Thursday, December 02, 2010

How to neutralize Wikileaks

The US government is suffering from a rash of Wikileaks embarrassment, with many of our most unsavory bad manners revealed for the whole world to see. The US mainstream media has joined the howling mob of corporate and political forces eager to lock up Julian Assange or even kidnap him and render him over to the torture fiends in Hosni Mubarak's basement. What should we do about this if we like the idea of nonviolence and good government but not the idea of a clumsy, red-faced America barging around on everyone's bad side all the time?

The little book Getting to Yes with its method of principled negotiation would help us strategize a way forward, I believe. We could think about that method, which eschews the hard edged positional stance all dug in like we see Hillary Clinton, and it also rejects the abject surrender of accommodation. Instead, advises negotiators Roger Fisher, Bill Ury and Bruce Patton, let's assess this conflict and find a way out of it so that everyone gets quite a bit of what they want.

What if a good mediator could arrange for frank and safe talks with Assange? What would he want? What do we want? Some possible outcomes from the two sides:

  • Good government
  • Secure communication
  • Nonviolence
  • Enhanced security for the American people
  • Enhanced security for all people
  • An end to war
  • An end to corruption
  • Cessation of embarrassing leaks

Why would any of this be a problem for our government? Why would any of this be a problem for Julian Assange? There are many possible outcome paths that would meet all these conditions and gain all these results. The easiest would be for us to hire Assange and clear him to access all government and corporate records and ferret out corruption so that we could quietly fix it before it became embarrassing. Yes, some of it might be so egregious that it would require public announcements of apology and policy change. For example, shooting unarmed journalists should not be swept under the rug. We should be grateful to Assange for uncovering this and we should instantly release Bradley Manning with a letter of commendation, as we compensate the families of the murdered newsgatherers and other Iraqis. We should regard this as a prompt to pull out of Iraq completely and simply offer aid through the UN, Mercy Corps and other agencies with zero US military presence.

Assange is giving us the chance to reinvigorate our democracy and reset our relationships in the world. Let us get to yes and work with him. His efforts are heroic and helpful. Why do we wish to make enemies of someone who is trying to help us become a better nation? He is acting in the interests of truth and transparency, two of the strongest pillars of real democracy. If our diplomats can't handle revelations calling Putin and Medvedev 'Batman and Robin,' tough. The real services of Wikileaks are way past that minor silliness and into the basics of good governance and integrity.

Thank you, Julian Assange.

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