Mon 29 Nov 2010
The media hype over the latest batch of smorgasbord-style Wiki leaks is indeed a feeding frenzy of almost Faustian proportions. Both mundane musings and sensitive undiplomatic quotes are now available online and also on the main pages of major newspapers, like the New York Times. If the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, then Mr. Julian Assange has just provided the world with a Black Sunday to boot. But somehow I see more than a minimum of black humor in what libertarian-minded folk might see as a silver lining. Thus far in my casual reading of several diplomatic cables I find nothing I did not already know or suspect. Is there any sane person who does not think that diplomats would spy for their country, no matter what that country? Does anyone other than those who are only glued to Fox News believe that world leaders say what they really think in public and hold no negative views of other world leaders? And, who is silly enough in this day and age to think that any communication marked “secret” will remain so?
The mantra of the news organizations is that people have a right to know how their government works, even if publishing off-the-record remarks (especially of leaders we consider allies) damages the ability of our government to work. If I was Hosni Mubarak or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, my biggest concern would not be that the world now knows what I think of the leader in Iran or Iraq, but how the one remaining superpower is unable to keep secret things secret. The damage from these leaks is less what is being said than the mere fact it can so easily be leaked.
Consider the Qadhafi gaffe. The report about Qadhafi’s trip to the U.N. is right out of Saturday Night Live. Here is what the American ambassador to Libya wrote:
Finally, Qadhafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a “voluptuous blonde.” complete with a blond bombshell Ukranian nurse who goes everywhere the Libyan leader does because she “knows his routine… Some embassy contacts have claimed that Qadhafi and the 38 year-old Kolotnytska have a romantic relationship.
I suspect Gaddafi is laughing his head off in his ubiquitous tent.
And there is more:
While Qadhafi’s reported female guard force has become legendary, it played no role in his travels to New York. Only one female guard was included among the approximately 350-person strong Libyan delegation to New York. This is the same female bodyguard who sticks close to Qadhafi in his domestic and international public appearances and may, in fact, play some sort of formal security role. Observers in Tripoli speculate that the female guard force is beginning to play a diminished role among the Leader’s personal security staff.
Well at least the ambassador did not speculate that Qadhafi is into boys these days.
All in all, these “leaks” amount to a tempest is a teacup (not even a whole pot). So diplomats are more honest in private messages than in front of the cameras: what a revelation. The main damage I can see is the credibility of our foreign service. If statements not meant for prime time make the prime time, such off-the-cuff statements are sure to dry up. If the result is that even our secret messages must now be sanitized, diplomacy has been dealt a slap in the face. No one wins in this scenario, including the alleged public which is only too eager to gobble up the latest gossip. Can we get back to some real news…
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