On the historical necessity of WikiLeaks
Here is how the president put it while addressing Congress on Jan. 8,1918. "The program of the world's peace...is our program" and among the 14 prerequisites to peace is "1.
Given the historical nature of the public mind, few people will recall that as the United States prepared to enter World War I, American citizens were quite exercised over the issue of "open diplomacy."
Indeed, at the time, President Woodrow Wilson made it the No. 1 issue of his 14 points - the points that constituted US war aims, and so the ones for which some 320, 518 American soldiers were killed or wounded in the subsequent year. Here is how the president put it while addressing Congress on Jan. 8,1918. "The program of the world's peace...is our program" and among the 14 prerequisites to peace is "1. Open covenants of peace must be arrived at, after which there will surely be no private international action or rulings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view."
So what would Wilson, or for that matter the educated and aware American citizen supporting him in 1918, say about Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other US officials and "pundits" running about and insisting on the absolute need for secret diplomacy, while calling those who defy that standard criminals? What indeed? The truth is that there has always been a gap between the interests of the general citizenry and interests as they take shape at the level of state policy. It is within that gap that secret diplomacy thrives.
One can see this most clearly in the case of dictatorships. But what about democracies? Well, the truth is that they too are run by political and economic elites whose interests are rarely the same as the general public. That is why, when the government uses the term "national interest," one should always be suspicious. When it comes to foreign policy this can be most clearly seen in the policies long adopted toward places like Cuba and Israel. A very good argument can be made that the policies pursued for decades by the US government toward these two nations is no more than product of special interest manipulation with no reference to actual national interest or well being. Indeed, in the former case it led to an illegal invasion of Cuba by US backed forces in 1961 and no doubt encouraged the Cubans to allow Soviet missiles on their territory in 1962. The latter has contributed to numerous disastrous actions on the part of the US in the Middle East out of which came the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. None of this is in the interest of anyone other than the elites whose semisecret machinations lead to the policies pursued.
The difference between dictatorships and democracies are ones of style and, in a democracy, the option to shift emphasis in terms of elite interests served, each time there is an election. Democratic elites have learned that they do not need to rely on the brute force characteristic of dictatorships as long as they can sufficiently control the public information environment. You restrict meaningful free speech to the fringes of the media, to the "outliers" along the information bell curve. You rely on the sociological fact that the vast majority of citizens will either pay no attention to that which they find irrelevant to their immediate lives, or they will believe the official story line about places and happenings of which they are otherwise ignorant. Once you have identified the official story line with the official policy being pursued, loyalty to the policy comes to equate to patriotism. It is a shockingly simple formula and it usually works. Given this scenario, Woodrow Wilson and his notion of open diplomacy represents an historical anomaly. When, in 1919, he arrived at Versailles for the peace conference, the representatives of Britain, France and Italy thought him a hopeless idealist. And perhaps he really was. Whether Wilson was or was not an idealist cannot affect the fact that secret diplomacy almost never represents the public interest.