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“Nice Doggie”
Wikileaks mostly showed us stuff we already knew or suspected

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
November 29, 2010

There's a fair bit of breast-beating going on, mostly in America, over the incalculable harm the quarter million diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks has done. People are apparently shocked that friendly nations don't entirely trust one another, and unfriendly nations don't like one another.

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 diplomacy.

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, “nice doggie.”

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 Allah.

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 press.

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 those cables.

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?

Posted: December 5, 2010

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