The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Will transparency take a hit?

December 3, 2010

I really like the posts from Vikash and from Chris and at the risk of a bit of overkill on the topic (and upsetting Bill’s stomach further), I’ll add one more angle. This is from my monthly column at Current Intelligence:

…aside from a small cadre of foreign policy scholars, a few foreign national intelligence services, and Jon Stewart, I’m not sure who benefits from this release. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s stated intent for the disclosure was to reveal “the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.”

…First, to the dismay of many of us who teach American foreign policy, we have plenty of data demonstrating that overwhelming majorities of the American public are not interested in foreign policy in general – let alone what happens “behind the scenes.”

… and… second, even if the country was interested in knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, it turns out that we already have a pretty good system of disclosure and transparency. We don’t need WikiLeaks to know what’s going on.

For elaboration on these points and why I think Wikileaks may end up harming the cause of transparency, you can read the rest of the column here. All right, I’ve said enough. I’ll take a break from the topic for a while.

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.