There's been a ton of coverage of the whole WikiLeaks scandal lately and I know I'm late to the party. I've read up some on it but I wasn't as outraged as most. I'm of the opinion that since we are a democracy the more information we, the people, have the better informed our decisions will be. That's not the debate I want to have right now though, that's a whole other blog.
What surprises me about the whole thing is that I haven't really heard anyone mention the possibility that these leaks were intentional on the part of the Obama administration. Now, I can respect and admire someone that leaks documents in order to blow the lid off of something the government or a corporation is doing that is evil. That takes guts and we need more people willing to do that in this world. But, why would someone risk their job and possibly freedom to leak documents that show their boss is doing a good job? I don't see the motive in leaking these diplomatic cables. Let's take a look at the "Top 10 revelations from WikiLeaks cables" by Yahoo! News and think about whether these leaks should be embarrassing or encouraging.
1. Many Middle Eastern nations are far more concerned about Iran's nuclear program than they've publicly admitted. According to one cable, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly asked the U.S. to "cut off the head of the snake" -- meaning, it appears, to bomb Iran's nuclear program. Leaders of Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern nations expressed similar views.
Since the Iraq war the United States has been viewed as the bully of the Middle East. We've been short on allies internationally and if we decided it was necessary to attack Iran our motives would provoke extreme cynicism from all (including myself). Our diplomats couldn't just come out and say all these Middle Eastern nations think we should bomb Iran because I'm pretty sure all of those leaders would deny it. By "leaking" that the names of the countries that want Iran bombed our position strengthens and we can just say that those were private cables that were never meant to be leaked to the various leaders.
2. The U.S. ambassador to Seoul told Washington in February that the right business deals might get China to acquiesce to a reunified Korea, if the newly unified power were allied with the United States. American and South Korean officials have discussed such a reunification in the event that North Korea collapses under the weight of its economic and political problems.
We all know that China has given up on hardcore communism. I'm not even sure they should still be considered a communist nation. This bit of information about China's willingness to let the U.S. fill the power vacuum in a collapsed North Korea (for a price) further isolates North Korea from the rest of the world at a time when they are acting out. Mr. Crazy might think twice about doing something crazy if he realizes China doesn't still have his back.
3. The Obama administration offered sweeteners to try to get other countries to take Guantanamo detainees, as part of its (as yet unsuccessful) effort to close the prison. Slovenia, for instance, was offered a meeting with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions.
Obama promised that Guantanamo would be closed within a year. It's been two. Here is an excuse as to why it hasn't closed yet, we have to pay people to take them off our hands.
4. Afghan Vice President Ahmed Zia Massoud took $52 million in cash when he visited the United Arab Emirates last year, according to one cable. The Afghan government has been plagued by allegations of corruption. Massoud has denied taking the money out of the country.
The U.S. can't turn a blind eye to corruption in Afghanistan if it ever wants to start changing the minds of the people there. Exposing this guy gives us some cred.
5. The United States has been working to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani nuclear reactor, out of concern that it could be used to build an illicit nuclear device. The effort, which began in 2007, continues.
The U.S. is trying to secure material that could be used by terrorists should something unimaginable happen in Pakistan. Yea, that looks real bad.
6. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ordered diplomats to assemble information on their foreign counterparts. Documents in the WikiLeaks cache also indicate that Clinton may have asked diplomats to gather intelligence on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's plans for Iran, and information on Sudan (including Darfur), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iran and North Korea.
Is anyone really surprised that diplomats are spying? I think that is included in the job requirements for a diplomat. They are there to gather inside information, that's how it works.
7. The State Department labeled Qatar the worst country in the region for counterterrorism efforts. The country's security services were "hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals," according to one cable.
If a country is doing a shit job with counter-terrorism shouldn't we put them on blast? Especially now that they've been awarded the World Cup which could make for a good target.
8. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are tighter than was previously known. Putin has given the high-living Berlusconi "lavish gifts" and lucrative energy contracts, and Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin" in Europe, according to one cable.
Putin is a pretty evil dude. He's done some very anti-democratic things in Russia. Do we want him having a bitch in Europe to speak for him? I think not, so let's expose that.
9. Hezbollah continues to enjoy the weapons patronage of Syria. A week after Syrian president Bashar Assad promised the United States he wouldn't send "new" arms to the Lebanese militant group, the United States said it had information that Syria was continuing to provide the group with increasingly sophisticated weapons.
If Syria is supplying Hezbollah with more advanced weapons shouldn't pressure be put on them to stop? Don't these leaks do that?
10. Some cables reveal decidedly less than diplomatic opinions of foreign leaders. Putin is said to be an "alpha-dog" and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to be "driven by paranoia." German Chancellor Angela Merkel "avoids risk and is rarely creative." Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi travels with a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
I'm pretty sure that everyone in each of those countries already knows these things about their leader. Why not put them on the defensive about it?
I just don't get how any of this stuff makes America look that bad. If anything I admire the U.S. diplomats a bit more after reading a lot of this stuff. As a diplomat there are certain things you need to say but can't. I think these leaks said plenty and they definitely don't embarrass the Obama administration like I was expecting. Perhaps they are more clever than we give them credit for.
Image taken from: http://www.excelimaging.net/skz.php?q=leaky-faucet-valve