Wikileaks: Anti-Imperialist in the American Interest

A Defense Of Wikileaks: Why The Leaks Are Important In An Age Of American Intervention. | The New Republic


Imperialism? Many Americans hoped that World War I would end the age of imperialism that had led to much of Asia and Africa being divvied up into colonies, protectorates and spheres of influence. But as Lenin would correctly note in his wartime polemic, Imperialism, the conflict was in fact a war of imperial redivision. And the Sykes-Picot agreement and what happened after the war proved that to be the case.

After the war, the great powers resorted to various subterfuges (for instance, League of Nations mandates) to maintain their hold over new or former colonies; or they adopted a neo-imperial strategy pioneered by the British in Egypt of fostering client states staffed by locals, but under the quiet control of their embassies. If the locals didn’t do as they were told, the troops were brought in. It wasn’t imperialism in the sense that the word began to be used in the 1880s, but it was a continuation of the age of empire. 

These forms of great power intervention lingered in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as Eastern Europe, in the decades after World War II, but they disappeared by the end of cold war, except in the Middle East, where they endured due to the importance of oil to the world economy and to national militaries. When the United States became the principal outside power in the region after the British announced their withdrawal in February 1947, it also assumed a version of the British neo-imperial strategy. 

The United States does not have colonies in the region, but it does have client states, or protectorates, whose governments it defends and sometimes sustains in exchange for access to their oil, or in exchange to their acquiescence to American objectives in the region. As the United States demonstrated in January 1991, it will go to war to protect these states. Or as it demonstrated in 2003, it will go to war to punish nations that defy it. American relations with these states, most of which have autocratic regimes, has largely had to be conducted in secret for fear of inflaming the regime’s subjects, many of whom resent their control. So in this respect, secret diplomacy has remained endemic. And the Wikileaks revelations are in the spirit of past attempts to expose the older imperialism and its newer variations. 

Is this kind of intervention a worthy target for these kind of leaks—the way that the Sykes-Picot agreement or the war in Vietnam was? After World War II, the United States justified its interventionism on the grounds of cold war necessity; and recently it has invoked the threat of radical Islamic terror. Radical Islam and its war against the United States can in turn be traced to American support for oil autocracies—Al Qaeda was borne out of opposition to American bases on Saudi soil—and America’s extensive support for Israel. Does America need to create client states in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to protect its citizens from Al Qaeda? Or from other threats? I am not going to get into these questions, but the fact that they are questions indicates why so many people around the world have been more focused on the Wikileaks rather than the Wikileaker. 


13 comments on “Wikileaks: Anti-Imperialist in the American Interest

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  1. Thanks for putting this up. I’m not allowed to read the New Republic around here, and regret that very little excepting the work of John Judis and Jeffrey Rosen, and what I recall as the very graceful writing style of Leon Wieseltier.

  2. Maybe someone should go through all his emails, phone calls, im’s, as well as members of his family and close friends, after all they have nothing to hide, right,

  3. @ fuster:
    Judis strikes me as unusually reasonable most of the time, too – aware of the far left critique, and partly sharing it, but realistic about the difficulties. A country’s got to know its limitations.

    Some say that these days Wieseltier dwells rather too often and long on the wrong side of the line between graceful and self-parody. The evidence I’ve seen has been rather convincing, but I don’t pretend to have attempted anything like a comprehensive survey, and am inclined to give a guy a break.

    What happens if you’re caught with TNR, or, if you’ve never actually been caught, what do you expect would happen?

  4. @ miguel cervantes:miggs, do schools still teach, in PoliSci 101, the difference between the rights and responsibilities of private citizens and government officers?

    They used to teach that there are circumstances that make revealing government documents unwise and unethical and other circumstances that indicate leaking might be warranted.
    They also used to teach that it was an extremely rare set of circumstances that would allow breaching the private affairs of private citizens.

  5. @ CK MacLeod: Judis is a really morally straight-up guy.

    I can’t be caught with TNR because for two years the old lady made sure to intercept the mail and have the dog squat over my copy. Then she figured out a way to cancel my free lifetime subscription and we had to acquire more plastic bags.

    It’s been years, as I said, since I’ve read Leon’s stuff, and while his political stuff wasn’t ever to my taste, he damn well could string words together.
    Every now and then he voiced things a bit floridly, but I ascribed that to his being a yeshiva boy.

  6. The State Department cables are kid stuff. If Assange ever gets close to the records of Saudi cash transfers to American politicians he’ll be a dead man in two shakes of a drone’s tail.

    To be fair and balanced, of course, it must be noted that Winston Churchill’s views on the middle east may well have been, uh, influenced by Bernard Baruch’s, uh, tangible expressions of enduring friendship in the 1930s; so one may well wonder if current day Israelis and their allies and agents of influence are completely innocent of, uh, relationship building efforts with politicians.

  7. Well he’s entertaining to get in the siloviki’s business, so bye bye ,Julian, in Russia, even if you’re a potential ‘man on horseback’ like General Shamanov, you come down with a nasty car accident or
    worse. Ellsberg, it’s interesting to consider was some one who
    walked on the wild side, one of Landsdale crazy aides, the other
    was the late Fletcher Prouty, The Mr. X of the Kennedy conspiracy
    he really knew how to pick staff, re remarked later in life to Cecil Currey. One time, he was involved in with the mistress of a Corsican
    caid, Seguin, and some of his friends saved him from a fate, which
    would have changed history, So, no there was nothing noble about
    Ellsberg, as for the Soviets, they didn’t do this for ethical reasons
    but to do what Assange is doing, which is disrupting the normal processes that diplomacy has to operate under,

  8. miguel cervantes wrote:

    Ellsberg, it’s interesting to consider was some one who
    walked on the wild side,

    What does that mean? And what does it have to do with the following?

    So, no there was nothing noble about

    as for the Soviets, they didn’t do this for ethical reasons

    Do what?

    The WikiFlood fulfills several prophecies regarding the “Information Age,” although the speculative scenarios always had the the trove of info being negotiated over, or Johnny Mnemonic fleeing colorful assassins. The problem for Russia, China, and others isn’t Assange, but people Assange might inspire – unless, of course, they’re happy communicating strictly by encrypted devices, keeping no notes, and never having a bad thought.

  9. Ah, Colin, I provided the reason, in the next line, the fact that he subsequently delivered a copy of the SIOP to the Russians, proved
    that. the fact that Conein or another didn’t deal with him more
    effectively, makes the whole ‘Three Days of the Condor”/Bourne
    Ultimatum scenario less satifying. I’m surprised Leon, last trying to peddle the ‘Palin is the establishment’ meme, didn’t mention what
    the Iranians did with the cables at the Embassy.

  10. @ miguel cervantes:
    I’m still not following. Could you try to lay it out step by step for us slow children, with as few abbreviations, uncertain pronouns, and allusions to obscure events and personalities as possible? Sort of: “Ellsberg did bad thing a, for reason b. This thing a was so ignoble it proves x, y, or z about Ellsberg’s character and intentions.”

    Cuz otherwise you’re just flailing at one of history’s ghosts and not persuading me of anything, except that people absolutely committed to always adopting the rightmost position short of John Birch will find reasons to despise Ellsberg, vindicate Joe McCarthy, and assure themselves that everything always would have been great if only the left ceased to exist.

  11. Actually it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter the particular contents of the Wikileaks cables, re; the revelations of the DGI effectively running
    Venezuela, likewise Bell scion Walter Myers working for the Soviets,
    and subsequently the SVR, because he was upset about health care, so he gave them economic information, and probably the names of not a few of his CIA charges at the FSI. It’s the naivete of the likes
    of Wieseltier, who really should know better

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