A place for thoughts, pictures, experiences, and more during my year in Taiwan.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Open Letter to Julian Assange

Dear Mr. Assange
The recent weeks have been wrought with discussion and argument on the subject of your most recent wikileak release, which the news networks have dubbed ‘cablegate.’ This was a monumental act, and one which promises to greatly alter diplomatic landscapes around the world. My concern however, is that the cost of these actions may outweigh the perceived benefits.
I would like to preface this by saying that I am a firm supporter of governmental transparency. I believe that a government being open about its dealings and policies is paramount if one wishes to maintain a vibrant democracy. The larger the veil of ignorance between state and society, the more they start to become separate entities as opposed to two sides of the same coin. I also believe that for a private citizen to take it upon himself to bring government dealings to light requires great courage and resolve, and for that I must commend you.
My concern however is over the content of these leaks as opposed to the act. While a great deal of insight was given into the inner workings of diplomatic procedures, none of the documents detail any particularly illegal or despicable actions. This is not a release akin to the Pentagon Papers, where we discover proof of government lies regarding military operations, or even the more recent memos that detail monstrous abuse of terror detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere. What the great majority of these cables detail is in fact little more than gossip. They involve state department officials candidly discussing diplomatic standings, and in other cases doing little more than joke around (even I must admit I got a good chuckle out of the Putin-Batman comparison).
While these cables are of extreme interest both to the general public and students of politics such as myself, the price they carry is a heavy one. These leaks have dealt a mighty blow to diplomacy not just for the United States, but for countries around the world. It will take months if not years for diplomatic relations to be re-built to pre-leak levels, and the information revealed in the cables will hang over negations between states for a good long time.
I certainly understand the immediate impulse to bring secrets to light, the fact of the matter is that diplomacy is by nature two-faced, and that is why it works. It allows states to maintain cordial relations with one another while at the same time building their calculations on the pragmatic realities of state behavior. This is not to say that governments should be allowed to say one thing and do another in terms of diplomacy, but rather that there are always going to be things said at the negotiating table once the other side has left. And unless those things are of an illegal, immoral, or particularly monstrous nature, I think they should stay there. It may seem counter to our democratic principles, but as long as the fruits of diplomacy remain vibrant, it is a price we have to pay.
I therefore implore you to devote your significant skills and resolve to unmasking true injustices around the world and leave the gossip where it belongs.

Best Regards
Andrew Vitek

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