NSA Leaks Fallout Will Fade Faster Than Hit to U.S. Pride

NSA Leaks Fallout Will Fade Faster Than Hit to U.S. Pride

Americans are having a hard time coming to terms with the effect of National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks and the damage they have done to America’s status in the world. In part, U.S. leaders do not want to admit that the leaks were merely the final straw for the growing discontent with American global leadership that predated Snowden and has many causes, including failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global economic crisis that spread from Wall Street. The unipolar moment was never popular—the leaks confirm that it is over.

Snowden’s material has been shaped to portray a rogue NSA and a cowboy America that disregards global rules at will, while his material on foreign espionage against the U.S. has been withheld. This picture, likes its authors, is dishonest. But American efforts to highlight this dishonesty misread foreign perceptions of America’s global role, which explains why our justifications of the NSA’s activities have been so ineffective with audiences in other countries.

The damage to intelligence collection will cost billions to repair but is temporary. The damage to specific American foreign policy goals is small, in part because these had little chance of success with or without Snowden. The leaks have not changed the likelihood of a happy outcome in Afghanistan or damaged prospects for Middle East peace. They have had little effect on discussions of climate change, duty to intervene, the diversity agenda or other favored themes in American diplomacy. Rather, the leaks have damaged our ability to influence the actions of other nations, even those who share our interests.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review