Hypocrisy (Is The Greatest Luxury)

by Henry on October 22, 2013

Martha Finnemore and I have a piece in the new Foreign Affairs (http://fam.ag/1eGsdT1 should get you past the paywall for the next few weeks) on Snowden, Manning, and how it’s suddenly more difficult for the US to rely on hypocrisy. Update – full article below fold.

The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.

Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices—and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

The End of Hypocrisy
American Foreign Policy in the Age of Leaks

By Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore

FROM OUR NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 ISSUE

The U.S. government seems outraged that people are leaking classified materials about its less attractive behavior. It certainly acts that way: three years ago, after Chelsea Manning, an army private then known as Bradley Manning, turned over hundreds of thousands of classified cables to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, U.S. authorities imprisoned the soldier under conditions that the UN special rapporteur on torture deemed cruel and inhumane. The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, appearing on Meet the Press shortly thereafter, called WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, “a high-tech terrorist.”

More recently, following the disclosures about U.S. spying programs by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency analyst, U.S. officials spent a great deal of diplomatic capital trying to convince other countries to deny Snowden refuge. And U.S. President Barack Obama canceled a long-anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he refused to comply.

Despite such efforts, however, the U.S. establishment has often struggled to explain exactly why these leakers pose such an enormous threat. Indeed, nothing in the Manning and Snowden leaks should have shocked those who were paying attention. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who dissented from the WikiLeaks panic, suggested as much when he told reporters in 2010 that the leaked information had had only a “fairly modest” impact and had not compromised intelligence sources or methods. Snowden has most certainly compromised sources and methods, but he has revealed nothing that was really unexpected. Before his disclosures, most experts already assumed that the United States conducted cyberattacks against China, bugged European institutions, and monitored global Internet communications. Even his most explosive revelation—that the United States and the United Kingdom have compromised key communications software and encryption systems designed to protect online privacy and security—merely confirmed what knowledgeable observers have long suspected.

The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.

Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices—and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

A HYPOCRITICAL HEGEMON

Hypocrisy is central to Washington’s soft power—its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions—yet few Americans appreciate its role. Liberals tend to believe that other countries cooperate with the United States because American ideals are attractive and the U.S.-led international system is fair. Realists may be more cynical, yet if they think about Washington’s hypocrisy at all, they consider it irrelevant. For them, it is Washington’s cold, hard power, not its ideals, that encourages other countries to partner with the United States.

Of course, the United States is far from the only hypocrite in international politics. But the United States’ hypocrisy matters more than that of other countries. That’s because most of the world today lives within an order that the United States built, one that is both underwritten by U.S. power and legitimated by liberal ideas. American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one.

This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning. To ensure that the world order continues to be seen as legitimate, U.S. officials must regularly promote and claim fealty to its core liberal principles; the United States cannot impose its hegemony through force alone. But as the recent leaks have shown, Washington is also unable to consistently abide by the values that it trumpets. This disconnect creates the risk that other states might decide that the U.S.-led order is fundamentally illegitimate.

Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel’s nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India’s right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there’s the “war on terror”: Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.

The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private. Adversaries may point fingers, but few can convincingly occupy the moral high ground. Complaints by China and Russia hardly inspire admiration for their purer policies.

The ease with which the United States has been able to act inconsistently has bred complacency among its leaders. Since few countries ever point out the nakedness of U.S. hypocrisy, and since those that do can usually be ignored, American politicians have become desensitized to their country’s double standards. But thanks to Manning and Snowden, such double standards are getting harder and harder to ignore.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

To see how this dynamic will play out, consider the implications of Snowden’s revelations for U.S. cybersecurity policy. Until very recently, U.S. officials did not talk about their country’s offensive capabilities in cyberspace, instead emphasizing their strategies to defend against foreign attacks. At the same time, they have made increasingly direct warnings about Chinese hacking, detailing the threat to U.S. computer networks and the potential damage to U.S.-Chinese relations.

But the United States has been surreptitiously waging its own major offensive against China’s computers—and those of other adversaries—for some time now. The U.S. government has quietly poured billions of dollars into developing offensive, as well as defensive, capacities in cyberspace. (Indeed, the two are often interchangeable—programmers who are good at crafting defenses for their own systems know how to penetrate other people’s computers, too.) And Snowden confirmed that the U.S. military has hacked not only the Chinese military’s computers but also those belonging to Chinese cell-phone companies and the country’s most prestigious university.

Although prior to Snowden’s disclosures, many experts were aware—or at least reasonably certain—that the U.S. government was involved in hacking against China, Washington was able to maintain official deniability. Protected from major criticism, U.S. officials were planning a major public relations campaign to pressure China into tamping down its illicit activities in cyberspace, starting with threats and perhaps culminating in legal indictments of Chinese hackers. Chinese officials, although well aware that the Americans were acting hypocritically, avoided calling them out directly in order to prevent further damage to the relationship.

But Beijing’s logic changed after Snowden’s leaks. China suddenly had every reason to push back publicly against U.S. hypocrisy. After all, Washington could hardly take umbrage with Beijing for calling out U.S. behavior confirmed by official U.S. documents. Indeed, the disclosures left China with little choice but to respond publicly. If it did not point out U.S. hypocrisy, its reticence would be interpreted as weakness. At a news conference after the revelations, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense insisted that the scandal “reveal[ed] the true face and hypocritical conduct regarding Internet security” of the United States.

The United States has found itself flatfooted. It may attempt, as the former head of U.S. counterintelligence Joel Brenner has urged, to draw distinctions between China’s allegedly unacceptable hacking, aimed at stealing commercial secrets, and its own perfectly legitimate hacking of military or other security-related targets. But those distinctions will likely fall on deaf ears. Washington has been forced to abandon its naming-and-shaming campaign against Chinese hacking.

Manning’s and Snowden’s leaks mark the beginning of a new era in which the U.S. government can no longer count on keeping its secret behavior secret. Hundreds of thousands of Americans today have access to classified documents that would embarrass the country if they were publicly circulated. As the recent revelations show, in the age of the cell-phone camera and the flash drive, even the most draconian laws and reprisals will not prevent this information from leaking out. As a result, Washington faces what can be described as an accelerating hypocrisy collapse—a dramatic narrowing of the country’s room to maneuver between its stated aspirations and its sometimes sordid pursuit of self-interest. The U.S. government, its friends, and its foes can no longer plausibly deny the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and will have to address it head-on.

SUIT THE ACTION TO THE WORD, THE WORD TO THE ACTION

The collapse of hypocrisy presents the United States with uncomfortable choices. One way or another, its policy and its rhetoric will have to move closer to each other.

The easiest course for the U.S. government to take would be to forgo hypocritical rhetoric altogether and acknowledge the narrowly self-interested goals of many of its actions. Leaks would be much less embarrassing—and less damaging—if they only confirmed what Washington had already stated its policies to be. Indeed, the United States could take a page out of China’s and Russia’s playbooks: instead of framing their behavior in terms of the common good, those countries decry anything that they see as infringing on their national sovereignty and assert their prerogative to pursue their interests at will. Washington could do the same, while continuing to punish leakers with harsh prison sentences and threatening countries that might give them refuge.

The problem with this course, however, is that U.S. national interests are inextricably bound up with a global system of multilateral ties and relative openness. Washington has already undermined its commitment to liberalism by suggesting that it will retaliate economically against countries that offer safe haven to leakers. If the United States abandoned the rhetoric of mutual good, it would signal to the world that it was no longer committed to the order it leads. As other countries followed its example and retreated to the defense of naked self-interest, the bonds of trade and cooperation that Washington has spent decades building could unravel. The United States would not prosper in a world where everyone thought about international cooperation in the way that Putin does.

