Wikileaks and the New Global Order

America’s Wake-up Call

The Wikileaks disclosure this week of confidential cables from United States embassies has been debated chiefly in terms either of the damage to Washington’s reputation or of the questions it raises about national security and freedom of the press.

The headlines aside, most of the information so far revealed from the 250,000 documents is hardly earth-shattering, even if it often runs starkly counter to the official narrative of the US as the benevolent global policeman, trying to maintain order amid an often unruly rabble of underlings.

Is it really surprising that US officials appear to have been trying to spy on senior United Nations staff, and just about everyone else for that matter? Or that Israel has been lobbying strenuously for military action to be taken against Iran? Or even that Saudi Arabia feels threatened by an Iranian nuclear bomb? All of this was already largely understood; the leaks have simply provided official confirmation.

The new disclosures, however, do provide a useful insight, captured in the very ordinariness of the diplomatic correspondence, into Washington’s own sense of the limits on its global role — an insight that was far less apparent in the previous Wikileaks revelations on the US army’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Underlying the gossip and analysis sent back to Washington is an awareness from many US officials stationed abroad of quite how ineffective — and often counter-productive — much US foreign policy is.

While the most powerful nation on earth is again shown to be more than capable of throwing its weight around in bullying fashion, a cynical resignation nonetheless shines through many of the cables, an implicit recognition that even the top dog has to recognise its limits.

That is most starkly evident in the messages sent by the embassy in Pakistan, revealing the perception among local US officials that the country is largely impervious to US machinations and is in danger of falling entirely out the ambit of Washington’s influence.

In the cables sent from Tel Aviv, a similar fatalism reigns. The possibility that Israel might go it alone and attack Iran is contemplated as though it were an event Washington has no hope of preventing. US largesse of billions of dollars in annual aid and military assistance to Israel appears to confer zero leverage on its ally’s policies.

The same sense of US ineffectiveness is highlighted by the Wikileaks episode in another way. Once, in the pre-digital era, the most a whistleblower could hope to achieve was the disclosure of secret documents limited to his or her area of privileged access. Even then the affair could often be hushed up and make no lasting impact.

Now, however, it seems the contents of almost the entire system of US official communications is vulnerable to exposure. And anyone with a computer has a permanent and easily disseminated record of the evidence.

The impression of a world running out of American control has become a theme touching all our lives over the past decade.

The US invented and exported financial deregulation, promising it to be the epitome of the new capitalism that was going to offer the world economic salvation. The result is a banking crisis that now threatens to topple the very governments in Europe who are Washington’s closest allies.

As the contagion of bad debt spreads through the system, we are likely to see a growing destabilisation of the Washington order across the globe.

At the same time, the US army’s invasions in the Middle East are stretching its financial and military muscle to tearing point, defining for a modern audience the problem of imperial over-reach. Here too the upheaval is offering potent possibilities to those who wish to challenge the current order.

And then there is the biggest crisis facing Washington: of a gradually unfolding environmental catastrophe that has been caused chiefly by the same rush for world economic dominance that spawned the banking disaster.

The scale of this problem is overawing most scientists, and starting to register with the public, even if it is still barely acknowledged beyond platitudes by US officials.

The repercussions of ecological meltdown will be felt not just by polar bears and tribes living on islands. It will change the way we live — and whether we live — in ways that we cannot hope to foresee.

At work here is a set of global forces that the US, in its hubris, believed it could tame and dominate in its own cynical interests. By the early 1990s that arrogance manifested itself in the claim of the “end of history”: the world’s problems were about to be solved by US-sponsored corporate capitalism.

