WikiLeaks: Democracy undressed
WikiLeaks has now been added to our burgeoning dictionary of new labels of social media but undoubtedly, it is one of the most controversial.
The proliferation of different types of social media from Facebook to YouTube is raising deep questions about public discussion, and the workings of democracy itself.
It is not so much the content that is released by WikiLeaks that is of concern or indeed of any great surprise, since they merely confirmed what many suspected.
Democracy looks like a sham
The great concern is how foreign policy is being conducted behind closed doors, in secret corridors of power where only an elite few are privy and able to influence foreign policy. Foreign policy constructions in democracies particularly like those of the US and EU is troubles me, because you clearly have rational democratic publics, but you have incoherent, simplistic and, quite frankly, appalling policies in the international arena which make you ask the following questions:
1) Do people in today’s democracies actually have any say in how their country should conduct themselves in foreign affairs?
2) How much input is there from democratic institutions, civil society and citizens in the formulation of foreign policy?
Think-tank elite: monopolising foreign policy
In the US, foreign policy seems to be an affair for the ‘’think tank’’ elite. Policy recommendations to the US government are made by some very questionable and ideologically worrying think-tanks which do not seem to embody the principles of accountability and transparency. There is also of course the touchy subject of military-industrial complex in America and how much of an influence it has on foreign policy.
Indeed, it is perhaps the construction of foreign policy which still needs to be liberated and democratised, since it still seems to be the preserve of an elite shady cohort of think-tanks, and a priesthood of policy makers who enforce foreign policy orthodoxy, to the extent that democracies in the EU and US have little say in this most crucial of policy discussions.
Why do these liberal democracies, which in all respects are societies which place great worth on lofty ideals like human equality, so blatantly betray their own values when interacting with the international community?
Pakistan: A tale of un-democracy
The most depressing story is the Pakistani one, where all types of policy discussion let alone foreign policy are completely removed from the democratic process. Foreign policy in Pakistan is conducted in a most autocratic manner under the auspices of the army, security agencies with the robust cooperation of political parties who claim to be guardians of democracy. The people of Pakistan are duly left in the dark whilst politicians sink deeper into an abyss of corruption, ravaged by their malicious quests for power.
The WikiLeaks may have had many revelations but for me the greatest lesson was the absolutely terrible state of democracies around the world when it came to foreign policy corruption. It seems to me that globally we are still stuck in a pre-modern era, where values of accountability, transparency, equality, rule of law and human rights do not apply to human beings of other nationalities.
Human rights don’t matter
It is perhaps the notion that human rights are only for one’s own citizens and merely a beautiful piece of rhetoric to woo others with, which is most disturbing.
Foreign policy construction should move away from the corrupting influence of generals, ideologues and brought out in the open sunshine of the public sphere where citizens can decide for themselves how their country should conduct itself. Peace today requires not more government meetings and ‘’cooperation’’ between intelligence agencies, since we have had plenty of such stupefying and vacuous ‘’confidence building’’ measures, but requires an open meeting of minds, cultures, creeds and a renewal of trust.
The WikiLeaks episode has taught us of the corrupting influence of unchecked power, and the dangers of mixing the awesome power of government with the sinister spectre of secrecy.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.