A better alternative would be for Washington to pivot in the opposite direction, acting in ways more compatible with its rhetoric. This approach would also be costly and imperfect, for in international politics, ideals and interests will often clash. But the U.S. government can certainly afford to roll back some of its hypocritical behavior without compromising national security. A double standard on torture, a near indifference to casualties among non-American civilians, the gross expansion of the surveillance state—none of these is crucial to the country’s well-being, and in some cases, they undermine it. Although the current administration has curtailed some of the abuses of its predecessors, it still has a long way to go.

Secrecy can be defended as a policy in a democracy. Blatant hypocrisy is a tougher sell. Voters accept that they cannot know everything that their government does, but they do not like being lied to. If the United States is to reduce its dangerous dependence on doublespeak, it will have to submit to real oversight and an open democratic debate about its policies. The era of easy hypocrisy is over.

{ 89 comments }

1

P.D. 10.22.13 at 4:42 pm

It “may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches”, or it may instead start preaching what it practices. And, in a cynical moment, I’m not sure which outcome is more likely.

2

MPAVictoria 10.22.13 at 4:45 pm

“and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.”

God, wouldn’t that be nice?

3

Henry 10.22.13 at 4:51 pm

That’s me sounding more hopeful than I probably am (but thems the features of the genre of the piece).

4

Anarcissie 10.22.13 at 5:40 pm

It depends what you’re talking about when you say ‘the United States’. If you’re referring to the people as a whole, the country, then I suppose it’s possible that through some major shift of culture and politics it could start practicing what it preaches. It would be a pretty radical shift. But the government, the corporations, the organized ruling class in general cannot practice what they preach because much of their power rests on secrecy, lies, and propaganda. Maintenance of their power requires that they improve these practices, not abandon them.

5

Z 10.22.13 at 5:59 pm

In an ideal world, I would agree, but in the real world, I’m skeptical. After all, the reality of ruthless US behavior has been exposed many times before (and likewise for any other major power, I hasten to say, but we are talking about the US here) without significant changes in the rhetoric. Indeed, I almost worry that the trend might go in the other direction: with more and more abuses known, the cognitive dissonance gets higher and correlatively, the risk of insularity from reason also gets higher. Or in slogan form: the more we know about X crimes, the more virulent defenders of X’s exceptional virtue will be (with X=US here, but the psychological phenomenon is presumably general).

6

geo 10.22.13 at 6:27 pm

most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is

That such words should appear in Foreign Affairs during my lifetime! Nunc dimittis, Domine …

7

Ben Alpers 10.22.13 at 6:43 pm

one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is.

To this (non-diplomatic) historian’s ears, that sounds very William Appleman Williams-y.

8

John Quiggin 10.22.13 at 7:21 pm

A quibble on “everyone who followed the issue knew this already”. True in a sense, but a striking feature of the Snowden revelations (much more than Manning’s) is that the extent of the program was, on all metrics, at or beyond the bounds of what people following the issue expected.

In fact, the tinfoil hat guys who think the government is following all of us all the time have been shown to be close to the truth, and exactly right wrt the aspirations of the NSA (collect it all!). By contrast, even allowing for coded language, most of the experts I listened to seemed to suggest something much more limited, with at least some controls.

And of course, we haven’t seen everything yet.

For example, you mention the US distinction between “good” (anti-terrorist) surveillance and bad commercial espionage, as practised by China. But it looks as if the NSA is much the same as its Chinese counterparts in this respect. The only saving grace is that NSA is institutionally incapable of doing much with commercial information, and is (it seems) unwilling to pass it on to those US agencies who could use it.

9

david 10.22.13 at 7:48 pm

Hmm.

Are ‘the bonds of trade and cooperation’ really incompatible with imperialism? The British Empire of the 1900s found merely regional trade blocs quite sufficient for its ambitions.

In the opposite direction – is imperialism really incompatible with a globalist political rhetoric? “It is good that we and/or Brussels are overtly the dominant superpower, rather than, say, Russia” is exactly the message being tried in the Ukraine and so forth, for a decade of a resurgent Russian sphere, after all. Likewise in the South China Sea vis-a-vis the ASEAN states facing China.

Save for oil and gas pipelines (which still require zero-sum contests over geography), small countries see their prosperity bound in a continuation of the post-WW2 global system, rather than siding with a power that can support Ottoman land-grabs. And it is hardly the case that post-WW2 international institutions have been unsubtle about who gets to exercise power in the name of the Common Good and who does not. Who gets permanent UNSC seats? This is not the League of Nations, after all.

And as P.D. @1 says, the country may just start preaching what it practices. See: the actually-existing politics of torture. International cooperation in order to rub out a alleged regionalist Islamist movement would probably be quite popular with extant regimes in the relevant region. Unlike the Cold War, these rebels have no superpower to lobby on their behalf.

10

Manta 10.22.13 at 7:57 pm

I remind that the major target of this hypocrisy is not other governments: it’s the people, both in US and foreign.

11

Solar Hero 10.22.13 at 7:58 pm

Duh. So “leaking exposes hypocracy.” Doesn’t it do that BY DEFINITION???? I’m trying real hard to see what insight there is here — but awesome you got published!

Academics.

12

roy belmont 10.22.13 at 8:16 pm

The conflation of Manning and Snowden as whistleblowers full-stop elides the grotesque violence Manning revealed. Everybody sort of more or less semi-consciously knew digital connectivity was transparent and available to budget-unlimited gov agencies. But the graphic nature of the Collateral Murder video isn’t paralleled, yet, in Snowden’s releases.
Assange/Manning are undergoing way different reactive consequences than Snowden/Greenwald/Poitras. There’s strategy behind it, of course. And maybe some naivete sophistication differences.
Maybe it’s as simple as Snowden got away and Manning didn’t, Greenwald did and Assage didn’t. Maybe not.

13

Phil 10.22.13 at 8:39 pm

Sadly I’d vote for cognitive dissonance, papered over – or at least distracted-from – by a 24-style credo quia impossibile logical backflip – ours is a pure and noble mission, and if we’re going to uphold that mission in the real world we’ll have to make some hard choices and get our hands dirty…

14

Phil 10.22.13 at 8:40 pm

Oops. As I was saying:

Sadly I’d vote for cognitive dissonance, papered-over – or at least distracted-from – by a 24-style credo quia impossibile logical backflip – “ours is a pure and noble mission, and if we’re going to uphold that mission in the real world we’ll have to make some hard choices and get our hands dirty…”

15

Manta 10.22.13 at 9:04 pm

Quiggin @8 “In fact, the tinfoil hat guys who think the government is following all of us all the time have been shown to be close to the truth, and exactly right wrt the aspirations of the NSA (collect it all!). By contrast, even allowing for coded language, most of the experts I listened to seemed to suggest something much more limited, with at least some controls.”

It was always clear and undisputed that the USA secret agencies had the ability, the reason, the wish, and the legal authority to spy as much as possible. What kind of experts you talked to that made up some reasons why agencies working in secret would not grossly abuse their power?

16

robotslave 10.22.13 at 9:09 pm

I guess I missed the evidence supporting the notion that the public statements of the US regarding its own conduct are a significant factor in the decisions other countries make as to whether or not they’ll go ahead with this or that bit of questionable conduct of their own.

If there is indeed evidence for this, then non-US governments are far less capable of independent judgement and far more susceptible to US propaganda than I would have guessed.

17

Andrew F. 10.22.13 at 9:17 pm

The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order.

It’s curious to read an article on the dangers of being called out on hypocrisy just weeks after Putin’s fascinating and amusing op-ed in The New York Times.

What does it mean for a state to “call a hegemon on its bad behavior”? Sanctions? War? Angry speech in the General Assembly? Press conference? Leaked comments from “unnamed senior government officials” to a favored newspaper? Private phone calls?

And this “calling out” would take place in the context of what? A partial list: Currently the US is negotiating two of the biggest free trade deals in history. South Korea has asked the US to retain command of South Korean military forces for an additional period. Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and other Pacific nations are rapidly forming closer ties with the US, and hoping that China will peacefully integrate as a status quo power. The Middle East is praying that Iran will give up its quest for nuclear weapons (and, in the case of the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and much of Lebanon, praying that the Pacific Pivot isn’t an exit from the Middle East). The global economy is puttering along, and we’re finally starting to become quite concerned about the possible effects of climate change.

Given all that, what interest is served by making a weak case that the US was hypocritical when it didn’t call the overthrow of Morsi a coup (avoiding being placed in a legal straitjacket) when it also called for a return to democracy and is now cutting down military aid?

There’s an absolutist sense in which you’re interpreting values – necessary perhaps to the charge of hypocrisy – that strikes me as divergent from how the US and other governments actually express support for certain values. States pursue values in reality, and compromises and tradeoffs must be made in pursuit of those values. States also sometimes do horrific things that really are hypocritical – but the main problem with those horrific things isn’t that they’re hypocritical. It’s that they’re horrific.

As to Snowden’s leaks and China… there was a negative effect on media and public attention with respect to the issue of Chinese hacking for commercial gain and to suppress Chinese dissidents. That much is true. But that negative effect doesn’t undermine US strategy in the least, and it hasn’t changed the importance of the issue. Companies with valuable secrets and media organizations with valuable secrets aren’t any less concerned about China because of Snowden’s leak. The US Government isn’t stealing secrets from Company A to give them to Company B; nor is it hacking into the New York Times. So the interest in tamping down Chinese commercial espionage and intrusion into media organizations has not changed. Neither has US leverage changed with respect to China. Unless Snowden’s documents have been leaked substantially to the Chinese Government – a real possibility unfortunately – US leverage may even have increased.

And as to the prospect of further leaks… I think the biggest effect of Snowden and Manning on the US Government, and governments everywhere, will be a tightening of their own information security procedures. It will be annoying to those who work at those governments, and it will be somewhat more expensive, but depending on the level of damage caused by Snowden, this episode may ultimately have done intelligence agencies a favor by forcing them to develop better security.

18

Manta 10.22.13 at 9:20 pm

robot@16: The public statements are propaganda: propaganda aimed at the populations (both US and foreign), not the governments.
For instance: most of the allied governments in question did their best to hide the fact that the US was spying on their populations.

19

Manta 10.22.13 at 9:27 pm

Andrew@17
1) The US Government isn’t stealing secrets from Company A to give them to Company B.
2) Chinese [Government is engaging in] commercial espionage

What evidence do you have for the 2 statements?
(To be clear: I think that 1) is false while 2) is true).

20

Straightwood 10.22.13 at 9:43 pm

The Snowden affair will be viewed as an historical turning point for two reasons:

1. The government of a nation state deployed all of its propaganda resources to delegitimize and demonize a whistle-blower, and failed – with over half of the public viewing Snowden as a hero.

2. Snowden successfully avoided punishment by the hegemonic power.

The balance of power is slowly shifting from nation states to the precursors of a de-nationalized global society. The nation states will wage a bitter struggle to protect their turf, but their fate will be the same as that of the feudal fiefdoms.

21

Manta 10.22.13 at 9:50 pm

2. Snowden successfully avoided punishment by the hegemonic power

Isn’t it a bit soon to say that?
After Rome asked Carthage to surrender him, Hannibal avoided punishment by the hegemonic power for more than 10 years: but I don’t think anybody would regard that episode as a sign that the power of the Roman state was in decline.

22

tony lynch 10.22.13 at 10:05 pm

The capacity for bypocrisy is a mark of one’s power. The hypocrisy of the powerful doesn’t demand or need secrecy. They revel in it, and the more the better. Exposing their hypocrisy lets them be more hypocritical in response and marks to them and us the (further) security of their power. You don’t defeat hypocrisy by revealing it, you beat it by beating the hypocrites.

23

Straightwood 10.22.13 at 10:09 pm

@21

Snowden and Assange are just the first wave of Internet dissidents. The new freedoms afforded by global Internet communications will be exercised, and the destructive friction among nation states will give way to a world civilization that does not require secret police. The NSA is in the same situation as the Soviet authorities that contemplated locking up every copying machine. The steadily increasing exposure of lies and government oppression cannot be stopped without uninventing the Internet.

24

Manta 10.22.13 at 10:27 pm

Straight, here are the steps in your reasoning, as I understood them

1) certain forms of propaganda are becoming less effective
2) then a miracle occurs
3) a new world order appears

I think you should be more explicit here in step 2.

25

Alex 10.22.13 at 10:34 pm

The concept one needs here is an alliance of disparate national surveillance cultures. NSA isn’t pulling in substantial amounts of French phone calls because the French don’t know it (the French! who manufacture much of the world’s telecoms infrastructure! and their own ELINT satellites and SLBMs!), it’s doing so because the French pull them in themselves and *share*.

We know this is the case with GCHQ and with BND. We also know that the crisis PR script the Germans executed was identical – we knew nothing, nothing, we’ll call in the ambassador, jumpcut, you know these people are weird, we’re checking this statement, we’re still outraged, oh yes, they’ve promised us it’s OK…da capo al fine.

26

Alex 10.22.13 at 10:35 pm

and Le Monde ought to catch itself on, having been repeatedly targeted by French signals intelligence itself!

27

LFC 10.22.13 at 11:33 pm

Looking at the piece quickly (haven’t read the whole thing closely yet), this jumps out as a questionable passage:

…most of the world today lives within an order that the United States built, one that is both underwritten by U.S. power and legitimated by liberal ideas. American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one.

In exactly what sense is the current world order “underwritten by American power”? Do the authors mean to refer here to ‘soft power’ or ‘hard power’? It’s unclear, b.c they don’t say.

As to hard power: The U.S. has something like, I think, 1500 military bases all over the world, I don’t know the exact number. If it cut those bases down by two-thirds, would the World Bank, the UN, the IMF, and the WTO stop functioning? Of course not. It would have no effect on their functioning whatsoever. So the U.S. could substantially reduce its global military footprint without undermining the putatively ‘American’ world order. (True, the U.S. navy does help keep some key sea lanes open, I will grant that, but it cd do that without bases all over the world.)

As to soft power: In what sense is the current world order underpinned by the attractiveness of specifically American values? Aren’t democracy, the rule of law, pluralism, free trade, transparent markets and blah blah blah better seen as ‘Western’ or even in some sense ‘universal’ values rather than American ones?

Everyone knows the U.S. is ‘hypocritical’ — that there is a disconnect betw rhetoric and actions — b.c there is always such a disconnect for every country. Does it matter more when the extent of this hypocrisy is revealed in the U.S.’s case? Finnemore and Farrell think it does, but I’m not sure their case that unless the U.S. starts living up to its rhetoric this will encourage other countries to act more self-interestedly, thus undermining intl cooperation, is wholly convincing.

The U.S., for ex., should stop being indifferent to non-American civilian casualties b.c such indifference is immoral. I’m more comfortable w that position than with the Finnemore/Farrell position, at least as expressed here, that the U.S. should stop being indifferent to non-American civilian casualties b.c that is hypocrisy which, if not corrected, will eventually cause intl cooperation to decrease and the world trading system to unravel.

