Diana West for Wikileaks

In a post last Friday, Diana West says that the Wikileaks release of classified State Department cables is welcome, because it reveals the lies underlying U.S. policy toward our Muslim supposed allies in the Mideast, namely the fact that “our diplomats actually recognize that these countries form the financial engine that drives global jihad, or, as they mincingly prefer to call it, ‘terrorism.’ But they, with the rest of the government, keep the American people officially in the dark.” The question, she says, is “What is more important — the information theft that potentially harms government power, or the knowledge contained therein that might salvage our national destiny?”

Now, from the beginning, I’ve been pointing out that many of the Wikileaks revelations represent a positive development from a conservative point of view; I even jokingly asked whether Julian Assange was a conservative fifth columnist. But I’ve also argued that the leaks are deeply harmful to our government’s legitimate need to carry on diplomatic relations with other countries, relations which require secrecy. Does Diana West really think it’s good that Yemen’s secret assistance to U.S. anti-jihad efforts has been revealed, making it far less likely that such assistance will be forthcoming in the future? West argues that the cables are so helpful in exposing the truth about Muslim countries and the illusions our government feeds us about them that the damage done by the leaks is a price worth paying. I’m not persuaded of that. Julian Assange’s principal purpose was to cripple the U.S. government. The fact that we as anti-Islamization conservatives think our government’s current policy toward the Muslim world is insane and ought to be abandoned, does not mean that it’s good to cripple legitimate actions by our government. I don’t share Diana’s confidence that the ends in this case—the publication of the truth about bad and dishonest policies—justify the means. Also, while agreeing with her that many of the leaks are helpful, I view as overly hopeful her assumption that the leaks “might salvage our national destiny.”

- end of initial entry -

Roger G. writes:

The ends never ever ever justify the means. A conservative understands that there are no ends; there are only means.

Roland D. writes:

Anything that does the Foggy Bottom striped-pants mob in the eye is a Good Thing, in my book.

Much that the U.S. Federal government openly does around the world is unwelcome and harmful; even more of what it does in secret is highly undesirable.

So, anything which cripples the ability of the State Department to stick their noses where they oughtn’t is fine by me. Plus, the public revelation (I’ve known this forever, as has anyone else who’s even done work for the feds and/or for DoD and the service branches) that the Federal government’s information-classification regime is so broken that a lowly PFC could legitimately access diplomatic cables from around the world is a boon which might just force a re-think.

Of course, the U.S. military are stupidly overreacting by trying to ban USB thumb drives and other removable media, which is both a severe handicap to folks trying to do their normal jobs, and pointless, besides. They’d rather indulge in security theater than fix their systems.

When the recent unrest in Thailand was taking place (see my photos here), the embassy in Bangkok simply shut its doors and did nothing to assist Americans who happened to be traveling in Bangkok and were caught up in the Thai military’s area of operations. They made sure that they themselves were safe, but did nothing to assist their fellow U.S. citizens, for whom they ostensibly work, were out of harm’s way.

A pox on them, I say. If the WikiLeaks revelations make it more difficult for them to waste time and resources in pointless local intrigues, instead of performing their basic consular function of assisting Americans traveling abroad who are in need, then I think that’s a positive good.

LA replies:

You sound like Julian Assange. The U.S. government is bad, and anything which harms it and prevents it from functioning is good.

Is this really a position you want to take and apply consistently?

James P. writes:

Roger G. wrote:

“The ends never ever ever justify the means. A conservative understands that there are no ends; there are only means.”

I’m surprised you let that pass without comment! Of course there is an “end” to conservatism—the goal of conservatism is the preservation of Western civilization in general, and for American conservatives, the preservation of our nation as a federal constitutional republic. If not that, then what exactly is conservatism seeking to conserve? If we only care about means, not ends, then when the left uses “conservative” means such as the passing of laws to effect radical changes in the status quo and undermine Western Civilization or our country, then we as conservatives have no basis to oppose them and must support the new status quo even though it is destroying everything we believe is good and worth preserving.

LA replies:

I half-thought that Roger meant something other than what you think he meant, something like, “All actions, which we call means, must be judged by their inherent morality, not by their consequences.”

Roland replies to LA:

Extreme concentrations of governmental power tend to be bad for hoi polloi; the Framers of the U.S. Constitution had an explicit goal of fragmenting governmental power as much as possible in order to give ordinary citizens breathing room in which they could live their lives largely unmolested by the various bureaux of state and their minions.

And that largely worked from the time the Constitution was adopted up until the Second World War. The shift to a command economy and the extreme centralization of governmental power which resulted from the war effort and the subsequent transformation into a national security state in order to counter the existential threat of Communism is something that the United States has never recovered from, nor is there any sign that either major political party think that this is even a problem, much less that they intended to take steps to remediate it.

So, yes—even though I think Assange is a despicable human being and even though I don’t follow his avowed philosophy out to its extremes, I can’t think of a single activity of the U.S. Federal government, either domestic or international, which wouldn’t be improved by a spanner in the works to slow things down and make the machine less efficient. Since we seem to lack the political will as a nation to try and rise up from the mere democracy and incompetent empire we’ve devolved into, back to the self-governing republic of educated citizens which the Framers envisioned and which we maintained for approximately 160 years or so of our history, a little sabotage here and there (the conceptual and political kind, not the physically violent kind) strikes me as a capital thing.

