John Podhoretz on what WikiLeaks reveals about America’s foreign policy and those who implement it:
If the pop-culture version of the US government had any basis in reality, it would be revealed in these documents. These are, after all, written for a tiny audience of governmental high-ups, and are supposed to be frank and unadorned. If we were plotting to overthrow governments, or figure out ways to divert precious resources for our own use, such things would appear in these cables.
They don’t, because that’s not what really goes on — at least not so far as the United States is concerned. From the bits I’ve been able to read, the WikiLeaks documents open a window onto a US government trying to keep weaponry out of the hands of bad actors, to help bring peace and stability to Iraq and Afghanistan, to figure out the constitutional basis of a coup in Honduras.
This isn’t the Ugly American. It’s the Smiley-Face American.
As a weird subgenre of writing, American diplomatic cable traffic is a singular amalgam of stenography, reportage and psychological analysis. Cables feature cultural observations, informal descriptions of the internal workings of the country in question and informed speculation about the goings-on.
I had brief access to them when working as a government official with a high-level security clearance two decades ago, and the tone then was the same as the tone now — worldly-wise, amused, self-consciously sophisticated, seen-it-all, a tad cynical.
But the tone is a pose. These would-be sophisticates are, at heart, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, trying to help old ladies cross the street, and always a little surprised and disappointed when the old lady turns out to have a machete inside her umbrella.
As for Julian Assange’s next proposed target, Assange might want to hire a food taster:
The Russians, under the leadership of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, have not blanched at, well, much of anything. The death of Alexander Litvinenko from a slow-acting poison is widely believed to have been an assassination conducted by the FSB. The poisoning of Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushchenko in the Orange Revolution was similarly suspicious, and dissident Boris Berezovsky survived at least one attempt on his life as well.
Meanwhile, Jack Shafer writes that back in America, Hillary may be one of the first victims of WikiLeaks:
There is no way that the new WikiLeaks leaks don’t leave Hillary Clinton holding the smoking gun. The time for her departure may come next week or next month, but sooner or later, the weakened and humiliated secretary of state will have to pay.
Talk of Hillary resigning to run in 2012 has been going since, well, about January 1st, 2009. But how damaging will this story be to her if she actually does decide to challenge Obama?