Of course, I understand this is ‘Foreign Affairs’ and the piece is necessarily tailored to the venue and the genre/format. Some allowances, I suppose, have to be made for that.

28

Matt 10.22.13 at 11:38 pm

And as to the prospect of further leaks… I think the biggest effect of Snowden and Manning on the US Government, and governments everywhere, will be a tightening of their own information security procedures. It will be annoying to those who work at those governments, and it will be somewhat more expensive, but depending on the level of damage caused by Snowden, this episode may ultimately have done intelligence agencies a favor by forcing them to develop better security.

The Snowden episode is a greater favor to the security of NSA targets. A lot of NSA data comes from colluding private companies, but even more requires exploitation of technical weaknesses: dragnet processing of unencrypted communications, flaws in encryption implementations, weak default choices in encryption, and software defects that allow malware to capture communications before encryption is applied. Enabling encryption, auditing encryption implementations, and encouraging further scrutiny of software correctness/security to guard against remote exploits are likely results of the Snowden disclosures. Note that the costs of increased security are different for intelligence organizations and their targets. Intelligence organizations incur additional costs every day that they work to rules designed to prevent leaks. Secrecy procedures are about human behavior, not just technical measures, and their costs cannot be eliminated by technical means. Potential NSA targets (i.e. many people in the USA and everyone outside it) have additional up-front costs for enabling good encryption and developing low-defect software, but there are not significant recurring costs. An email server or PDF reader implementation full of bugs that allow arbitrary code execution is no better for its intended use than one without exploitable vulnerabilities.

29

LFC 10.22.13 at 11:48 pm

I am also not convinced by the argument that “leakers such as Manning and Snowden … undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it.” Since everyone already knows the U.S. is hypocritical, I’m not sure that “documented confirmation” of what people already know (or intuit) matters that much. I’m inclined to think the Snowden affair is more an embarrassment for the U.S. than a threat to its freedom to be hypocritical (per Finnemore and Farrell) or a “historical turning point” (per Straightwood).

30

Ken_L 10.23.13 at 12:09 am

I suggest you are confusing hypocrisy with Orwellian doublespeak. The latter has always been part of the language of international relations. Did anybody really believe there was a connection between Soviet rhetoric about freedom and democracy and the practices of the Soviet Government? But the disconnect made no difference to policy or practice. So it will be with the USA. Words are just symbols used for cosmetic purposes.

31

Straightwood 10.23.13 at 12:42 am

The people of the world are beginning to think of themselves as one community, sharing an atmosphere and a biosphere. The notion that 200 sovereign nations can effectively agree on pollution controls, human rights, universal education, and resource conservation is ludicrous. Nature bats last, and once an interconnected world population understands that nation states can’t solve global problems, they will create supra-national governing entities by building layers of commercial and political structures on top of the Internet. The great failure of imagination of contemporary social scientists is their blindness to the extensibility of global Internet protocols into the political domain

32

geo 10.23.13 at 4:22 am

Straightwood@31: once an interconnected world population understands that nation states can’t solve global problems, they will create supra-national governing entities by building layers of commercial and political structures on top of the Internet

I’d like to believe this. Can you fill out the picture a little?

33

gordon 10.23.13 at 6:15 am

Manta (at 18) says US Govt. hypocrisy is aimed at populations “both US and foreign”.

It seems to me that the US population is the primary target. The US Govt. seeks to mislead and misinform its own people more than anybody else. I suspect you would find that populations elsewhere have a considerably greater degree of scepticism (even cynicism) about US Govt. pronouncements and aims than does the US population.

So I agree with LFC (at 29) when he says “everyone already knows the U.S. is hypocritical” as far as non-US populations are concerned. With regard to the US population, it seems to me that they just don’t care what happens to foreigners or to blacks or to Moslems. I suspect that’s why Snowden had a surprisingly big impact; he showed that the NSA is eavesdropping even on respectable, white, Christian (?) Americans. Now that is truly shocking!

Geo (at 32) –

You say that you would like to agree with Straightwood about the “supra-national governing entities”. I certainly wouldn’t. This is pure science fiction, a sort of deus ex machina which, like the Lone Ranger or Robin of Sherwood, is going to gallop up and save us all. Trouble is, it won’t. Any such supra-national governing entity would more likely resemble the IMF or the WTO – it would be corrupt, serve the interests of the select few and be profoundly anti-democratic.

34

ZM 10.23.13 at 6:42 am

“Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is.”

“It’s that Chesterton makes sure that the dangerous, ‘Every Day Is Like Thursday’, signature Chesterton protagonist delusionalism is utterly innocent and childlike at the root, even if the branches whack other folks, who are almost as innocent. Imagine thinking Cruz was fundamentally good-hearted, boy howdy. Wouldn’t that be a sight to tell your grand-kids you saw?”

35

SusanC 10.23.13 at 9:04 am

I’m starting to think what we’re seeing is that traditional war, or even “cyberwar”, becomes very difficult for capitalist societies with a large volume of international trade. China is presumably a major user of Microsoft’s software; the US telecommunications networks use large amount of equipment made in China. The strong suggestion that both of these software systems have been deliberately compromised by their manufacturers so that their respective governments can carry out spying (at best) or a full-scale military attack[*] (at worst) does not sit very well with encouraging exports and a positive balance of trade.

[*] One of the many views of “cyberwar” is that the objective is to temporily disable your opponent’s ability to defend themselves while you carry out an attack using other means. e.g. take out China’s military communications networks, radar etc. with a software attack, and then destroy all their major cities with nuclear missiles in the 15 minutes or so while they’re trying to fix the software problems. The suggestion that this possibility might be on the cards is not a great advertisement for US exports. WWII had so some real examples of this kind of electronic attack, especially with regard to radar.

36

Collin Street 10.23.13 at 9:52 am

Since everyone already knows the U.S. is hypocritical, I’m not sure that “documented confirmation” of what people already know (or intuit) matters that much.

Confirmation shifts it from “things you know” to “things you know everyone knows”: this has important consequences for coordination.

[conversely, if you can prevent people talking about certain opinions that everyone shares, you shift it from "things you know everyone knows" to "things you know", which also has important consequences for coordination.]

37

Niall McAuley 10.23.13 at 11:04 am

I think it is more likely that the US will start preaching what it practices.

I was watching the first of the recent Bourne movies from 2002 a while back, and I was struck by how the whole premise has been made redundant by more recent US brazenness.

In The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne is a US assassin with amnesia who must be found and killed before he reveals the shocking truth that the US maintains a force of assassins. Everyone is absolutely convinced that it will be a Watergate scale scandal if this is revealed.

But now, Obama openly claims the right to put anyone he wants onto a kill list. “Jason Bourne, assassin? Sure – he’s a drone pilot in cube 12A, near the printer.”

38

Tim Wilkinson 10.23.13 at 12:41 pm

JQ @8 the extent of the program was, on all metrics, at or beyond the bounds of what people following the issue expected. …the tinfoil hat guys…have been shown to be close to the truth… By contrast, even allowing for coded language, most of the experts I listened to seemed to suggest something much more limited…

Which would seem to call for an agnotological post-mortem, and perhaps a reassessment of claims previously dismissed as ‘paranoid conspiracy theories’.

No doubt some of the (supposed) foil-hatters were right by accident. Others may have hit on a reliable method for estimating the truth about parapolitics and other covert activity – or a more reliable one than we have been using. If so,we should be trying to follow their lead – supposing we can solve the 2nd-order problem of determining who they are and/or what that method is (preferably the latter, which is probably necessary for the former in any case).

