BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Mark Urban
« Previous | Main | Next »

Winners and losers of Wikileak 'two-faced diplomacy'

Mark Urban | 15:14 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

The Wikileaks cables reveal most graphically the hazards of two-faced diplomacy - saying one thing publicly and another in private.

For this reason, it is not the United States that is most damaged by them. Its diplomacy is largely transparent and therefore there are no stunning revelations about hidden American agendas.

It is evident that their diplomatic cable system has carried all sorts of wild or questionable assertions - but that, after all, is one of the main reasons why these messages were classified.

True also, the cables expose US double standards with regards spying on the United Nations in New York, while remaining signed up to treaties honouring its sanctity.

It is also evident that the issue of computer security has been highlighted and foreign leaders may think about expressing themselves quite so bluntly to the Americans in the future.

However, they will continue to talk to the Americans on all manner of subjects because of the power that the US wields and its ability to solve some of the problems these interlocutors face.

If you want Iran bombed, or rebels in your own country hit, who else are you going to call?

For this reason those left horribly exposed by these cables include King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who urged the US to bomb Iran, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, who got US planes to attack rebels in his country, while saying his own air force was doing it, and the Chinese officials who cheerfully told the South Koreans that they expect their wayward ally North Korea to implode and would like the South to take over.

These leaders and ministers, among many others exposed in the cable traffic, are guilty of adopting completely opposite positions in public and private.

And while it is true that the likes of the Saudi monarch or Yemeni president already face violent internal opposition, it is reasonable to ask whether the exposure of their hypocrisy has made their assassination more likely?

As for the US, knowing what these cables reveal, the interesting thing is how restrained they have been. Their principal allies in the Middle East - among them Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain - have urge them repeatedly to bomb Iran and they have not done so.

Pakistan has declined to ensure the security of its nuclear materials, but the US has stuck to diplomacy rather than sending in Delta Force to grab them.

The age old question with leaks is "cui bono" or who benefits?

In this case one could argue it might be violent insurgents in Yemen or Afghanistan, or an Iranian president who seeks constantly to steal a march on his Sunni Arab neighbours.

Perhaps it is better to ask this time who is harmed. Certainly the US State Department will carry out a major review of who has access to its classified materials, but the damage mainly has been done to America's less salubrious allies.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    as the country that has invaded 56 countries since 1945 America should just take the flak and try and be better behaved.....I won't hold my breath though....

  • Comment number 2.

    THE WHEAT AND CHAFF PROTOCOL

    'People will get hurt if you release secret info, willy-nilly'.

    However: willy-nilly release, of bombs and rockets, hurts no one but the evil-doers. The God of Good Christians sees to that.

    That logic matches well the vintage blag Blair used when debating with Hitchens!

  • Comment number 3.

  • Comment number 4.

    There barely seems to be a whimper of outrage. I guess we are all so super saturated with their depressingly immature behaviour, unless it directly impacts us, we shake our heads then shrug our shoulders and look forward to another instalment of Pizza, Chardoney and 'I'm a Celebrity get me Out of here'.

    Its a jungle out there.

  • Comment number 5.

    'shirley' no one thinks any electronic communication is secure? given the ability of any junior with emotional issues to down load googabytes of data onto a stick nothing is 'safe'?

    castles used to fall because someone on the inside would leave a door open?

    'the benefit' question is linked to 'the good' question. If deeds are judged by their intention what was the intent? Given the people who leaked it can't have read or understood a lot of the 400k documents they have no real idea what they are putting out there? So they release for no other reason than for the sake of releasing classified documents without knowing what is in a lot of it? So for all the stuff they haven't read and checked wikileaks cannot have any intention for any kind of 'good'.

    like woodward said in the yale interview when asked about wikileaks he said he had a lot of confidential information that he did not put in his work because there was no purpose for it.

    it seems a bit unbalanced to promote the idea that there is no useful role for secrets [ie good secrets] in society? given wikileaks have to be very secretive?

  • Comment number 6.

    JUNGLIST JIBE (#4)

    You take that back Jericoa. You might think jungles have no feelings, but compared to a thick, vegetable-MP, they are hyper-sensitive.

  • Comment number 7.

    ...He added: Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain.

    Manning, according to the chatlogs, says he uploaded the copies to WikiLeaks, the freedom of information activists as he called them... [from guardian]

    why should information be free and in the public domain? So if they had everyone's bank account details and medical files they would upload them because 'information should be free and in the public domain'? If they had details about a planned police raid on paedophiles they would release that information because it should be 'free'? Or of locations of people in witness protection?

    This is teenager thinking. JP described NN announcing the raid on goose green the night before it was to take place as a 'young NN'. Its the same thing.

    Suppose the state released all the information they knew about the location of wikileaks people and their families and children hourly on to the internet? What might happen?

    if knowledge is power then power can be used for the good or for some lesser and inferior ideal. To identify that 'knowledge should be free' as the highest idea of the mind [ as a consequence of which people might die ] is false belief. It is belief that demands and inflicts human sacrifice. It is a false god soaked in blood. It is not the highest idea of the mind.

  • Comment number 8.

    #6

    I offer my sincerest apologies to the jungle. There is no premeditation in the jungle. Jungle is good, where is Tarzan when you need him.

  • Comment number 9.

    I suppose a simple question like why the Israelis, Saudis and others have been armed to the eye teeth but prefer the US to do the dirty work would be naive?

    On the other hand, isn't baring your diplomatic soul in e-mail traffic and then expressing horror when it becomes public knowledge equally naive?

    Perhaps, instead of decimating them, our American friends should have listened to their indigenous peoples - 'White man speaks with forked tongue'.

  • Comment number 10.

    Threnodio...your line of thought has started me wondering why we are hearing so little about communications between the USA and Israel if these wikileaks are supposed to be giving us a comprehensive picture?
    Maybe the USA has more influence over these disclosures than we are expected to imagine?

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.