Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Wikileaks cables and Arab democracy

Tom Malinowski´s article in Foreign Policy is worth reading. He asks the following question:

Did the Wikileaked State Department cables that described Tunisia's deposed leader Zine el-Abedin Ben Ali as the head of a corrupt police state play any role in encouraging the democratic uprising against him -- and thus spark the wave of protests now spreading across Egypt?

The answer seems to be, yes:

In one fell swoop, the candor of the cables released by WikiL,eaks did more for Arab democracy than decades of backstage U.S. diplomacy.

Malinowski offers the following conlusion:

America's relationship with China did not crumble when Hillary Clinton challenged its government to stop censoring the Internet last year, or when she challenged the country to account for the dissidents it has disappeared over the years just days before last week's summit between presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao. America's Arab friends did not walk away from their alliances with the United States after Clinton told them, at a recent public forum in Qatar, that "people have grown tired of [their] corrupt institutions and stagnant political order." Such public candor not only encourages dissidents in repressive societies, but stimulates debate among elites, who often privately admit that the Americans have a point. It can contribute to those magical moments -- unpredictable, infrequent, but in the longer scheme of things inevitable -- when stagnant order gives way to vibrant change.
The people of Tunisia shouldn't have had to wait for Wikileaks to learn that the U.S. saw their country just as they did. It's time that the gulf between what American diplomats know and what they say got smaller.

Read the entire article here.

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