The new Wikileaks disclosures will help to dent those assumptions. If a small group of activists can embarrass the most powerful nation on earth, the world’s finite resources and its laws of nature promise a much harsher lesson.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Josie Michel-Bruening said on November 30th, 2010 at 10:29am #

    Thank you very much, Jonathan Cook, for your excellent analysis.
    Although, for instance, German politicians assure publicly that there would be no confidence crises by now in US and German relations the public opinion is alarmed. One can realize it in public talk shows on TV.
    They seem additionally alarmed by the news that one of the former whistleblowers, Bradley Manning, shall be tried and convicted to 52 years of imprisonment.
    It recalls publicly the Watergate affair and the case of Daniel Ellsberg and the “Pentagon papers”.
    Despite of all propaganda by our government 70 percent of the German people don’t want to support the Afghanistan war.
    Nevertheless, the anti Cuban propaganda by the ultra right wing seems to be successful, because the so-called “rogue island” is far enough for the majority of the people, as well as Latin American states struggling for their sovereignty.
    Onely those of us having been able to visit Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador etc. con’t trust in such defamation campaigns.
    Well, reflecting people like you save the honor of the people within the United States, as Dissident Voice does giving you the forum.

  2. bozh said on November 30th, 2010 at 11:22am #

    leaks come and go! but what never goes, that’s what we need to determine and study and find ways to remove it!
    what never goes up to now and forseeable future are: terrorists organizations, such as cia, ‘excellent’ weaponry [getting 'better' by day], u.s constitution–evil as most– supremacism [knows no boundaries of evil doing].
    so, some individuals are being embarrassed? don’t they get deselected and rewarded?
    replaced by egzact same thinkers [the only kind allowed by constitution].
    but u.s ship not ever even yawing from cours elet alone waywarding!
    ah, that old chestnut says it all: more things change the more they get worse! tnx

  3. John Andrews said on December 1st, 2010 at 2:38am #

    This piece suggests that some of the servants of US foreign policy genuinely believe their own PR, and think their country is seriously committed to helping people and to making the world a better place. For example Jonathan writes:

    “Underlying the gossip and analysis sent back to Washington is an awareness from many US officials stationed abroad of quite how ineffective — and often counter-productive — much US foreign policy is”

    It may very well be true that some US diplomats do sincerely believe their own dogma – a bit like fanatical priests who truly believe whatever rubbish they’re spouting – but I think that comes from failing to understand the real driving forces behind US foreign policy.

    The US empire, just like any other empire before it, is driven by one thing and one thing only – quick profits for the super-rich, and the quicker the better. The world authorities on quick profits are found in Wall St, so Wall St therefore has more to do with driving US foreign policy than any other single source. As far as the experts of Wall St are concerned, the consequences of their ‘wisdom’ for ordinary people, whether they be the ordinary people of the target country or the home of the empire itself, are simply irrelevant. So long as a quick profit has been turned somewhere, mission accomplished. That’s all there is to understand about US (or any other empire’s) foreign policy.

    Eradicating, discrediting or destabilising competitors is a standard strategy of business, and US foreign policy is the biggest business in the world. Once that is understood US economic and foreign policies become a good deal easier to comprehend.

  4. bozh said on December 1st, 2010 at 5:46am #

    john andrews, yes
    that’s how i see it. all one needs to see this is to stop looking at what most individuals do or say.
    pay attention to what u.s had done thus far and try to guess what’l it do in future!

    i expect u.s to continue to expand its territory for at least a decade longer; may resort to use of wmd if it get’s frustrated to a point or faces losing newly-acquired lands or parts of such lands.

    and since ?all columnists and most posters dwell solely on symptoms ['zionism', obama, individuals, bailouts, etc.] u.s need not fret about getting it its way.

    i deem supremacism root evil, causing all of it. end or reduce it and we end theft of land; i. e., warfare and wmd, poverty, ignorance, etc. tnx

  5. jay08701 said on December 1st, 2010 at 1:57pm #

    What is laughable is that there are numerous articles on this website each reaching opposite conclusions about the Wikileaks incident. One says it was a joint Israeli/American planned leak; one says it was an Israeli leak to embarrass America; one says neither country was involved. The only thing they agree on is that the leak shows the US and Israel are evil.
    A logical person should understand how silly this all is.

