Julian Assange, the man behind the WikiLeaks dump of secret US State Department cables, has been frank about his reasons for releasing thousands of classified -and stolen -- documents.
Assange says he wants to seriously damage the United States. If this damage forwards America's ultimate destruction, so be it. The son of leftist America-haters, Assange was born and weaned during the Cold War. Then the wrong side won. What the superpower Soviet Union failed to do with its armies, he, a super-empowered individual, will accomplish via the information anarchy of the Internet.
If Assange's history-shaping goal seems grandiose and detached from reality, indeed it is. However, once you understand the man's religion, his megalomania and solipsism become a bit more comprehensible if even more reprehensible.
Like other anti-American cranks on the planet, Assange holds firm in his warped faith that the U.S. is the leading source of global evil. The roots of this religion run deep, beginning with 18th century European aristocrats who despised the American Revolution. The anti-Americanism of Nazis, communists, tribalists, anarchists and now militant Islamists all rehash the same tropes, with their semi-schizoid baseline being the U.S. is simultaneously a vast authoritarian conspiracy and a heterogeneous menagerie of infidel-cowboy-capitalist idiots who dogmatically resist enlightened social policies.
Assange argues his revelations will force this conglomerate American monster to become more secretive and authoritarian. Limiting access to information, in order to stop future leaks, will reduce the monster's secretive and authoritarian effectiveness. The monster's "security state" will dumb down, and --here's the moment of religious rapture in Assange's prophecy -- this will increase global justice.
Assange also links this shackling of America to creating peace. Don't snicker too long. There are a lot of tenured gray-haired profs with ponytails who teach this dreck at notable universities and get paid for it.
Assange understands media grandstanding, but he doesn't understand people and certainly doesn't understand how American diplomats contribute to maintaining peace.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates understands people and diplomacy, and his assessment of Assange's info dump is as clear as it is historically and psychologically informed. At the Pentagon last week, Gates said: "The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments -- some governments -- deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation."
Gates added that the cables were "embarrassing" and "awkward," but the ultimate effects on policy would be "modest."
Pray that Gates is right about modest impact, but right now and for at least the next six months, the world confronts the possibility of a nuclear war in East Asia ignited by North Korean aggression. This is a time period when the world absolutely needs close -- and trustworthy -- cooperation between the U.S. and China. A big war in Korea could kill millions but will guarantee a global economic depression. Leaked cables discuss corruption in China's Communist Party and names hypocritical party elites.
Even if the information is accurate, this is a case where revealed candor damages personal relationships among key U.S. diplomatic personnel and Chinese leaders. China is a face culture, and the leaders have lost face. A mature appreciation of the common danger should override personal anger, but another leak revealed that China sees North Korea as a "spoiled child" and that it believes Korea will ultimately be reunited with South Korea absorbing the North. This revelation weakens China's political leverage with North Korea at a moment when any leverage is precious.
Assange, of course, did not consider how he increased the threat to the lives of millions of Korean, Japanese and Chinese when he dumped his filched documents. His faith-based narrative of American evil excludes the possibility that American diplomats are collaborating with China to avoid war and eventually put an end to North Korea's armed brinksmanship without a nuclear explosion.
Here's WikiLeaks' bottom-line revelation: Assange and ideologues like him promote an ignorant and destructive solipsism that has nothing to do with peace and justice but a lot to do with sociopathic narcissism.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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