This is not straightforward (obviously). In assessing reliable judges/methods, we would want to dismiss those that are obviously absurd or too uncritical of too many conspiracy theories (‘covert action hypotheses’). In doing that, it would of course be self defeating simply to apply the ex ante standards for the values of ‘obvious’, ‘absurd’, ‘too uncritical’ or ‘too many’.

A bigger obstacle to attempting such a recalibration is the ‘old news – nothing to see here’ syndrome, much in evidence here. Its a defence mechanism, which when used self-consciously by ideologues (which I don’t claim to be the case here, with the obvious exception) is aimed precisely at denying the need for any updating of the relevant attitudes and credences.

Ken_L @30 provides a good example of the ‘this is old news – do not adjust your priors’ approach. No-one was ever naïve enough to believed anything US officialdom said. This is supported by a refence to ‘Orwellian doublespeak’, which is presented as akin to diplomatese: a transparent form of euphemism. It seems to be an amalgam of ‘doublethink’ – which involves not properly resolving contradictions and cognitive dissonances – and ‘Newspeak’ – which was exactly aimed at restricting the ability to communicate – even render choate – subversive thoughts.

In that connection, LFC @28 has Since everyone already knows the U.S. is hypocritical, I’m not sure that “documented confirmation” of what people already know (or intuit) matters that much.

Leave aside the ‘everyone knew’ and the fact that one may know A to be hypocritical but not the full degree and extent of such hypocrisy.

Documented – public – confirmation does matter. We needn’t follow Orwell in flirting with Wittgenstein-style Private Language arguments to see that subversive ideas are of little use if they aren’t communicated and discussed. The role of Wikileaks as ‘catalyst that sparks the revolution’ in Tunisia is a case in point – it seems that very many were dissatisfied with the regime, but were unsure how many others felt the same, or were afraid to communicate their dissatisfaction, until a public record of its excesses became available to all.

Much the same happens, I believe, in the case of some so-called conspiracy theories in the West, for example in relation to suspicious deaths. Many more people have their suspicions, I believe, than will admit to them, because of the deliberate Emperor’s New Clothes strategy which makes people, especially those such as academics, journalists and junior politicians whose careers depend on having their opinions and utterances respected, afraid to voice their true opinions for fear of being discredited. In the absence of a small child brandishing documentary evidence, nothing happens. (LFC, in fairness, mentions merey ‘intuited’ suspicions – the preceding comments apply to those especially. I think plenty of people are capable of smelling official bullshit without being able to precisely locate and describe it.)

(There are many other considerations involved of course. Partial credence is not well handled in general discourse at the best of times, and gatekeepers/enforcers will not tolerate it in relation to consp theories; many people will self-censor for reasons such as keeping their jobs, and that the are all doing so may well be common though tacit knowledge among a whole class of persons; etc…)

BTW the rather obvious fact that (here in the UK) the oligopoly in domestic energy supply co-operates to keep energy bills high is just starting to be openly discussed; a presenter on BBC Radio 4 has just explained in a matter of fact tone that when Cameron talks about ‘internal business practices’ he means cartels and collusion, as if talk of large fims involved in illegal conspiracy in defiance of the neoliberal assumption of cutthroat competation is the kind of thing R4 is always mentioning. But it’s not – and in most places – including here – most people have tended to reject this as a possibility – because big business is incapable of conspiring, and always seeks short run competitive advantage at the expense of collusion or co-operation.

39

QS 10.23.13 at 1:15 pm

I’m with the “greatest luxury is 1500 military bases and thousands of nuclear weapons” camp. Anyone who paid any attention to politics in the 20th century knows of the US’ hypocrisy. Let’s examine the authors’ statement: “American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II…” The US has commitments to democracy? Since when? Let’s ask Allende and Mossadeq. Or, if you say I’m misreading this, ask any Bolivian about the “democratic commitments” the IMF has when it forces debtor nations to structurally “adjust.” IR scholars like Finnemore and Farrell should be all over the democratic deficit of international economic institutions. Instead, they perpetuate the idea that the US has commitments to liberalism, built a global liberal order, etc.

Our “hypocrisy” is continually made clear via various events or practices (coups, leveraging the power of finance capital over developing nations, false pretenses for war) and yet some people remain credulous, surprised at each new instance the US is duplicitous. From this perspective, Snowden is old-hat, just another blip on the discursive register that skips past each shocking revelation by singing the songs of American exceptionalism.

If very smart persons like Finnemore and Farrell are indicative of anything, it’s that hypocrisy will end when our military dominance fails, not when our public “wises up.”

40

Straightwood 10.23.13 at 1:29 pm

@32

The Internet is no longer a novelty, but political scientists studiously ignore the implications of its governance mechanisms for political evolution. The RFC mechanism of building gradual consensus behind a new protocol is directly applicable to the generation of legal conventions. This brilliant means of avoiding contention and unproductive factional conflict has enormous potential for application to political affairs. I believe that the increasing use of consensual global protocols, beginning with commerce and ultimately extending to environmental protection and human rights will supplant the ancient norms of ideological and jurisdictional conflict.

The failure to address the implications of Internet society for political evolution will be remarked by future historians as a case of inexplicable academic myopia.

41

William Timberman 10.23.13 at 1:59 pm

Straightwood @ 40

Interesting idea, particularly your invocation of the RFC as a model for political decision-making. I doesn’t seem to me, though, that it adequately addresses the distortions power introduces into the mix. Consider, for example, the tortured history of Linus Torwalds and the catfights over the development of Linux. Nasty stuff. Not as nasty as the Koch brothers machinations, true, but neither were they so different as to suggest that technocrats escape the mortal flaws of clay-footed politicians as completely as you’d have us believe.

42

Tim Wilkinson 10.23.13 at 2:07 pm

@38, I meant to acknowledge that Collin Street had already made the Emperor’s New Clothes kind of point about private v common knowledge @36.
fwiw.

43

Straightwood 10.23.13 at 2:16 pm

@41

For every Linus Torwald, there are dozens of Richard Stallmans quietly working to create a better ego-free world of public domain software. The creation of cults of personality around the Jobs and Zuckerbergs of the world has distorted public understanding of technological progress so that the antics of enfants terribles are considered essential to the process. This is nonsense.

The central metaphor for the future of political evolution is the internal coherence of good systems design. Cohesion and cooperation will become increasingly valued in political discourse, while conflict, deception, and secrecy become associated with bad outcomes. The public Internet was not built by dueling egos. Our future political evolution will benefit from emulation of the best practices of the Internet founders.

44

Theophylact 10.23.13 at 2:24 pm

James Clapper “denies the allegation and defies the alligator“. Unfortunately, his reputation for truth-telling is pretty shaky these days.

45

Henry 10.23.13 at 2:38 pm

Grouping together some of the serious criticisms (I’ll be leaving Straightwood to chat happily with himself as per usual), it seems to me that there are three major forms of pushback.

One, as per John Q., is whether this stuff was actually ‘known’ in the first place. I still contend that it was, if not in the specifics – people in foreign governments have had a pretty good idea for a long time that the US was spying on them. The bugging of the EU buildings was already known – see e.g. this in French. The full extent of the NSA’s involvement in subverting cryptographic standards wasn’t known, but as we say in the piece, it was widely suspected (see e.g. Ed Felten on this). On whether there was a difference between Wikileaks and Snowden’s revelations – not so much. The Wikileaks revelations were unsurprising – it was not exactly a secret that US troops were pretty callous in their attitude towards civilian casualties. Even the “Collateral Murder” video had already been floating around – my understanding is that a number of journalists had heard about it, and had been trying to get their hands on it.

