatic corps of any sovereign country is an instrument of the state.  It does what the head of state and his/her government decide that it should do.

Even if there were a total regime change in the USA, one of any political color you like: a military junta, "socialist with American characteristics", an Islamic republic, you name it, the United States of America (or whatever it would be called) would still have over 300 million people and it presumably  would be bounded by Canada in the north and Mexico in the South, with a Pacific coast and and an Atlantic coast and would have much of the vital interests that it has today and it would have embassies around the world to defend those interests, and I would imagine most of the same people that represent it today would still represent it then.
Getting back to bare basics, as I said in a post awhile back:
Let us assume for a moment that the United States of America is a democracy and it's officials represent the American people and that its institutions genuinely represent, define and defend the interests of the American people.
That is the assumption, that we, as American citizens must question and no other. Is the government of the USA legitimately empowered to govern its citizens and to define and defend their interests? Then, that being so, I repeat, the diplomatic corp is merely an instrument for that. If that isn't so, we should fix it urgently, but not, I think by damaging America's diplomatic capabilities.

Assange has damaged that instrument. Not only America's but the instrument of all who wish or must deal with the USA. Thus Julian Assange has damaged something that belongs to the US government, which in its turn belongs to the citizens of the USA. Something must be done to deter him from doing this anymore and to punish him severely enough to deter others from imitating him.

I sincerely don't believe that anarchy is viable option for a country of 310,836,000 people.

I repeat, any conceivable political construction of the USA: junta, people's or Islamic republic, monarchy etc, would have to try to apprehend and punish Julian Assange, pour encourager les autres. That, or simply go out of the government business.

To avoid being punished, Mr. Assange affirms that he possesses a secret so secret that, if revealed, would cause unimaginable harm to the United States, and that this secret is in an encrypted file at the following address:  
And it is said that if any harm should befall him, his followers will publish the encryption key to this file on the Internet, thus causing even more harm to the interests of the American people (always supposing, remember, that the government of the USA represents the citizens of the USA.)

In short, Julian Assange has the chutzpah to blackmail the United States of America.

This is beginning to sound like the plot of a Bruce Willis, "Die Hard" film, twitchy terrorist included.

Finally, this is coming down to the question: are the people of the United States of America and its institutions Julian Assange's bitch?

Here is a sample of Assange's arrogance, in an answer to a quite civil question from a former British diplomat, this is taken from a live, blog interview in The Guardian:
I am a former British diplomat. In the course of my former duties I helped to coordinate multilateral action against a brutal regime in the Balkans, impose sanctions on a renegade state threatening ethnic cleansing, and negotiate a debt relief programme for an impoverished nation. None of this would have been possible without the security and secrecy of diplomatic correspondence, and the protection of that correspondence from publication under the laws of the UK and many other liberal and democratic states. An embassy which cannot securely offer advice or pass messages back to London is an embassy which cannot operate. Diplomacy cannot operate without discretion and the protection of sources. This applies to the UK and the UN as much as the US. In publishing this massive volume of correspondence, Wikileaks is not highlighting specific cases of wrongdoing but undermining the entire process of diplomacy. If you can publish US cables then you can publish UK telegrams and UN emails.

My question to you is: why should we not hold you personally responsible when next an international crisis goes unresolved because diplomats cannot function.
Julian Assange:
If you trim the vast editorial letter to the singular question actually asked, I would be happy to give it my attention.
The guy's on a roll, next thing you know he'll be trashing hotel rooms.

I was talking this morning to a fellow who does mergers and acquisitions for one of the big Spanish banks: they've done deals in the USA, in South America, in China, in the Middle East... in a sense the M&A people are like the bank's diplomats... They are in constant conversations with people who are not exactly adversaries, but of a different organization. The Bank people know what they are willing to pay, but it is important that the people across the table not have that information. All the bank's internal conversations are held in the utmost confidentiality, as are those with the people they are negotiating with... it is essential. 

My friend is totally mystified. What he couldn't understand is how the Americans let a hamburger like Private Manning  have access to such important information.  He wonders, as I do, if America is showing signs of dementia praecox. That is the real story here, because the basic lines of American policy, warts and all, we already knew and it has been going on for decades. As yet I have not seen anything that really surprises me, except the fact that I am able to read this confidential traffic on the Internet and what that means going forward.

What I am driving at, and what I think that the British diplomat and my banker friend were asserting, is that doing deals is a process, one where confidentiality is vital and where without confidentiality the deals cannot be done, and Assange is making that more difficult, perhaps impossible.  Since these are deals with enormous economic and geopolitical significance, the freezing up of communication between diplomats could have historic consequences... bad consequences... and then there is this too: who ever elected Julian Assange to dynamite the foreign policy of the United State of America? Who is he responsible to? To "God and history" as Franco said he was?

In closing this post, just to note that, in a parliamentary democracy, something as big as this might bring down the government, might lead to early elections. In our system that isn't an option, but I think it would be a good idea if Hillary Clinton tendered her resignation. 

This disaster probably isn't Hillary's fault, but it has happened in her department, on her watch, and the government can't just go on as if nothing had happened. Heads must roll and all those responsible must pay for their errors. Or is the only one that is left holding the bag for all this going to be poor Private Manning? He may spend the rest of his life in jail... alone? DS


Anonymous said...

Dear David,

Once upon a time I would have expected that surely Mrs. Clinton would do the honorable thing and fall on her sword. Nothing however in the country's recent past leads me to believe this brand of honor any longer exists (in any measurable quantity) within our government.

nancydrew said...

Private Manning could be looking at a firing squad. And Julian Assange will feel nothing about that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, heads must roll. This whole financial meltdown has... Oh, you mean this most recent thing!

stunted said...

See Juan Cole, 05 Dec. 2010