If you have a basic nature that is suspicious and cynical about politics and politicians, Cablegate/Wikileaks left you rather unsatisfied. Nothing in there that I did not suspect, or consider is happening. Yes, diplomats from the beginning of time spied for their nation. It’s their job, they are not there just for ribbon cuttings and wreath laying ceremonies on tombs.
I looked at the cables on the Wikileaks site, the Guardian, Le Monde, the Times and following the #Cablegate and #wikileaks items on Twitter, I am still looking for the world breaking news and frankly nada. Of course there are over 251,287 cables with more to come. Now I think you can understand the problem, we have way too much information flying around and way no process on how decision makers can digest or use this information. To my surprise, at first glance I agree with Timothy Gordon Ash, from the Guardian.
Yet, from what I have seen, the professional members of the US foreign service have very little to be ashamed of. Yes, there are echoes of skulduggery at the margins, especially in relation to the conduct of “the war on terror” in the Bush years. Specific questions must be asked and answered. For the most part, however, what we see here is diplomats doing their proper job: finding out what is happening in the places to which they are posted, working to advance their nation’s interests and their government’s policies.
In fact, my personal opinion of the state department has gone up several notches. In recent years, I have found the American foreign service to be somewhat underwhelming, reach-me-down, dandruffy, especially when compared with other, more confident arms of US government, such as the Pentagon and the treasury. But what we find here is often first-rate.
For my point of view, I loved the gossipy bits. The stuff that we all think and it’s so great to have experts, diplomats, put it in diplomatic language.
How to enjoy the cables:
1. Start at Wiki Leaks, be careful, you will not find it there, these gems have their own location: Cablegate. On the left side, you can choose how to browse. Date the cable was created, origin (which embassy), tags, classification.
2. For a more interactive, not so raw data version, go to UK Guardian, Browse the Database Interactive. Der Spiegel offers another interactive Atlas in the German fashion, there are graphs, and numbers of all types. If you love statistics and graphs with dates and incidents, this is the place for you.
3. Then you will find a scattering of articles about specific cables, with different points of view. For example, each nation obsesses on it’s own stories, and it seems that the Germans, are not surprised the Americans think that Merkel is not creative, courageous and is a Teflon leader. Just browse the various papers and the level of outrage and panic is nation specific. It does not seem that America is the boogey man, the Chinese of course immediately shut everything down. The Iranians, think it was a plot by the US and so do the Italians.
4. For me, I love the chatter: Quadaffi’s Ukranian blond nurse who goes with him everywhere, his fear of long flights ( duh, he know that airplanes can explode in mid-air). Putin and Berlusconi finding entering into a simpatico relationship of the corrupt mafiosi variety. Prince Andrew being a total upper class English prig, or prick, you choose. Andrew went on, the simpleton he is, claiming that Americans don’t know cause they have bad geography teachers. A commenter on the Guardian site, said, of course England has great teachers, how else could they sort out their shrinking empire.
5. In what I call the: “Duh, we knew this ” the Arab dictators, Mubarek for example, advises US against Democracy in Iraq, “slap a military government and forget democracy”. I guess I am shocked based on the long history of Democracy in Egypt. Mubarek is not an advocate of Democracy.
6. The right-wing, yesterday clicking through Fox, Dick the prick Morris, was accusing Hillary of betraying her personality of wanting to spy on everyone. First, if you read the actual cable, it was a US policy/Law under all the security stuff passed by Bush. She did not pull this out of her head, it’s an American law. Second, everyone spies on everyone’s diplomats, are you effing kidding me?
Diplomats and nations gather gobs of information to support their national interests. Their interests are usually economic interests that are supported via military power. The rights of people, the value of life, the sense of justice, humanity and freedom, frankly do not matter. It’s all about a group of world leaders filled with psychological and personality shortcomings, using their nation and its resources to stay in power. This is the ugly history of human politics.
We of the cynical variety, always knew this and are therefore not shocked or upset. I hope the lesson that citizen’s of democracies learn, “YOUR LEADERS LIE TO YOU’. Your press does not do it’s job, trying to figure out how and when they lie, (The NY TIMES, vetted the cables with the government, the people who brought us the Iraq war). It’s all about power and how to keep it. I feel that there are many people who look like little children who were told that Santa does not exist. Wow, our diplomats are human and they look at other nations through human eyes.