  6. 3bancan said on December 1st, 2010 at 2:47pm #

    jay08701 said on December 1st, 2010 at 1:57pm #

    “A logical person should understand how silly this all is”

    Only a silly reader “understands how silly this all is”…

  7. Kim Petersen said on December 1st, 2010 at 3:05pm #

    Is it laughable that a newsletter allows readers to reach their own conclusions on a controversial topic? DV is about critical thinking — not indoctrination.

  8. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2010 at 4:32pm #

    Critical thinking — not indoctrination.

    The repercussions of ecological meltdown will be felt not just by polar bears and tribes living on islands. It will change the way we live — and whether we live — in ways that we cannot hope to foresee. Cook

    Critical thinking and the human’s alive today there’s a few and the human’s alive today who practice indoctrination many more most I read are still thinking inside the box. I have been reading what is being said at the climate summit in Mexico like developed countries need to be rationed same as in World war two except a bit harder this time. A few scientists yes those evil scientists have said get ready major changes not to far away. The summit itself will do nothing outnumbered by the people who practice indoctrination they are winning. The plan so far is go shopping and that is crazy I wrote crazy as insane at least you expect a different result. The economy get’s going again well oil comes to mind along with coal about ten years for coal and oil probably already there anybody know where we can find some more. They are still praying for rain in the Middle East and will it come back to normal, no and only the beginning. I have to admit it takes a certain kind of human in old twenty ten to think critically as it’s about 99% indoctrination. I mean I have a PHD went to Harvard or have friends in high places and now get to go on TV with people who went to college and studied journalism and look at us now. All the great thinkers of the past who did think outside the box were they listened to and now in Mexico a few great thinkers are doing the same thing and are they listened too? Everyday we keep burning fossil fuels brings us all closer to a point that will be very very hard to come back from and again who’s winning in reality nobody. Go shopping

  9. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2010 at 4:39pm #

    If a small group of activists can embarrass the most powerful nation on earth, the world’s finite resources and its laws of nature promise a much harsher lesson. Cook

    Capitalism is crazy and with what we know now it’s a nobrainer. So far in one ear out the other but not for much longer. Then what might the plan be?

  10. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2010 at 4:56pm #

    There is still time not much and the hardest part is working together it’s a tuff one and there is a difference between easy and simple a big one.

  11. bozh said on December 1st, 2010 at 4:58pm #

    yes, dear folks,
    wikileaks, reactions to it, guesses about what the 1 trn words mean is all parts one big circus, especially if ur a child in chaldea, gaza, and afgh’n.

    but this show-don’t-tell-don’t-do-anything wld last at least one more month [not long enough to please everybody, but, then, who can please everybuddy?] giving nato enough time to kill at least one more child in gaza.

    oh, that wld be good news, actually killing just one child in a WHOLE MONTH!! that cld happen if all nato soldiers wld show much, much, much more interest in the new show; just add a bit of porno, and that wld do miracle for peace!

    i am just curious if all these hidden info had been written on recycled paper and made into brown paper or virgin white paper?
    i think that’s what greens wld worry about?!
    and creme de la creme wldn’t read it if is not snow white and better? there u go! u can’t please everyone. that’s all folks!
    so, do u think what i think? about the paper, i mean? ok, now everybody get new ass; a nicer looking one, of course. that’s the advice i get from my small head! tnx

  12. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2010 at 5:20pm #

    Here’s a great example of crazy. Julian Assange was just the talk on CNN and it was said he is an anarchist but don’t worry we will get him. This last leak was child’s play compared to oh let’s talk about the media and just who does control what we see and hear? The only problem with blowing the whistle on the media is……………………?

  13. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2010 at 2:03am #

    “With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities,” McConnell writes in a letter to Reid signed by all 42 members of the caucus. “While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.” Newser

    Oh look there working together and the tax hike on the affluent no no no set’s a very bad example. Of course unemployment benefits well a cardboard box or under a bridge is nice this time of year. I think most of us know it will take a little more than extending unemployment benefits to save life on this planet but they can’t even do that. Heck I’ll put this again never hurt’s to read something twice or three times.

