Charles Crawford has a series on interesting posts on his “blogoir” on the Julian Assange Show; his latest reflections discuss how a diplomatic approach might solve the problem.
It’s a fascinating outline of diplomatic techniques. Charles is both a retired diplomat and a current civil mediator; so he knows what he’s talking about. And his techniques might very well solve the problem in the sense of “giving everyone an out” (though Assange’s “out” is not complete; he could still end up in a Swedish prison.)
My feeling is that the status quo is better than such an outcome. I have to add one qualification: The Brits must make alter the status quo in one respect, namely, taking heroic steps to restore good relations with Ecuador.
With those two points in mind, why not try the following approach: First, make it clear to all of Latin America but especially to Ecuador that Britain fully accepts its diplomatic ability to shelter Assange in its embassy even as London disapproves of its exercising that ability on behalf of someone accused of rape. Second, publicly withdraw, disavow, and if necessary apologize for the earlier suggestion of forcible entry. Third, surround the embassy with police. Fourth, carry on regardless indefinitely.
Cardinal Mindszenty was a prisoner in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest for almost 30 years. A junior diplomat was given the task of rounding up visiting American Catholics to attend his weekly Sunday Mass. His presence was probably a minor nuisance but the U.S. rightly felt that it was a nuisance worth enduring because of the distinction of the captive and the importance of the principle of sanctuary for those suffering from religious persecution.
Ecuador and its embassy can feel no such comfort. Assange permanently around the place would be not merely a nuisance but a damned nuisance. He might try to stay in the headlines, but he would gradually sink to page eleven below the fold and the final item on the nightly news (if that). The crowds gathering for his speeches would gradually shrink ( thoughwe should make publicly clear to Ecuador that the U.K. fully accepts its right to give a balcony-platform to the Australian asylee). He would become the Great Bore of Knightsbridge.
Eventually, I suppose, he would end up in a Swedish court. But what’s the rush?