Two – whether this has consequences. The answer is yes – it does have consequences even if everyone knows that the US has been hypocritical (and if other states have hypocritically chosen to ignore it in the past). The deterioration of relations between Brazil and the US, with the cancellation of the Roussef state visit is one obvious example. It is fairly clear that Roussef didn’t want to cancel – but she also didn’t feel that she had much of a choice. Certain forms of convenient blindness are now off the table. Second, the European Parliament’s draft legislation on privacy, which obliges companies (including US companies) reporting personal information on European individuals to foreign authorities to inform the Europeans. The US had previously successfully pressed to get rid of this clause – it went back in because of the Snowden revelations. The US is going to push as hard as it can to get it back out – but will have enormous difficulty, both because of the way that the EU ordinary legislative procedure works (the member states can’t simply overrule Parliament, or even look for the ‘second bite of the cherry’ that they had in the first version of codecision), and because the member states are going to have great difficulty in voting to put this back in (especially Germany). Again, this is hypocritical in a sense – on evidence from the Wikileaks cables, Merkel has no problems whatsoever with US surveillance – but the Snowden revelations make it politically highly awkward for member states to bury it, no matter how much they would like to.

Finally, on the questions of US order – yes, of course military force has something to do with it. But the US couldn’t keep hegemony going on the basis of military threats alone (my co-author Marty Finnemore has a great piece on this in World Politics a few years back). And yes indeedy, the US is often hypocritical about this order’s commitments to democracy, rule of law and so on – that is exactly the point of the argument we are making, or at least of the argument we are trying to make.

46

Anarcissie 10.23.13 at 2:43 pm

Actually, the Internet is still a considerable novelty, and important stakeholders in the established order seem to be having a lot of trouble constraining its directions of development and its effects, much as they may desire to, or even predicting them. I do not refer only to governments.

47

William Timberman 10.23.13 at 2:45 pm

Straightwood @ 43

The central metaphor for the future of political evolution is the internal coherence of good systems design.

I see. If the flag is attractive enough, everyone will naturally salute it. This, believe it or not, was the central conceit of the Enlightenment, which preceded good systems design in the sense you mean it by quite a few years. That conceit didn’t work out so well, and since yours is subject to similar flaws, I believe that its successes will be similarly limited. No doubt we’ll learn some of the things you say we’ll learn from it, but in my view, you’ve limited yourself to reading from a single book, which is often, if not always, the first step on the road to self-delusion.

48

Manta 10.23.13 at 2:51 pm

Tin@38
“and in most places – including here – most people have tended to reject this as a possibility – because big business is incapable of conspiring, and always seeks short run competitive advantage at the expense of collusion or co-operation.”

Quite the opposite, it seems to me it’s a commonly discussed opinion that, absent the countervailing force of the state, big business will collude. Adam Smith’s quote “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” is a well-known example. The anti-trust laws another one.

49

Manta 10.23.13 at 2:59 pm

Henry, “The deterioration of relations between Brazil and the US, with the cancellation of the Roussef state visit is one obvious example. “

I am not well informed about it, so I would appreciate if you made the case that such deterioration is substantial (as opposed to mere show for the public), i.e. it has practical consequences beyond the cancellation of some visit and some stern talk.

50

William Timberman 10.23.13 at 3:05 pm

Henry @ 45

I think Tim Wilkinson’s and Collin Street’s observations on the changed public dynamic following the outing of these administrative hypocrisies are good ones, but I have my doubts about that dynamic becoming a permanent one. The obvious counter is to increase the amount of soporific gas being pumped through the media, wait a bit, then go back to business as usual. If hypocrisy weren’t convenient to the powers that be, it wouldn’t be so strenuously defended. That dynamic hasn’t changed an iota, as far as I can see.

It reminds me of the arc of the Soviet Union. Small adjustments having been made impossible, and revolt unthinkable, collapse became inevitable. This may turn out to be the principal lesson modernism has to teach us.

51

ajay 10.23.13 at 3:07 pm

It reminds me of the arc of the Soviet Union. Small adjustments having been made impossible, and revolt unthinkable, collapse became inevitable.

That’s not even remotely close to what happened to the Soviet Union. There are some good books on the subject I could recommend, if you’re interested.

52

Barry 10.23.13 at 3:14 pm

Henry: “The full extent of the NSA’s involvement in subverting cryptographic standards wasn’t known, but as we say in the piece, it was widely suspected (see e.g. Ed Felten on this). “

The way that I’d put it is that the ‘paranoid conspiracy theories’ are now publicly known to be mostly true, and in general not going far enough. That’s different from ‘widely suspected’, in a sense that the Powers That Be can casually dismiss it.

53

Jack Archer 10.23.13 at 3:17 pm

On the link between hypocrisy and sincerity, few writers understood and wrote about it so well as Dickens did. Hypocrisy permeated Victorian England’s politics — it was as necessary to maintaining a class-based society then as it apparently is now in the US, in building one.

54

ZM 10.23.13 at 3:49 pm

Henry, you write “And yes indeedy, the US is often hypocritical about this order’s commitments to democracy, rule of law and so on – that is exactly the point of the argument we are making, or at least of the argument we are trying to make”, I haven’t read the article but only the excerpt, however, in the passage you selected your argument seems chiefly to be that rather than officials and politicians being ‘hypocritical’ (ie. playing a part), you see them (or are prepared to assert that you see them) as unworldly sort of creatures who are somehow sincerely mistaken about or uncomprehending of and perhaps uncapable of recognising seemingly evident contradictions between their words and courses of action. This seems to shy away from trying to make an argument that the figures in US government are ‘often hypocritical’.

55

LFC 10.23.13 at 4:05 pm

@C Street, T Wilkinson
I understand your point on ‘documented confirmation’. However, I have not followed the content of the Snowden leaks closely, so beyond the extent/scope of NSA surveillance of communications (including, apparently, those of D. Roussef), I am not aware of what *specific* confirmation of hypocrisy the Snowden leaks provided. (And note, btw, that the extent of surveillance is hypocrisy only insofar as the US had publicly said somewhere it doesn’t do surveillance on that scale, which presumably it did say or imply somewhere or other.)

Which gets to my last point — when I said ‘everyone knows’ the US is hypocritical what I meant was that everyone knows there is a disconnect or disjunction between rhetoric and actions, which is how the Finnemore/Farrell piece defines ‘hypocrisy’. The reason ‘everyone’ knows this in the case of the US is that ‘everyone’ knows this in the case of *every* country, and the reason everyone knows it in the case of every country is that every country is hypocritical under the Finnemore/Farrell definition. Finnemore/Farrell acknowledge this but proceed to argue that the extent and unmasking of US hypocrisy matters more than that of other countries, a key aspect, or so I gathered, of their argument that virtually everyone on this thread appears to accept without question. And I will now shut up b/c I haven’t even read the piece thoroughly yet.

56

Tim Wilkinson 10.23.13 at 4:29 pm

Manta @48 – well it was my impression that this kind of possibility – in actual concrete cases – has mostly tended to be rejected by most commentators who expressed an opinion. I may be wrong – no doubt there’s some selective attention on my part – but still, I’ve certainly seen an unrealistic attitude about this kind of thing manifested (even) here, and certainly in the media etc of course.

Henry @45 – the thing is, given hindsight, you can always find some source which was warning, Cassandra-like, about whatever it is that is supposed to have been ‘known’. One French article, some reports of rumours among journos, and Ed Felton reporting that suspicion has been longstanding in some quarters don’t (as Barry points out) serve to demonstrate that something was at the time ‘known’ – or widely accepted as settled fact, still less that it was common knowledge.

