Is US Foreign Policy Crippled Following Latest Wikileaks Dump?
The latest Wikileaks data dump has been released and it is about to make the world hate the US just that little bit more: it represents a massive sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates. And as the attached front page of tomorrow's Der Spiegel shows, according to the unclassified US embassy cables, America had something quite unpleasant to say about virtually everyone, culminating with Ahmadinejad, who was called "Hitler." But aside from the unpleasantries which may or may not be buried (and don't expect a prompt burial: Der Spiegel is already on the case and has this to say, "251,000 State Department documents, many of them secret embassy reports from around the world, show how the US seeks to safeguard its influence around the world. It is nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy") the far bigger question will be how the once great American superpower could have allowed such a huge oversight in traditionally classified diplomacy. Very soon the once-legendary US foreign service department will be butt of all jokes. Perhaps it is time for someone within the administration to finally take some blame for this fiasco, although we most certainly are not holding our breath for a Hillary Clinton resignation.
Such surprises from the annals of US diplomacy will dominate the headlines in the coming days when the New York Times, London's Guardian, Paris' Le Monde, Madrid's El Pais and SPIEGEL begin shedding light on the treasure trove of secret documents from the State Department. Included are 243,270 diplomatic cables filed by US embassies to the State Department and 8,017 directives that the State Department sent to its diplomatic outposts around the world. In the coming days, the participating media will show in a series of investigative stories how America seeks to steer the world. The development is no less than a political meltdown for American foreign policy.
Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true views of them.
A brief overview of the content by the NYT:
The cables show that nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States’ relations with the world. They depict the Obama administration struggling to sort out which Pakistanis are trustworthy partners against Al Qaeda, adding Australians who have disappeared in the Middle East to terrorist watch lists, and assessing whether a lurking rickshaw driver in Lahore, Pakistan, was awaiting fares or conducting surveillance of the road to the American Consulate.
They show American officials managing relations with a China on the rise and a Russia retreating from democracy. They document years of painstaking effort to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon — and of worry about a possible Israeli strike on Iran with the same goal.
And cable specifics:
- Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda,
and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the
American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in
counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last
December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known
terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and
provoking reprisals,” the cable said.
- Arms deliveries to militants: Cables describe the United States’ failing struggle to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel. One week after President Bashar al-Assad
promised a top State Department official that he would not send “new”
arms to Hezbollah, the United States complained that it had information
that Syria was providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to the
- A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the
intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese
contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable
reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of
computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security
experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They
have broken into American government computers and those of Western
allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.
- A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the
United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful,
to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that
American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear
device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that
Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts
because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of
the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States
taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”
Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South
Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea,
should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the
state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial
inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul. She
told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that
the right business deals would “help salve” China’s “concerns about
living with a reunified Korea” that is in a “benign alliance” with the
Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats
pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant
players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia
was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama,
while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth
millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from
diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting
more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence
Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s
vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local
authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration
discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry
understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the
money “a significant amount” that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, “was
ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or
destination.” (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)
The Guardian has done a great cliff notes summary of some of the key cables after the jump: