The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


What is Wikileaks really accomplishing?

WikiLeaks will fail at its goal to motivate governments to be more transparent, but it certainly will not fail, and has not failed, to embarrass embassies worldwide. Diplomacy is notoriously intricate, filled with back room deals and tough moral choices, and the future of diplomacy is not more transparency; on the contrary, it is increased secrecy.

Since 2007, WikiLeaks has published numerous documents ranging from Sarah Palin’s emails to war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq. “By 2008,” Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, said WikiLeaks held “1.2 million documents, including leaks about Kenyan police killings and the treatment of Guantanamo’s prisoners.”

While the seriousness of the now public information varies from trivially embarrassing to down-right diplomatically debilitating, WikiLeaks only increases awareness of toxic issues without actually causing a drastic shift in foreign policy practices, or so it would seem. Likewise, WikiLeaks has the ability to seriously complicate relations between countries as well as risk the lives of informants.

Because of the sheer volume of documents that WikiLeaks publishes, coupled with the speed at which they have released documents in the past, there is never a guarantee of the safety of informants even if WikiLeaks has attempted to remove all of the names of informants from the documents. In a PBS documentary entitled “WikiSecrets,” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, attempts to justify the speed at which documents were leaked to The New York Times and The Guardian among other foreign newspapers, which ultimately back-fired when the safety of those named in the documents was not guaranteed. Many of the newspapers did not agree to publish any of the documents because of the sensitivity of the information.

If WikiLeaks believes that it is increasing government transparency, then it is sorely mistaken. Embassies will only create mechanisms to maintain the security of their correspondence as opposed to making different policy decisions with regards to the publication of foreign policy decisions.WikiLeaks may in fact worsen the opacity of inter-government discourse instead of allowing governments to be more open of their own accord.

In addition to tightening security on cross-embassy communication, the overall discussion of sensitive topics, such as the current nuclear situation in Iran, may decrease as a whole. In one cable, the Saudi Arabian king stated that he had “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme.” In addition, officials from Jordan and Bahrain have been vocal in multi-lateral correspondence about their support of the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program.

While it does not come as shock that Middle Eastern countries are threatened by Iran’s nuclear program, the openness of Middle Eastern countries to a strike against Iran, even one made by Israel, is shocking. In revealing these cables, WikiLeaks is only stifling dialogue between nations over this issue.

By, for example, revealing the cards in certain players’ hands in poker, you significantly lessen their ability to bargain and plot and — well, make foreign policy decisions. Because security of cables is precarious, countries will not risk such high-profile correspondence with other countries, thus weakening the possibility of cooperation, increasing the possibility of a unilateral strike from a country (Israel) without much warning or coordination.

So what has WikiLeaks actually accomplished? They certainly have caused the dismissal of several ranking officials from countries all over the world, including former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, and former U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz. If nothing more than making the lives of a few officials worse, WikiLeaks hasn’t exactly accomplished much (failing to change the face of foreign policy).

WikiLeaks will not have a huge impact on the way the U.S. and other countries conduct their foreign policy, which seems to be the goal of WikiLeaks ­— that the U.S. would be more transparent — but it has the ability to change the dynamic of foreign policy between countries. Especially between tenuous “allies” such as the U.S. and Pakistan, WikiLeaks can effectively worsen the situation.

Daniel Markey, a senior fellow for Council on Foreign Relations, says that the release of cables can harm U.S.-Pakistani relations in two ways: loss of “candid” insight that other regional leaders have into Pakistan and the destruction of “small U.S. nonproliferation and counterterror programs” within “Pakistan’s own military operations.”

It is the slow erosion of bargaining tools through the worsening of relations that is the biggest threat of WikiLeaks, and with that, nothing may genuinely be accomplished by WikiLeaks. It must be conceded, however, that there are grave mistakes that WikiLeaks has revealed among the U.S. military that should be addressed, such as those of the U.S. Apache air crew that killed innocent civilians in July 2007 seemingly unprovoked.

Such incidents, while they occur in wartime, are affronts to human rights and WikiLeaks may be morally right for bringing such issues into the public light. However, the release of diplomatic cables is still seen as another issue entirely.

Ultimately, the United States needs to shore up its Defense department and intelligence agencies so that further leaks of information will not occur. In addition, the State department needs a more secure line of communication with other governments, because the current one is clearly inadequate. I believe with time these changes will occur, though it is always a constant battle with hackers for superiority in the area of security of information passed over the internet.

Similarly, the U.S. and other countries could crack down on internet freedom, but it remains to be seen if public support is there for such laws. Without those restrictions in place, WikiLeaks can continue to expel this sort of information.

It is a dual fight against information freedom and government transparency that states are being forced into, but it is necessary for the continuation of security of people involved in foreign affairs and sustaining power in relationships abroad.

Michael Dearman is a sophomore majoring in philosophy, English, and political science. He can be reached for comment at [email protected] 

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