Walking through the Minefield: U. S. Diplomacy Today

This week’s big news has to be WikiLeaks and its revelation of some embarrassing, but honest, feelings American diplomats have toward other diplomats and leaders of the world. There is nothing really surprising in this, diplomats after all, are human beings too. What is surprising to me is that the rest of the world thinks that these feelings and comments cross some sort of ethical line. We cannot forget that these documents were meant to be classified and not for public consumption. Although I fully believe in and support the freedom of the press, the real ethical line that might have been crossed falls on the shoulders of the mastermind behind WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

Now somewhere in hiding, Assange claims that the freedom of the press is what prompted him to start WikiLeaks and share information.  Earlier this week he also stated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should resign.  Where does one begin to dig through the muck to find the truth in all of this.  I find Assange to be less than credible, and I have an unfounded and uninformed feeling that he is out to make money pure and simple.  There is something irritatingly appalling about Assange, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Perhaps it’s the fact that he is in hiding.  Perhaps it’s that warrant issued by the Swedish authorities for alleged sexual misconduct (whatever that means) against two women in Sweden.  (One conspiracy theory might suggest that the government of the United States is framing Assange in order to silence him.)  Assange, who is Australian, seems to have something personal against the United States.  Only time will tell.

I think Hillary Clinton has enough credit to come out of this with little more than a black eye.  She is a professional politician, and doubtless, her people are hard at work doing damage control.  So far Clinton has made an excellent Secretary of State, and I think that American diplomacy has gone to great lengths to restore the trust that was nearly completely destroyed by the Bush regime following September 11, 2001.  Many Americans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” to the rest of the world once he took office.  It seems to me that the world was owed an apology after Bush left office.  U. S. Diplomacy cannot function from within the logic of American exceptionalism; at least not overtly.  President Obama has worked very hard to restore U.S. relations with the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world.  While WikiLeaks might only blacken the eye of Hillary Clinton, it might do serious damage to Obama’s mission to show the world that it can once again trust in the United States.  The real victim of WikiLeaks may very well be international relations.

From a U. S. point of view the WikiLeaks fiasco does mark a difficult time in American diplomacy both at home and abroad.  Diplomacy on any level is a bit like walking through a minefield.  The diplomat must always be incredibly vigilant, polite, informed, and above all discreet.  One never knows when a wrong step might bring down the entire house of cards. WikiLeaks has revealed what we already know: the world of diplomacy is a spy game.

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