William T @50 – I’m not particularly optimistic about that either, fwiw. And one reason why is the tendency for scandals like this to sublimate from (at best) ‘mere speculation’ to ‘old news’, without passing through the intermediate ‘this is a massive scandal meriting a full public inquiry and a rethinking of our attitudes and prejudices’ stage.

57

roy belmont 10.23.13 at 4:49 pm

Is hypocrisy an external or an internal state?
Isn’t lying to idiots okay?
Esp. if they have inappropriate amounts of power? F’rinstance voting and all that.
Is that hypocrisy? To trick people’s votes away by lying when they’re so stupid to begin with?
Is it hypocritical to pretend to be nice to a crazy person with a gun?
What about the ticking time bomb? What about God?
What about that business of stoning adulterers?
Isn’t hypocrisy/moral duplicity okay when idiotic crazy delusional people with rocks already in their hands are watching you?
WHAT ABOUT THE TICKING TIME BOMB??
Aren’t the decisions being made in the US about surveillance protocols being made by people vastly smarter and more well-informed than commoners?
Shouldn’t they be free to lie to anyone they feel the need to? To save us all?

58

Ronan(rf) 10.23.13 at 4:56 pm

I think (hope) I get the larger argument about how this hypocricy might undermine the cooperative aspects of the international order; as more gets leaked and more hypocricy is exposed it pushes the US and other major powers into hostile positions against eachother which reinforces the bad behaviour, undermining the liberal aspects of the international order
But what I dont get is, why now? What is it specifically about these leaks, or this point in time, that makes this a potential (likely?) outcome? (The rise of other powers? The struture of the international system? Organisations like wikileaks, individuals like Snowden, themselves being the new factor?)

59

Manta 10.23.13 at 5:06 pm

Tim Wilkinson @38
“No doubt some of the (supposed) foil-hatters were right by accident. Others may have hit on a reliable method for estimating the truth about parapolitics and other covert activity – or a more reliable one than we have been using.”

Machiavelli wrote the definitive essay on the topic a few years ago.

60

William Timberman 10.23.13 at 5:09 pm

Tim Wilkinson @ 56

Is it really so far-fetched to think that the powers that be can win all the battles and still lose the war? What is customarily called the erosion of public confidence tends to be cumulative. You see it in things like the chain-letter peddling of conspiracy theories, the brain-dead rage of the Tea Party, or on the high end, the widespread nodding of heads at the stylish Galgenhumor of media figures like Jon Stewart or Bill Maher.

They preach, we listen. And then we yawn, go home and mow the lawn. It may be that widespread apathy doesn’t matter any more, that the only processes crucial to a forward-thinking imperium can run without us after all. You do have to wonder, though, just how stable those processes will prove to be in the long run.

61

LFC 10.23.13 at 5:45 pm

Btw, nothing Henry said @45 is, afaict, responsive to a main pt I was trying to make @27 — namely, to question the extent to which the ‘global liberal order’ is specifically an American order. (F&F simply assume that ‘global liberal order’ = American order.)

And this from Henry @45 –

Finally, on the questions of US order – yes, of course military force has something to do with it. But the US couldn’t keep hegemony going on the basis of military threats alone

is not responsive to anything, since no one here (w/ the possible exception of QS @39) has suggested that the US could “keep hegemony going on the basis of military threats alone.” At @27 I implied rather the opposite, noting that if the US militarily retrenched, such (supposed) instruments of ‘US hegemony’ (or of the ‘US order’) as the IMF and WTO would keep right on going as if nothing had happened.

I mean really, does Christine LaGarde give a flying fu*k how many Stealth bombers the US has or how often they fly over the Korean peninsula?

62

Manta 10.23.13 at 6:01 pm

“Does Christine LaGarde give a flying fu*k how many Stealth bombers the US has or how often they fly over the Korean peninsula?”

Do you care how much strong is the police force?
And yet, without police, the domestic political order would collapse.

Why do you think the international order is substantially different, i.e. that without US military power it would not collapse?

63

Ronan(rf) 10.23.13 at 6:05 pm

Some aspets of the ‘international order’ might need US military hegemony to function, but it’s difficult to see the IMF as one of them
see (seriously)

http://crookedtimber.org/2012/04/04/because-imperialism/

64

LFC 10.23.13 at 6:11 pm

Why do you think the international order is substantially different, i.e. that without US military power it would not collapse?

I said key parts of the int’l order would not be much affected by a US mil. retrenchment. I did not make the more sweeping claim that if U.S. mil. power vanished, the intl order would not collapse or would not be affected. It would be affected (exactly how is a separate question).

65

adam.smith 10.23.13 at 8:39 pm

I’m not entirely sure I understand how Henry and Martha believe this type of exposed hypocrisy is distinct from other, publicly documented (rather than just suspected) US hypocrisy (others here have mentioned the support of military coups, the article itself mentions non-proliferation and the war on terror, I’d add the public “confession” of – or should we call it bragging with – authorizing torture by former US leaders without even as much as a suggestion they might be prosecuted)
Is the argument that it affects close allies? I think Brazil only marginally counts here, they’ve been fiercely independent in their foreign policy and critical of a lot of US policy, so the main point seems to be that the EU is mad. Now, France protesting against US policies isn’t exactly new, either, so we’re kind of down to US foreign policy taking significant damage because German politicians are asking critical questions.
So basically I’m disputing two claims here:
1. That the exposed hypocrisy is on a different level than prior exposed hypocrisy in other areas (this is, I believe, a very different point from “everyone suspected this went on anyway” – I find e.g. Collin @36 convincing on why the exposure still matters)
2. That the reactions we’re seeing are in any way unusual or dramatic compared to past minor quarrels among allied or allied-ish states.

66

Manta 10.23.13 at 8:45 pm

adam.smith@65:

Trying to answer 1.:
Nobody who is anybody cares about torture, or democracy, or privacy.
However, some do care about industrial espionage.

67

adam.smith 10.23.13 at 11:07 pm

Manta @66 – I can see that argument (i.e. “you can mess with our values, but not with our MNCs!”), but a) it’s not the argument Henry and Martha are making and b) I’m not all that convinced it’s actually true – e.g. the Iraq war went quite a bit against the interests of the French oil industry and not co-incidentally all oil-related contracts went to US firms after the war.

68

Ronan(rf) 10.23.13 at 11:22 pm

“e.g. the Iraq war went quite a bit against the interests of the French oil industry and not co-incidentally all oil-related contracts went to US firms after the war.”

Didn’t most contracts go to Chinese companies? Which made little sense..

69

adam.smith 10.23.13 at 11:53 pm

depends on what you mean by contracts. Chinese companies did indeed buy up a lot of the drilling rights: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/world/middleeast/china-reaps-biggest-benefits-of-iraq-oil-boom.html though Haliburton et al got pretty much all the initial contracts to restore oil fields, pipelines etc.

70

Ronan(rf) 10.24.13 at 1:12 am

Ah okay. I remembered when the drilling contracts were auctioned US firms didnt do so well, but the fact that they cleaned up in the ‘services’ side makes more sense

71

LFC 10.24.13 at 3:57 am

In further response to Manta @62: U.S. mil. power is not the equivalent of a domestic police force; it’s just not a v. good analogy, for several reasons. (And btw I probably ought to care how large the local police force is, whether it’s bigger than it needs to be for ex., b/c its size and visibility affect both the texture, for lack of a better word, of life and, to at least a small extent, the taxes one pays — the former consideration being, I think, somewhat more important.)

