Three days ago I noted rather briefly in an article about Julian Assange’s political asylum request to Ecuador that if the South American country were to grant the favor, its government could expect one of the United States’ most time-honored diplomatic strategies in return: economic sanction. Translation: If we can’t bribe countries with prizes (money, weapons, food, etc.), we attempt to starve them (Cuba) or arm the opposition (Nicaragua, Iran/Iraq war, etc.).
Sanctions and arming the opposition is not necessarily a full-proof plan, and more often than not it plays into the hands of our perceived “enemies.” They can point to us and say, “See, look at the global hegemony and arrogance!” With Assange’s asylum request, however, it would seem quite absurd to take that approach with Ecuador.
Assange and WikiLeaks have already been severely hamstrung with Assange’s house arrest, trials and battered public image. He might have become Saint Assange, a martyr of free information, over the course of the the last few years, but I challenge anyone to argue that he and WikiLeaks could resurrect themselves to their former glory days.
Some might worry that a friendly Ecuadorian leftish government led by Rafael Correa would allow Assange to create a data haven of sorts, a geographical space from which to rebuild WikiLeaks and make it stronger; but, as many reporters have noted, Ecuador isn’t exactly a bastion of free speech. Assange, on the other hand, believes that western free speech is illusory and no doubt thinks such countries should be pointing the finger.
Ironically, the U.S. government might actually see a benefit in letting Assange escape to Ecuador because his ego and mouth might soon get him into trouble with Correa’s government. Assange is smart enough to not bite the hand that feeds, as is the case with Russia. His TV show “The World Tomorrow” airs on Russia Today (RT), which has close ties to the Putin government, and Assange has spent little to no time taking Russia to task.
U.S. diplomatic forces have probably already been working on Ecuador, along with any other number of countries, trying to convince Correa that it is not in his country’s best interest to accomodate Assange. If Ecuador does grant Assange asylum and the U.S. shifts to unilateral or consensus sanctions against the small South American country, they will look the bully. The UK government will also look bad if they attempt to arrest Assange if he’s granted asylum.
Whatever the ultimate result, it should prove interesting and produce more high drama for WikiLeaks—which is the last thing it needs.