Some of the leaked cables are just opinion, and not much more than gossip about national leaders. But, because of the leak, we know, for example, that when the British government set up its supposedly open inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war, it also promised the US government that it would "put measures in place to protect your interests". The British government appears to have been deceiving the public and its own parliament.More.
Similarly, the cables reveal that President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen lied to his people and parliament about the source of US airstrikes against al-Qaida in Yemen, telling them that Yemen's military was the source of the bombs.
We have also learned more about the level of corruption in some of the regimes that the US supports, like those in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in other countries with which the US has friendly relations, notably Russia. We now know that the Saudi royal family has been urging the US to undertake a military attack on Iran to prevent it from becoming capable of producing nuclear weapons. Here, perhaps, we learned something for which the US government deserves credit: it has resisted that suggestion.
Knowledge is generally considered a good thing; so, presumably, knowing more about how the US thinks and operates around the world is also good. In a democracy, citizens pass judgment on their government, and if they are kept in the dark about what their government is doing, they cannot be in a position to make well-grounded decisions. Even in non-democratic countries, people have a legitimate interest in knowing about actions taken by the government.
December 19, 2010
Peter Singer on WikiLeaks
Princeton ethicist Peter Singer has chimed in on the WikiLeaks affair, noting that if citizens are kept in the dark about their government's activities, they cannot hold it to account. Ultimately, he hopes that the WikiLeaks cables move us closer to open diplomacy: