The WikiLeaks cables may be irresponsibly endangering democracy and human rights advocates in repressive regimes, but they also illuminate the differences between democratic and autocratic states.
“The juicy leaks rarely involve our democratic allies,” notes Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser, “but rather countries in which free elections, free speech and a free press don’t exist.”
Dictators and authoritarians don’t tell their people the truths they tell us; their public speeches are meant to manipulate, not to inform. Instead of educating their citizens, as one might have to do in a democracy, they posture and preen on state-owned television stations and in state-controlled newspapers. Their approach is striking: Tell the truth to foreigners but not to your own population.
The disclosures make amusing reading in the democratic West, he notes, “but in the capitals of some weak and undemocratic American allies they are a very unpleasant surprise”:
We can easily denounce the gap between private and public discourse in such countries, and the lack of real public debate on key security issues. But when we consider the identities of some of the people they fear—the ayatollahs in Tehran, terrorists in Hamas and Hezbollah, al Qaeda itself—we see that the WikiLeaks disclosures are less likely to promote more open government than to give aid and comfort to the enemy.