The joke has it that “Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggie' while
looking around for a big stick.” The problem is that many Americans
think it's just a joke, when it fact it captures the very essence of
Only a few dozen of the hundreds of thousands of cables have gotten much
press attention, and so there may be bigger surprises and upsets in
there. Being diplomatic cables, there is bound to be circumlocution and
politely evasive phrases, including coded and dog-whistle language for
more sensitive items meant to inform only a few of the thousands of eyes
that will have access to that particular cable.
One of the most amazing things is that all this information was on a
network that could be viewed by at least 50,000 individuals world-wide.
It's extraordinary that someone didn't leak it all out long before, and,
if the Pentagon is to be believed, the leak in the end was committed by
one army corporal using nothing more sophisticated than thumb drives and
a basic knowledge of computers.
Which means it probably all leaked out some time before, and included
items that the corporal and Wikileaks felt were better kept secret. No
network with 50,000 members is secure—even if the computers can be made
bullet proof, the fact is 50,000 people cannot keep a secret.
Of course, if it was leaking to other countries, those other countries
aren't going to let America know. Even close friends like Britain and
Canada are going to smile, stick the secret information in a pair of old
slippers at the back of the hall closet, and keep on smiling and saying,
And as for the rest of the world, there will be lots of feigned shock
and outrage, but very little of the real thing. Iran will not be amazed
to learn that the Saudis don't like or trust them, and Israel will not
be surprised to learn that America has concerns about undue Israeli
influence on American foreign policy.
With the cravat that much remains to be unearned in the cables, the only
things that surprise me is that Americans actually do seem to have a
clue about the utter lack of trustworthiness of their middle eastern
allies, and that Obama, rather than secretly plotting war with Iran, has
been most strenuously seeking to avoid it.
In short, the cables we've seen so far demonstrate that Americans aren't
a bunch of clueless fuckups, Forrest Gump among the forty thieves. They
really do realize that Pakistan is unstable and has no business at all
having nukes. They know the Saudis aren't to be trusted at all, by
anyone. They know Burlusconi is a clown, and that Khadaffi is weird.
The problem is that with American diplomats, you were never quite sure
if when they said “nice doggie” they were doing so for the usual
diplomatic reasons, or because they were hoping to get their faces licked.
It's reassuring to find out that America isn't that clueless.
From what I've seen, the leaks are more likely to have repercussions
inside America, more so than outside. Not among the public, who are
ill-served by a mass media more intent on exploring celebrity sex organs
than foreign policy, but in Washington itself, where pointed questions
will be asked about the exact nature of America's relations with both
Israel and Saudi Arabia, two countries that don't hesitate to exploit
America to their own ends. (It's ironic that the one time those two
enemies had common cause, America actually resisted both). Saudi Arabia
maintains undue influence through oil, Israel through a sometimes savage
domestic PR system. If not actually malevolent, neither country is going
to mind goading America to run counter to her own best interests if it
means furthering their own aims. It's a bright spot that Obama seems to
have worked up the gumption to say, “No, I will not bomb Iran. America
stands to gain nothing from that.”
It's not any big surprise that Saudi Arabia was funding the Iraq
“insurgency”. It was to their best interest to keep the land as
anarchistic and ineffective as possible. Iraq, after all, is the biggest
single competitor Saudi Arabia has in the oil market, and in case you
hadn't already gathered, the fact that their actions hurt American
interests wasn't real high on their scorecard. Al Qaida, of course, are
Sunni, so that was a factor in Saudi deliberations. The royals of Saudi
Arabia generally aren't even remotely devout, but they know their nature
of their followers, and know they cannot be seen as defying the will of
Surprise, surprise. It seems nobody knows what's going on in North
Korea. The good news: it's unlikely anyone in North Korea knows, either.
The “Truthers”, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists, will be pouring over the
cables, looking for items that might support their claims. I'm guessing
that only two elements will be supported: that the Saudis were partially
complicit in the attacks, and that the Bush administrations went to
great lengths to hide and complicity, and hide their own incompetence
that allowed it to happen.
How can Saudi Arabia be a staunch ally and “partially complicit” in a
huge crime in America at the same time? It's simple enough. The Saudi
Royal family is enormous—some 4,000 individuals, including the bin
Ladens. Even within the bin Laden family, there are deep divisions over
how America should be treated, and among the royal family, there are a
thousand schisms over every topic.
One thing I hope not to see in these leaked cables is discussion among
American of these Saudi schisms, and how to exploit them. That
information could be damaging to America. But I hope the State
Department has a fairly good idea of who is neutral, and who wants more
attacks on America.
Most of the stuff in the cables seems to be Harper Valley PTA stuff. (In
fact, that particular tune started going through my head as I was
reading some of the material.) Khadaffi has himself a voluptuous piece
of arm candy. Well, more power to him, and I bet that's one little
tidbit from the cables that won't be getting any mention in the Libyan
In the UK, the press is all atwitter over Prince Andrew, who turned out
to be cynical and rude in his assessment of the matter of corruption in
the former Soviet states. He was harshly critical at one luncheon of
“fucking journalists” at the Guardian who forced a formal inquiry into
kickbacks among British traders, clearly considering it part of doing
business in the former Soviet States. Referring to the widespread
corruption, the Prince said, “All of this sounds exactly like France.”
That will get Gallic tongues waggling and clicking, but have no fear:
France has never evinced any discomfiture at people who disapprove of
them, and they aren't about to start now. Nobody in France is going to
blow up the Chunnel or call for an end to Anglicisms in the mother
tongue. Oh, wait.
Hillary Clinton took a huge hit with her cavalier attitude to the
distinction between diplomacy and flat-out spying at the UN. Older
readers will recall that this used to be America's main complaint about
the Soviet Union, and see this as an example of how far America has
fallen. I can't help but wonder if the realization that her role in the
UN spying scandal-to-be informed her decision to tell the press a couple
of days ago that she would never run for President again.
According to the Guardian, the US wanted “biometric data included DNA,
fingerprints and iris scans. Washington also wanted credit card numbers,
email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer
account numbers for UN figures and 'biographic and biometric information
on UN Security Council permanent representatives".' This wasn't the
usual paranoid Dick Cheney rubbish: this was at the behest of Hillary.
Another item possibly related to the cable releases was an assassination
in Iran today, and an attempted assassination. Both were against Iranian
nuclear scientists. Both involved a motorcycle coming up alongside the
vehicle in which the scientist was riding, and the cycle rider slapping
an explosive on the car and speeding off. Israel or the US are suspected.
It was an incredibly stupid move. Killing the scientists now to prevent
Iran from getting the bomb is about as useful as killing Oppenheimer in
1956 would have prevented America from getting the bomb. And the method
used probably light light bulbs over the heads of every would-be suicide
bomber in the middle east. No vehicle is safe there were a motorcycle
can pull up alongside now.
Given the lack of motivation for that action, and the repercussions, the
only explanation is that it was meant to detract from something in all
The question, of course, is what. It seems an overreaction to distract
from the self-evident news that Israel is plotting against Iran.
One question: will Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, live long
enough to face trial on the questionable charges of rape?