    Crony capitalism is a term describing an allegedly capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between businesspeople and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth.
    Crony capitalism is believed to arise when political cronyism spills over into the business world; self-serving friendships and family ties between businessmen and the government influence the economy and society to the extent that it corrupts public-serving economic and political ideals. Wiki

    An allegedly capitalist economy is it. Let’s see these self-serving friendships and family ties between businessmen and the government.

    The Starship Affluent and or Chopped Liver

    Glad to see you today for our trip into space. Mr. Forbes, Murdoch, oh the Koch brothers and there’s Dick Armey welcome aboard. The entire Royal family nice to see you nothing like a wedding on another planet. Look our friends from the media made it Wolf, Brian, Anderson, Hannity, Bill and look there’s Beck the preacher man. Glenn are those tennis shoes you are wearing you just might need some boot’s where you all are going. McConnell, Hatch, Clinton and a few more welcome aboard. After they are all seated with seat belt’s fastened it’s off to the Star’s one about 200 light years away a planet with oxygen and funny weather where they will have time to think and try and survive. Wait there’s Stewart and Colbert glad to see you as these people will need a few laughs where they are going. Look’s like some late arrives Bibi and cool the investment banking community welcome aboard plenty of room.

    This is not a game people this is about the whole ball game and so far we the people are chopped liver and are losing the battle. Well the battle hasn’t even started yet if the truth be known. They are the few and we the many and so far the few just love getting us to fight with one another it’s a little game they play isn’t it Murdoch. How about a third party heck call it the 2020 party and soon would be good. Remember we waited a little to long and it’s going to get tuff, ruff no way around that now but with a little luck we can save as much life as we can. How to start a third party good question as I never started one before but have a feeling many more are now thinking the same thing.

    The scale of this problem is overawing most scientists, and starting to register with the public, even if it is still barely acknowledged beyond platitudes by US officials.

    The repercussions of ecological meltdown will be felt not just by polar bears and tribes living on islands. It will change the way we live — and whether we live — in ways that we cannot hope to foresee. Cook

    Stay cool as the few remember they don’t fight there own battles yes they are well dressed but have weak hands and get other people to do the dirty work so to speak. Safety in numbers and will take a lot of us. I guess we could think of it as kind of a war.

  14. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2010 at 2:35am #

    Don,

    Its the difference between the climate and the weather …

    Anomalous weather events are the hallmark of climate change.

    As the oceans warm, evaporation increases and masses of moist air collide with cold polar air, resulting in snow storms.

    Of course the deniers will use this to their advantage, claiming “global cooling”.

    With this was true!

    That was an e-mail I got from one of those evil scientists a few day’s ago and anybody noticed the weather in Europe the last few day’s like England. In Mexico at the climate summit a few scientists are telling the truth and that takes courage as it’s not real good new’s. How about a movement to unplug so to speak from Ipods,TV’s, video games talking heads so called journalists.

  15. mary said on December 3rd, 2010 at 8:15am #

    The subject of Diego Garcia and the injustices that have been suffered by the islanders had been written about on this board before by Michel Collon and Grégoire Lalieu and by John Pilger amongst others.

    These leaked cables from Wikileaks expose some of the lies that have been told.

    Wikileaks cables reveal Foreign Office misled parliament over Diego Garcia
    UK official told Americans that marine park plan would end the ‘Man Fridays” hopes of ever returning home

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/02/wikileaks-cables-diego-garcia-uk

  16. mary said on December 3rd, 2010 at 12:43pm #

    The link has been changed to

    {http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/03/wikileaks-cables-diego-garcia-uk}

  17. mary said on December 3rd, 2010 at 8:50pm #

    A thought has occurred – Are those thousands of Israeli helicopter gunships, F16s, 3500 Merchaver tanks, etc of no use in FIGHTING fires?