Edward Snowden has done us all a favour

Very good FT column by Edward Luce. Behind a paywall, but this extract gives a flavour.

Mr Snowden has also forced us to confront the larger question of US power in a changing world. For all America’s military weight, hard power gets fewer bangs for its buck nowadays. The fate of a US-led world in the coming decades will probably not be decided by a military clash with another large power. It is more likely to be settled by the quality of America’s economy and democracy. For most people around the world who are older than 30, the US is still chiefly seen through those prisms. But, for a whole generation beneath them, it is coming to stand for Big Brother – and not necessarily a benign one. The damage to US soft power – and the weight it lends to those who want to nationalise data storage and balkanise the internet – should not be overlooked.

Why, then, does Mr Obama want to put Mr Snowden behind bars?

The question of Mr Snowden’s motives is secondary. He may be a criminal, or a saint. I suspect he had good reasons. At minimum he will pay for his sins with a lifetime of looking over his shoulder. In the meantime, the rest of us are far more educated than before about how much privacy we have lost and how rapidly. We are all Angela Merkel now.

Mr Obama is enraged and embarrassed by the hammer blows of one giant disclosure after another. But the fallout has given him the possibility of answering his own plea for greater accountability. Back in May, he issued a thinly coded cry for help to rein in the growing US shadow state. We should be grateful that Mr Snowden came forward.