Someone in the Russian government last week (speaking anonymously so he could speak frankly, ironically enough) suggested that Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ alpha drip, deserved a Nobel Prize.
Interesting idea, that. But for what? Chemistry, of course. Why chemistry? That’s because Assange’s accomplishment was in keeping with history’s first example of Nobel-quality work on the planet, which was in the field of chemistry: It was when Prometheus stole the oxidation reaction from a fire pit on Olympus and released it into the public domain — setting off a chain of events that resulted in 1) civilization as we know it and 2) anthropomorphic global warming. Of course, when the gods saw what a mess the little asshole had made — Prometheus, not Assange, that is — they had him chained to a mountain where an eagle came by every day and clawed out his liver and ate it. Which is what Assange really deserves.
The Nobel Prize Assange least deserves is a Peace Prize. Assange’s diplomatic cables dumps may contribute to many things, but peace isn’t one of them. They make wars, not peace, much more likely.
There are lots of reasons why this is so, but perhaps the most important is that accords between nations have to be negotiated in secret. There is no other way.
Why? Because international accords — especially the ones that contribute to peace — always require the parties to make compromises involving two things: 1) national sovereignty and 2) principles.
No national regime can be seen as contemplating decisions that appear to compromise its country’s national sovereignty; most people will equate such compromises with national betrayal regardless of which country they live in.
As for compromises involving principle, diplomats and political leaders entering negotiations will inevitably proclaim, “We are prepared to compromise, but we will not compromise on principles,” but this is either a) a lie or b) a declaration that they do not intend to negotiate in good faith.
For example, getting an agreement on, say, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians requires the parties to put things on the table that are central to their national sovereignty, national identities, and core beliefs and principles — and in the course of bargaining to offer them and withdraw them repeatedly. That is something that it is impossible for a political leader to do in public. Leaders can’t be seen openly playing with national values like they are poker chips and expect to survive. That’s true for the leaders of democracies and dictatorships alike.
But what about open agreements openly arrived at? Heh. You mean like last year’s Copenhagen conference on climate change, which was supposed to produce a “legally binding” treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions? What it actually produced was a two-week-long spectacle of international preening, breastbeating, showboating, hypocrisy and little more.
Negotiations conducted in secret have a much better track record.
Come to think of it, the single most important agreement in the history of the United States, the one in which the original 13 states agreed “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense … ,” etc., was negotiated in complete secrecy.
One of the first things delegates to the Constitutional Convention did was to adopt a rule of omerta, which said, in so many words, what happens in Philadelphia stays in Philadelphia.
What emerged after four months of secret debates, negotiations and compromises was a document that was essentially a treaty among 13 sovereign states in which they agreed to give up significant measures of their sovereignty for the common good.
And far from being corrupted by the secrecy that accompanied its creation, the U.S. Constitution has proved to be one of most successful accords ever negotiated.
Now then, ask yourself this question: Do you think the Philadelphia convention of 1787 would have been more likely to succeed or less likely to succeed if a piece of human shit named Julian Assange had been there stealing copies of the daily journal and slipping them to newspapers and pamphleteers?
Assange, by the way, isn’t some dewy-eyed champion of the people’s right to know. According to the Wall Street Journal, Assange wrote an essay in 2007 in which “he explicitly states that his goal is to restrict how information is shared among government officials, such as intelligence agencies and diplomats, in order to cripple America. As he puts it, ‘An authoritarian conspiracy that cannot think efficiently cannot act to preserve itself.’” This is important, because the intent to do harm to the United States is necessary to sustain a conviction under the 1917 Espionage Act for releasing classified documents.
The magnitude of WikiLeaks’ espionage should be sufficient cause for sending Assange and his 1,400 co-conspirators to Guantanamo Bay until the end of the next ice age.
But their real crime is poisoning the ability of governments to resolve conflicts through negotiation and compromise, or even to receive candid reports from their diplomats.
But, hey, in a nuclear age, what could possibly go wrong?