Beyond exposure: Information revolution and Wikileaks

Wikileaks going public, since December 2010, on US State Department confidential cables is more than just stifling embarrassment for the Obama Administration because it is neither the precipitation of the historic era of cyber war-fare in full media glare, nor the challenging of a century old world order premised on state supremacy.

The resultant ‘Big-Brother’ techniques employed as the instruments of state-power and authority could be the very beginning of the supremacy of the individual liberty and the beginning of the establishments of the real welfare-State. It is the very empowerment of the individual citizen/neti-zen.

The authority and power of the individual Sates is taking a severe beating. And the vested interests of regional, cross-regional, security, economic alliances like the BRICS, NATO, ECOWAS, SAARC, World Bank, IMF, ISAF, Coalition Forces, EU, UN and its Sub-Committees are under- cutting their clout, by rationalizing national aspirations.

The patrimony of the State is being eroded at the edges. Very soon it is likely to be degraded and suborned, or at least turned more accountable, to that of the individual to the extent possible in a given group.

Some factors that have lead to the weakening of the State, are: parallel black economies, whole-sale tax evasion, banking safe havens in Switzwerland and the Channel Islands; weak law enforcement proliferation of hi-tek gadgetry amidst criminals, poor governance, usurping of the administrative functions of the State by fissiparous and separatists organizations.

This is the age of 3&4G communications at the speed of thought. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, the net users are increasing from a few millions to a billion plus in just within a decade, in one bound so to say the ability to challenge the state is being progressively increased, exponentially.

These are exponential times, indeed. The net is highly interactive. It is potent. It has empowered the individual like nothing has so far. The common man now gets a hold on his life as part of immediate society and country.

Breaking barriers

He gets the wherewithal to be informed just by the click of the mouse. He is now very well informed on the very latest issues and happenings affecting his economic, mental and physical health, his life-style dependencies and general awareness.

The World Wide Web has broken down many conventional barriers, in any case. For one, military hierarchies have broken down. The ‘top-down’ has given way to lateral confabulations. The democratizing power and the speed of change of the internet is manifest in the jasmine revolution now sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

At the recent India Today Conclave 2011, Nobel laureate Elbaradei stated that the revolution in Egypt was the brain child of the internet. And Sir Tim Berner–Lee, the inventor of the internet has openly said in Hyderabad in the WWW-2011 Conference, that access to the internet is a human right. Finland has legislation to this effect already in place.

The net has brought humankind closer and it has begun to evolve as a planetary social order like never before. Facebook has over half a billion neti-zens, and Twitter and MySpace over 200 million. Mobile users could be five billion.

As the introduction of the Guttenburg printing press in the 15th Century paved the way for enlightenment, and Nation States of the Westphalian model, so has the advent of the internet and the mass availability internet-connected mobiles smoothened the way for planetary consciousness and global democracy, in this one.

It is a ‘global village’ now and every one is known to every one else. Popular electronic mass media like satellite TV (BBC, CNN, DW, RT) have a strong foot print the world over. They mould mass-opinion world-wide irrespective of international geographical borders.

It has gone towards rationalization of mores, though a fancy for head scarves still remains with hard-line Islamists. The burqa remains a compulsory must for females in Taliban dominant states and the jeans, a taboo for college girls even in Kerala. The bold ones could not careless, however, and flaunt these unabashedly.

Even religion which in any case is only a little more than a psychological support in times of stress, and a bunch of ground-rules for civilized conduct in a given group, is loosing its appeal and power as hi-tek takes a hold of our lives and we acquire capabilities as good as those of the divine. Empirical data now reveals that more and more people are questioning religion and religiosity.

In this digital age, our lives are truly global. An average individual has friends across the globe, uses goods and services produced in different corners of the world and travels to destinations across the planet.

The www has made possible a new degree of public participation in some crucial global issues such as climate change, financial management, terrorism, pandemics and calamities.

Changing situations

Take China-Taiwan, India -China, China-US relations, where despite the political and military asymmetry, interdependence is the name of the game, if not the panacea in all these aspects.

International Corporation of Assigned Names (ICANN) held its first ever global elections for electing its board of directors. This is the first ever form of global democracy. The United Nations Parliament Assembly (UNPA) is going ahead in forming a parliamentary institution at the UN. This will be the fore-runner of a world government, really. It will rapidly take shape as interdependence in economic matters becomes a critical issue as never before.

Julian Assange, his one time partner, Daniel Domchiet-Berg and Lieben will always be remembered for posting their leaks on the popular media domain. And in an epoch-making way, WikiLeaks, TuniLeaks, OpenLeaks and RusiLeaks are the new avatars of journalism.

The making public of the Afghanistan Dossier by Assange pales in comparison. The handing over of CDs containing a list of tax-defaulters and evaders and those having numbered Swiss accounts in Germany has led to many paying up their taxes just for fear of being served legal notices.

The Merkel Government in Germany has recovered tax-dues to the tune of Euro 2 Billion.

Though Francis Fukiyama’s prognosis is considered to be still-born in many quarters, it is, indeed, the end of history, one way or the other. Van Crevald will replace Claustwitz in military dictum and style. Blood-letting will be replaced by a war of disablement based on the RMA, premised on the principles of cyber-war.

War of attrition and annihilation as we have known it, in any case, is a big ‘no’ in this age of proliferating WMDs, PGMs, remote sensing, satellite surveillance and instant retaliation by nuke-tipped cruise missiles and remote controlled stealth-aerial vehicles.

The power of mass destruction and the subsequent annihilation of the planet, and the human race, is too great a chance to be resorted to for settling matters purely mundane. Every one seems to have realized this, despite the nuclear sabre-rattling preponderant in many regions, still.

Many may opine that it is too early to announce the demise of the Westphalian state, yet there is writing on the wall that days of sates are numbered, indeed.

Fukuyama made this same mistake when he wrote about the ‘End of History’ as there are far too many differences and much simmers in the global cauldron for a world order to emerge.

Despite the social mobilization based on an economic template, authoritarianism and autocraticism still has an edge and so does the Islamic idea of a world order.

The public unrest and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Morrocco and Sudan and the other parts of the Arab world are a portent not to be ignored and weathered coolly.

The show-down in Egypt and the forced abdication of Hosni Mubarak will impact the entire North African and West Asian region historically. The stability of the entire North African region, the Middle East (MENA) and West Asia is at stake.

Eventually, the armed intervention in Libya will involve boots on the ground willy nilly, as opined by even defence analysts like General Ved Malik, a former Indian Army Chief. The Op Odessa Dawn is going to be a Homeric saga of defeat and discord, if at all, arming of the rebels by the Western powers not withstanding.

This is anathema to the US. Gaddafi remains defiant, despite the pounding by NATO jets. He has called for talks and the Russians are coming up with peace overtures. He will change tack, having suffered the impact of the US cruise-missiles earlier and the flouting and extending of the US Mandate, of “protecting civilians” by the Western Powers.

He has managed to contain the revolt, like revolts have always been in history, by absolute monarchs, despots and dictators. The Arab uprisings are changing global political conditions in many ways.

But undeniably, a process of a tectonic shift is taking place as the West sinks under the weight of its own contradictions. The Eurozone is non-starter. It is failing, and Europe needs fresh blood. Islam is ascendant. China is clearly waking up from its slumber emerging as a world economic and military power.

The world is getting more dangerous and India will only sit on the sidelines, until it acquires the wherewithal for power and economics-predominant politics and its national leaders develop a stomach for these.

(The author is a former officer of Indian Army)