WikiLeaks – not so dull, after all | Gideon Rachman’s international affairs blog
In previous posts, I dismissed WikiLeaks as not such a big deal. Well, that was obviously wrong. I argued that everybody already knew that – for example – Nicolas Sarkozy is vain or Russia is a brutal and corrupt place, so the cables did not add much to the sum of human knowledge.
But that was wrong on two counts. First, there is a difference between an idea being conventional wisdom in the media, and spelled out in a diplomatic cable – both in terms of authority and in terms of political impact. You can see that in the angry reactions to the leaks from everybody from Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister of Australia. (Apparently Rudd is a “mistake-prone control freak”.) Second, with the arrest of Julian Assange on dubious-sounding sexual assault charges – and now the attack on Mastercard’s web-site, apparently by Assange supporters, the whole thing is shaping up into an unpredictable conflict between western governments and internet-based anarchists.And, as more and more material is released, there are some genuine surprises emerging. The ones that particularly struck me, are, in no special order:
1. The sheer bleakness of America’s view of Russia – and this despite all the happy talk of improved relations and a “reset”. It is also interesting that the Americans seem to semi-endorse the popular theory that Putin is personally very wealthy, and even name the oil-trading company that could be being used as a siphon.
2. Hillary Clinton’s concern about America’s reliance on Chinese purchases of US Treasuries. In conversation with the aforesaid Rudd, she uses the line “how do you get tough with your banker?” As a candidate Hillary had used that line on the campaign trail. But, when I’ve quoted it back to American diplomats, they have tended to dismiss it as political hyperbole. So it’s interesting to read that this is still a concern for Hillary.
3. Suggestions that American troops have been embedded with Pakistani troops in the fight in the tribal areas. And confirmation that the US is carrying out drone strikes in Yemen.
4. The delicious confirmation that Britain’s Prince Andrew is, indeed, a complete oaf.