One way to characterize it is as standing athwart history, yelling ”Stop!”

LA replies:

You’re making a strong case, which appeals to that part of us that says, “The whole system stinks! Let it all go to hell!” But I can’t believe that in the world of reality it would be a good thing for every function of the U.S. government to be paralyzed, which is what you’re advocating. The government performs so many functions today on which society depends that it would be an economic and humanitarian catastrophe.

D. from Seattle writes:

I tend to agree with much of what Roland D. has said about the benefits of a less centralized government, especially after he elaborated further on his initial post. In your reply to him, you said: ” … I can’t believe that in the world of reality it would be a good thing for every function of the U.S. government to be paralyzed, which is what you’re advocating. The government performs so many functions today on which society depends that it would be an economic and humanitarian catastrophe.”

I think the key point here is that WikiLeaks would not paralyze every function of the U.S. government; no amount of WikiLeaks would stop the government from fixing the roads, carrying mail, collecting (limited) taxes, making sure the courts and the police function, protecting the border (as in, stationing troops on our southern border, not in South Korea or Germany), or providing limited and well-defined unemployment assistance to the truly needy.

I will let Roland speak for himself, but what I think he is saying is, government as defined by the framers of the Constitution can perform its proper functions, WikiLeaks or not. The modern Leviathan government will be hampered by such leaks, and we’re all better for it, since that would help cut the government to its proper size and role.

I also agree with Roland’s earlier comment about how broken the government’s security procedures are. I used the same episode to make a point last week how the WikiLeaks help expose the broken premise of liberalism, which I will repeat here:

Since the main premise liberalism is non-discrimination, there can be no such thing as national interest or national security or national secrets. To the extent that such things exist under liberalism, they exist as unprincipled exceptions, since all those things by their very nature require us to discriminate between “us” and “them”, and indeed allow us to define who “we” and “they” are and who belongs in the society and who doesn’t.

But to recognize that some people are aliens and that we have the right, within our own realm, to deny to aliens rights and privileges that we afford ourselves, is the ultimate sin under liberalism. So is recognizing that we need to discriminate even among our own citizens when it comes to who is trustworthy enough to have access to national security secrets and who is not.

Therefore when liberals organize national security, people who would be summarily rejected from having any access to national secrets under normal (non-liberal) circumstances end up having high level clearance allowing them to access hundreds of thousands of classified documents without a clear need for that kind of access (exhibit 1: pfc Bradley Manning). When liberals organize national security, they design procedures that are inherently risky, allowing low-level army clerks to have access to State Department confidential information. Because to do otherwise would be discrimination, and We Must Not Discriminate, especially against a legally protected minority.

So maybe after episodes like this one people will start to slowly connect the dots and eventually realize that discrimination is good and necessary for proper functioning of a healthy society. Hopefully there will still be any healthy society left to organize.

Roland D. writes:

If government stops performing (or is stopped from performing) various functions which individuals believe to be good and necessary, private citizens will step in to fill the gap.

And that’s how we lived for a long time—the “associations” that de Tocqueville remarked upon were part of the warp and woof of everyday life, and they fulfilled functions in society which our ever-expanding government has since taken over, squeezing out the ability and killing the drive of people to take responsibility for their own lives and actions:

“The citizen of the United States is taught from infancy to rely upon his own exertions in order to resist the evils and the difficulties of life; he looks upon the social authority with an eye of mistrust and anxiety, and he claims its assistance only when he is unable to do without it.”

Can you imagine that sentence being written with a straight face in this day and age? These days, we’re taught the diametrical opposite, that it’s right and proper to be clients of the government in all aspects of our lives, that there is no separation—nor should there be—between the actions of the state and our private lives, what little remains of them.

If I could somehow magically curtail the activities of the U.S. Federal government, I cannot think of any huge catastrophe which would occur; whatever inconvenience which would arise would be far outweighed by the renewed currents of freedom and the resurgence of the “associations” to fill in the breach and perform what used to be their natural functions in American civil life.

We don’t like to think of our government as our enemy. We like to believe what we’re taught—or used to be taught, prior to the rise of the victimological school of civic studies, which paradoxically teaches that the U.S. government has always been the font of racist, oppressive evil, yet also portrays government as our savior and as the prime mover of human agency—in school, that America is different, that we needn’t fear our bureaux, that we aren’t the same as those corrupt despotisms across the great water which always have and always will meddle in the affairs of their subject peoples at the slightest provocation.

And yet, Leviathan squats upon the chest of civic society in the United States, crushing the life from it while forcing us to simper and thank it for what little breathing room it still deigns to allow us. I can think of no greater human good than to remove the beast by whatever political means possible, and if that includes irregularities such as the WikiLeaks affair, I can tolerate a few Assanges here and there if it returns us, or at least brings us closer, to the self-governing, self-sufficient, healthy republic de Tocqueville observed in his day.

LA replies:

I disagree, but can’t say more than that now.

December 16

Roger G. writes:

You wrote:

I half-thought that Roger meant something other than what you think he meant, something like, “All actions, which we call means, must be judged by their inherent morality, not by their consequences.”

You sort of got it. James P. missed the point entirely.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 15, 2010 12:02 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):