Why The Wikileaks Document Release Is Key To A Functioning Democracy

from the the-difference-between-democracy-and-the-state dept

As various politicians and bureaucrats freak out and get the wrong message from the latest Wikileaks document leak, the Economist has an excellent explanation of why the leak is actually a very good thing in preserving American democracy. Will it make some diplomats jobs harder? Absolutely. But diplomacy isn't supposed to be easy. And what the documents reveal is that the US has a history of doing things it's not supposed to do. The really key insight in the Economist piece is that there's a difference between elected officials and "the state" made up of career bureaucrats, who are not necessarily subject to democratic pressures -- allowing them to make moves where they are not, in fact, answerable to the American public. And that's a problem:
The United States is nominally a democracy, but it's sadly ridiculous to think this means very much. To get at the value of WikiLeaks, I think it's important to distinguish between the government--the temporary, elected authors of national policy--and the state--the permanent bureaucratic and military apparatus superficially but not fully controlled by the reigning government. 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".

...

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.
A better informed public is not a bad thing... except if your entire job is based on trying to keep people in the dark. Look at who's complaining the most about Wikileaks and you realize that it's the people who benefit from not being held accountable for their actions.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2010 @ 11:01am

    Defense secrets should be kept secret

    I strongly disagree with the idea that classified defense documents should be released; what they release also harms other nations. Not just USA! I think WikiLeaks is playing a very dangerous game. I'm not an old fart of the cold war era, but I am aware that 'people with an intent to harm' are also watching. People seem to forget that we are being looked at, by very motivated people that look for the weaker spots. They take time to plan an attack. The wrong bits of info released in public jeopardize the defences. Certain stuff needs to be kept behind well closed doors, etc, and only looked at by a group of people with a "need to know".

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer
Anonymous number for texting and calling from Hushed. $25 lifetime membership, use code TECHDIRT25
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.