The recent events connected to Wikileaks and Julian Assange should prove once and for all that the global village is here to stay, and that countries no longer can act out of pure self-interest without risking consequences from all sides.
Wikileaks is a major pain in the butt for many governments, possibly most of all to the American. The most recent leaks have sparked a response from the USA that some might have anticipated, while others are baffled at the sheer scale of it. Senators using their influence in a, some feel, inappropriate way, to make companies ”willingly” cut their cooperations with Wikileaks is just one example. The alleged honey trap set up for Julian Assange in Sweden, causing him to be an international fugitive, wanted for sexual misconduct, is another example – not necessarily being a honey trap of course, but the timing is awfully suspicious. Knowing of the past conduct of for example the American CIA, it’s not all together impossible, rather the opposite.
What is interesting, however, is the counter response that has come from all directions, both expected and unexpected. The most expected was, of course, Operation Payback, the name chosen for the attacks of hackers from around the globe targeted at the companies that severed all ties to Wikileaks, like Amazon, Visa, Mastercard etc.
Less expected are the consequences Visa and Mastercard are facing in Iceland, where the credit card companies may have their licenses for doing business revoked on grounds of them censoring Wikileaks. The jury, or rather parliamentary committee, is still out on that one, but the very thought must send shivers down the spine of every credit card executive. Iceland may not be a big country, but it’s pretty rich – at least it was before the banking bubble burst – and it’s got a big airport that serves a lot of transfer flights to and from the US. Losing that market, and the possibility it opens for other countries to follow suit, must be scary. The repercussions for the brands are also impossible to foresee, but it is clear that in many parts of the world all companies who have actively distanced themselves, and even acted out against Wikileaks, have lost credibility and are looking like puppets for the american government. That’s not something a company wants to have in their brand image, at lest not outside of the US and probably not within the US borders either.
In Switzerland, the bank Postfinance are facing different problems, after publicly announcing their decision to close the bank account of Julian Assange on the grounds that he ”provided false information regarding his place of residence”. They might of course be in their every right to close his account on these grounds, but why announce it publicly? The banking secrecy in Switzerland is famous for its strictness, which means Postfinance now faces charges for breaking this code. It’s also completely baffling that a bank would announce this publicly, unless there had been pressure from outside agents to make this decision. The outcome is still unclear, but it will be really interesting to follow the development.
So far we’ve done ”the story so far”. So what’s coming up in the next installment of the saga?
The main theme here is pretty clear, namely that any one country can count on facing big problems when trying to act out of pure self-interest against a company or organization, especially through agents like domestically based multinational companies. What may be correct and even mandatory in one country, in this case the US, may be illegal and even unconstitutional in another. We can count on the US government trying to influence other countries to see their view of course, but it’s not a far-fetched guess that we are now seeing the final death throws of the unilateral world of politics and diplomacy, and the emergence of the more global village thinking on the major international diplomatic scene.
What has been talked about ever since the emergence of the Internet on the global scene, has now become an acute reality for governments who so far have not been forced to deal with it. Distance is being eliminated from the equations and borders are disappearing, even if they’re very much real in the minds of politicians and diplomats. The recent events are not only proving that what an American senator asks of American companies can cause said companies troubles all over the world. The actual leaks have proved that international diplomacy of today leaves a lot to be desired. Veteran diplomats have been baffled by what has been written in the diplomatic correspondence. The correspondence also shows how the current way of doing diplomacy is quickly reaching the end of the road, perhaps in high speed against a rock wall, perhaps more slowly depending on how the recent leaks make the diplomatic corps change their ways.
Obviously, though, the world has been changed and the politics and diplomacy have to be changed accordingly. We will not see it done in a whiff, but there’s no way governments can keep up their current way of governing and interacting with other governments. Not only governments, but diplomatic organizations and intelligence agencies as well, will be forced to rethink their acts. As with so many other things, historical and current, the conservative forces will fail miserably in stopping change. It’s just a question of how quick or slow that failure comes.