Day: November 28, 2010

The diploleaks are going to hurt

I’ve only had zippy peaks at wikileaks, via the New York Times, but that’s enough to know that this is going to hurt.  The problem is not only what’s in the cables, which will blow the cover even on many redacted sources, but more what will not get reported because sources won’t trust American officials, and the officials won’t trust the system.

I spent 21 years as an American diplomat, talking with people who were trying to acquire the technology they needed to build nuclear weapons, to transfer missile technology to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and to buy electronics that were prohibited for export.  Maybe they weren’t so smart to be talking with me at all, but they certainly would not have done it if they thought I could not be discreet.

Like it or not, diplomacy as practiced today depends on confidentiality.  If you want to be good at it, you’ve got to be able to assure people that what they say will go back to your capital, and nowhere else.  The news coverage will of course focus on juicy tidbits in the cables wikileaks puts out, but the greater harm lies in the future:  the information diplomats fail to obtain because no one trusts them.

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The week the world slowed down

Or was it just me?  After a week of over-indulging, and 10 hours of driving yesterday, I needed an update.  So here is the exercise, intended to get us back into form for the race to December 25:

  • Sudan:  registration for the January 9 referendum on South Sudan independence extended to December 8; still no agreement(s) on Abyei.
  • Iraq:  on November 25 (while we were stuffing down turkey) President Talabani formally asked Nouri al Maliki to form a government–he’s got 30 days.
  • Afghanistan:  warrants issued to arrest election officials who disqualified candidates President Karzai wanted to see elected in the September 18 poll.
  • Palestine/Israel: still hung up on the settlement freeze, so far as I can tell.  Someone correct me if I am wrong!
  • Koreas:  the U.S. and South Korea went ahead with naval exercises, China is calling for six-party talks and North Korea continues to sound belligerent.
  • Iran:  sounding more defensive than belligerent, but offering the Lebanese Army (and Hizbollah) assistance and still thinking about executing a woman for adultery.
  • Lebanon: bracing for the Special Tribunal verdict (still), with PM Hariri reaching out to Tehran to cushion the impact.
  • Egypt:  voting today, after crackdowns and a severe tilt of the playing field towards President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.
  • Balkans:  Kosovo getting ready to vote for parliament December 12.

I won’t say it was the week the earth stood still, but I don’t feel I missed a whole lot.  One more thing to be thankful for.  Enlighten me if you disagree!

P.S.  In case you were wondering about Burma:  Aung San Suu Kyi is still moving cautiously.

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