The Spectacle Blog

Assange’s Strange Anti-Imperialism

By on 12.1.10 | 3:03PM

Ross Douthat is right on the money:

The hyperbole of certain Republicans notwithstanding, Assange is not a terrorist. But he has this much in common with al Qaeda: In response to what they perceive as the inherent injustice of the American empire, both the jihadis and the Australian anarchist are willing to take steps that they know will make the United States more imperial in the short term - in Al Qaeda's case, acts of terrorism that inspire American military interventions in the Muslim world; in Assange's case, information dumps that inspire ever-greater secrecy and centralization in the federal bureaucracy - in the hopes that the system will eventually collapse under its own weight and "more open forms of governance" (or, I suppose, a global caliphate) can take its place.

The problem, though, is that the American national security state is almost certainly more resilient than either Assange or Osama bin Laden seems to think. Which means that their efforts at sabotage have little chance (by design) of prompting any actual reforms in the system they despise, a vanishingly small chance of actually bringing the whole thing to its knees - and a substantial chance of just making life worse for everybody, inside and outside the United States government alike.

For these reasons, I think libertarian cheering for the WikiLeaks is misguided, to say the least.

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