72

ajay 10.24.13 at 9:03 am

Do you care how much strong is the police force?
And yet, without police, the domestic political order would collapse.

Why do you think the international order is substantially different, i.e. that without US military power it would not collapse?

Because a) the US military is not a police force and b) inasmuch as it is, it is not the only police force. Most other powerful nations have a very strong interest in the international order not collapsing, because they are doing rather well out of it too.

73

Manta 10.24.13 at 9:48 am

“Most other powerful nations have a very strong interest in the international order not collapsing, because they are doing rather well out of it too.”

We run that experiment before WWI, and it did not end well.

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Ronan(rf) 10.24.13 at 1:26 pm

Here’s the most recent iteration, (from an insider US perspective), of ‘the US military should not retrench’, Manta

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/IS3703_Brooks%20Wohlforth%20Ikenberry.pdf

Not even they’re prediciting a repeat of WW1, which is a little hyperbolic (by any realisitic definition of what retrenhment would entail) ; )

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LFC 10.24.13 at 5:08 pm

Manta:
If every U.S. soldier and tactical nuclear weapon and every military base were removed from Europe, you wd not get a repeat of WW1. Most European countries form what IR lingo calls a ‘security community,’ which means they have put war effectively off the table as a means of dispute res. For an historian’s perspective on this, see J. Sheehan, ‘Where have all the soldiers gone?’.

It’s true that the powerful countries were doing “rather well out of the intl order,” at least in some respects, before WW1. But a lot of other things were v. different.

And if you’re going to read Brooks/Wohlforth/Ikenberry (linked by Ronan above), you shd also read a piece on the other side, i.e. pro-retrenchment, say the one by Barry Posen linked below. Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2013 issue, ran the Posen piece in a debate format w one by Brooks/Ikenberry/Wohlforth.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138466/barry-r-posen/pull-back
[must be subscriber to read beyond the opening paragraphs]

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ajay 10.25.13 at 9:54 am

If every U.S. soldier and tactical nuclear weapon and every military base were removed from Europe, you wd not get a repeat of WW1

Yes. And this isn’t just an unfounded guess: you can look at areas of the world that used to have a large US military presence and now don’t, and ask: have these areas become more or less stable since the US pulled out?

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ajay 10.25.13 at 9:55 am

“Most other powerful nations have a very strong interest in the international order not collapsing, because they are doing rather well out of it too.”
We ran that experiment before WWI, and it did not end well.

But surely the point about WW1 was that some of the powerful nations didn’t think they were doing very well out of the international order remaining as it was? Germany wanted its place in the sun…

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John Quiggin 10.25.13 at 10:39 am

@ajay A hypothesis that seemed to be tested to destruction, except that they decided to retest it 20 years later.

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Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 12:19 pm

“Yes. And this isn’t just an unfounded guess: you can look at areas of the world that used to have a large US military presence and now don’t, and ask: have these areas become more or less stable since the US pulled out?

What are the examples here?
It’s definitely arguable that US military primacy backed up by security alliances help keep some regional conflicts from escalating (East Asia especially) The idea that this is the case in Europe is obviously wrong, but any serious reduction in US military spending and commitments to Europe would (more than likely) have to be picked up by continental powers (so European countries FP would more than likely become more militarisd)
I think Manta’s WW1 comparison (while obviously over the top) is debatable outside of Europe (with serious caveats)

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ZM 10.25.13 at 1:03 pm

Away @72 “Most other powerful nations have a very strong interest in the international order not collapsing, because they are doing rather well out of it too.”

The international order is not exactly a static or stable or self-replicating structural order though. While I doubt collapse as such is particularly desired by any government, change, however, probably is by both governments and populaces, and not necessarily in materially realistic fashions.
At the moment there are obviously a number of increasingly powerful emerging economic/political bodies which, however, are far from being as prosperous as the more developed economies, some of which have declining overall/shared prosperity and evince a desire to retain or increase material prosperity and global power. This is despite obvious levels of global ecological deterioration due to already excessive resource extraction.
Not only is the order not stable, but nations obviously engage in conscious competitive manouvering around each other, the “pivot” of US military concentration from the Middle East to the Pacific which seems to be directed towards some sort of containment of Chinese power being an example.

81

LFC 10.25.13 at 1:38 pm

ronan@79
any serious reduction in US military spending and commitments to Europe would (more than likely) have to be picked up by continental powers (so European countries’ FP would more than likely become more militarised)

U.S. troop levels in Europe have been decreasing gradually since their height during the CW (though there are still some, what?, 70,000 or so US soldiers in Europe — I forget the exact current #). Has that gradual decrease resulted in European countries’ foreign policy becoming more militarized?

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Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 1:54 pm

I dont know, I think it’s arguable that French FP is becoming more assertive in the last decade?But I dont really know anything about that, and trying to prove a causal link is difficult
But the point more than that is even if US commitments in Europe (specifically) have declined, US relative military power as a whole hasnt, since the end of the CW, (afaik) so US military primacy still exists
I think at what point (if) free riding of US military primacy comes to end, or what place unipolarity plays in maintaining international order, or what aspects of unipolarity are most important are complicated questions, but I dont think US military primacy’s role in securing international order should be dismissed. (Of ourse there would be other factors that would lead to the remilitarisation of European countries’ foreign policy, so Im not saying its monocausal or even inevitable)

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LFC 10.25.13 at 2:07 pm

I dont think US military primacy’s role in securing international order should be dismissed

I agree with that statement. I don’t *dismiss* it. But no pt in repeating what I have already said above and in the other thread.

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Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 2:09 pm

No I see what your argument is, and dont mean to imply that *you* dismissed it (I was just speaking generally.) I probably agree more than I disagree tbh

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ajay 10.25.13 at 2:35 pm

A hypothesis that seemed to be tested to destruction, except that they decided to retest it 20 years later.

Private Eye cartoon of a German soldier and officer kneedeep in freezing mud in the trenches, bullets flying overhead, the soldier pointing at a familiarly-moustached comrade and saying “Sir! The corporal here’s got a great concept for a sequel!”

79: one example might be North Africa. Another might be the region around the South China Sea.

any serious reduction in US military spending and commitments to Europe would (more than likely) have to be picked up by continental powers (so European countries FP would more than likely become more militarisd)

But this demonstrably hasn’t happened, though. The US has reduced its military presence in Europe dramatically since 1989, and there has been no corresponding increase in European military strength; quite the reverse.

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ajay 10.25.13 at 2:40 pm

I would also like to push back on the irritating concept of European “free riding”. Since NATO was set up, the mutual defence provision has been invoked exactly once, by the US, which then spent several years demanding that its European allies contribute more and more troops to help fight two (ostensibly defensive) wars, and flying into fits of hysterical rage when they refused. When it comes to blood, the subsidy is very definitely flowing in the other direction.

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Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 2:57 pm

“But this demonstrably hasn’t happened, though. The US has reduced its military presence in Europe dramatically since 1989, and there has been no corresponding increase in European military strength; quite the reverse.”

As I said above though, the fact that the US has reduced its commitment *in* Europe isnt the entire story, b/c the US shares a lot of security conerns with Europe and still underwrites them

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Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 3:03 pm

And as i said Im not saying it’s moncausal, there are a lot of contingent factors that drive European foreign policies
But one of them has to be that although the US drew down *in* Europe post CW it’s relative strenght vis a vis potential rivals also increased

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Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 3:07 pm

re free riding. European energy concerns have played a significant role in US policy in the Middle East. European security concerns play a significant part in US counterterror policy.
From the Balkans to Libya, in conflicts that European countries supported strongly (that they primarily drove?) the US presence has been important

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