At the Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs:
…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.
As readers will discover, the man who is now America’s top-ranking professional diplomat, William Burns, contributed from Russia a highly entertaining account – almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh – of a wild Dagestani wedding attended by the gangsterish president of Chechnya, who danced clumsily “with his gold-plated automatic stuck down the back of his jeans”.
…one question remains. How can diplomacy be conducted under these conditions? A state department spokesman is surely right to say that the revelations are “going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world”. The conduct of government is already hampered by fear of leaks. An academic friend of mine who worked in the state department under Condoleezza Rice told me that he had once suggested writing a memo posing fundamental questions about US policy in Iraq. “Don’t even think of it,” he was warned – because it would be sure to appear in the next day’s New York Times.
There is a public interest in understanding how the world works and what is done in our name. There is a public interest in the confidential conduct of foreign policy. The two public interests conflict.
One thing I’d bet on, though: the US government must surely be ruing, and urgently reviewing, its weird decision to place a whole library of recent diplomatic correspondence on to a computer system so brilliantly secure that a 22-year-old could download it on to a Lady Gaga CD. Gaga, or what?
Via Norman’s Spectator.