To the sound of the nation's collective yawn, filmmaker Michael Moore announced Tuesday that he had given $20,000 to bail out Wikileaks proprietor Julian Assange from a British jail.
Moore cited his admiration for Assange's quest for openness and transparency in government. But Assange has openly declared that his objective is precisely the opposite - he wants to make the American government so opaque that it cannot function.
Moore went on to laud the lives Assange has supposedly saved by preventing global conflict (well, not really global, since Moore only seems concerned with American misdeeds). But Wikileaks has actually made it more likely, not less, that nations will rely on military might instead of diplomacy.
In between his trademark accusations of war crimes and indictments of various American military actions, Moore managed to stammer the following about Assagne and Wikileaks:
Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that's the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you're up to. You simply can't be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.
And that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done. WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you who join me in supporting them are committing a true act of patriotism. Period.
Oy. Either Moore doesn't understand the direct implications of Wikileaks's actions, or he does, and shares Assange's desire for the de facto destruction of America's foreign policy establishment. I'll leave that determination to the readers.
First, it is important to note that Assange does not want transparency. In fact, it's just the opposite. Assange wants to expose so much secret and sensitive information, that the American foreign policy establishment is forced to become more opaque, more insulated, and less responsive. His endgame is the total breakdown of American foreign policy.
A cursory review of Assange's own writings reveals those facts. As Wall Street Journal columnist Gordon Crovitz wrote:
In 2006, Mr. Assange wrote a pair of essays, "State and Terrorist Conspiracies" and "Conspiracy as Governance." He sees the U.S. as an authoritarian conspiracy. "To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed," he writes. "Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate," he writes, and "pass it around the conspirators and then act on the result."
His central plan is that leaks will restrict the flow of information among officials—"conspirators" in his view—making government less effective. Or, as Mr. Assange puts it, "We can marginalize a conspiracy's ability to act by decreasing total conspiratorial power until it is no longer able to understand, and hence respond effectively to its environment. . . . An authoritarian conspiracy that cannot think efficiently cannot act to preserve itself."
Berkeley blogger Aaron Bady last week posted a useful translation of these essays. He explains Mr. Assange's view this way: "While an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to 'think' as a system, to communicate with itself." Mr. Assange's idea is that with enough leaks, "the security state will then try to shrink its computational network in response, thereby making itself dumber and slower and smaller."…
Or as Mr. Assange told Time magazine last week, "It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society; it's our goal to achieve a more just society." If leaks cause U.S. officials to "lock down internally and to balkanize," they will "cease to be as efficient as they were."
So again, Moore's standing ovation for Assange's desire for transparency is completely unmoored (forgive the pun) even from Assange's own stated objectives.
Moore declared (to some unnamed person) that "every cable, every email you write is now fair game." And that is exactly what Assange is going for. But the endgame is not openness. It's exactly the opposite. Because every internal communication is now "fair game," State officials will surely communicate less information internally.
Moore also claimed that "No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed." But that's not right; folks can plot the next Big Lie all they want, they just can't keep a record of the plot. That makes the system more opaque, not transparent.
And though it won't improve transparency, the breakdown in internal communications will handicap the State Department. With enough leaks, Assange hopes, internal communication will break down entirely and the diplomatic community will be unable to function.
And what happens when diplomacy is impossible? Among other things, there will be more physical conflict where disagreements cannot be worked out peacefully (and peaceful conflict resolution is the entire purpose of diplomacy). Assange may or may not understand that fact.
As the New Republic's James Rubin wrote early this month,
By and large, the hard left in America and around the world would prefer to see the peaceful resolution of disputes rather than the use of military force. World peace, however, is a lot harder to achieve if the U.S. State Department is cut off at the knees. And that is exactly what this mass revelation of documents is going to do. The essential tool of State Department diplomacy is trust between American officials and their foreign counterparts. Unlike the Pentagon, which has military forces, or the Treasury Department, which has financial tools, the State Department functions mainly by winning the trust of foreign officials, sharing information, and persuading. Those discussions have to be confidential to be successful. Destroying confidentiality means destroying diplomacy.
And destroying diplomacy means that fewer international conflicts will be resolved diplomatically (in both senses of the term). That, in turn, means they will either be left to fester unaddressed, or will be resolved militarily.
Put aside for a moment that Wikileaks has, in all likelihood, contributed to the deaths - or at the very least, the self-exiling - of innocent civilians in Afghanistan. But don't take my word for it; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agrees. So direct casualties aside, it seems that a world with more military conflict is one that Moore would rather avoid. He certainly fits the "hard left" description Rubin mentions, and he spent much of his Daily Beast column bemoaning various military conflicts.
So is Moore ignorant of the obvious realities of foreign policy and of Assange's motives themselves? Or does he share Assange's belief that the American diplomatic community is part of an "authoritarian conspiracy" and his desire for a total breakdown of US foreign policy?
With his record of statements like this one, I'd say either is possible. Let us know in the comments which one you think is more likely.
*****UPDATE– By the MRC's Scott Whitlock:
Michael Moore also seriously asserted that if WikiLeaks existed in 2001, it could have prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He insisted, "I ask you to imagine how much different our world would be if WikiLeaks had existed 10 years ago." [emphasis added.]
Moore then referred to the Presidential Daily Briefing [PDB] that then President Bush recieved in August of 2001: "But if that document had been leaked, how would you or I have reacted? What would Congress or the FAA have done? Was there not a greater chance that someone, somewhere would have done something if all of us knew about bin Laden's impending attack using hijacked planes?"
National Review's Jim Geraghty explained the implausibility of this charge:
[The PDB] did indeed mention hijackings. It also mentioned bin Laden encouraged an attack on LAX, that bin Laden wanted to use a hijacking to secure the release of "blind sheik" Umar Abd al-Rahman, possible surveillance of federal buildings of New York, and 70 FBI field investigations that are bin-Laden investigated and a call in to a U.S. embassy about an attack involving explosives. If you could stop the 19 hijackers based on that mix of generic accurate and inaccurate information, you’re psychic. Even the left-of-center comic strip Tom the Dancing Bug mocked politicians like Tom Daschle who claimed they could have stopped the threat if they had the chance to see the same information at the time.
I hope everybody who paid money to watch one of his documentaries feels proud right now.
Not shockingly, Moore will be a guest on Tuesday's Countdown With Keith Olbermann.