By Dennis B. Roddy
The latest from WikiLeaks is a cyberstack of diplomatic cables from American embassies around Europe and the Mideast. Everyone is just stunned, if only in the way everyone's stunned when someone tells the queen she's old. In the world of statecraft, obvious truths spoken aloud are an outrage.
I have read these cables and feel my own personal distress because it strikes me that our country hasn't a trick anywhere up the national sleeve. Diplomacy is a minuet. Fey music and gentle, deliberate motions are quite precise, but anyone who's seen one knows exactly where every dancer is going at a given moment. So with the diplomatic cables:
We learn that Moammar Gadhafi is strange. We hear that the German premier is dull. We discover that the Sunni princes of Saudi Arabia dislike the Shiite mullahs of Iran and wouldn't mind if we bombed Tehran to keep them from going nuclear. The Chinese and Armenians trade arms with assorted nasties. Italian President Silvio Berlusconi is a feckless tool of Vladimir Putin. North Korea's a nuthouse. They sky is blue.
Beyond making the next state dinner awkward, there is virtually nothing contained in the cables that should especially surprise anyone save the fact that, on some occasions, Saudi Arabia is on our side.
It reminds me of those annoying actors in a history theme park that refuse to "break character" even to give directions to the parking lot: "I'm sorry. I have not yet heard of this thing you call – what did you say, 'auto-mobile?' Is it some manner of conveyance? Sure it is no match for our coach-and-six."
Yeah, yeah. Just tell me how the get the hell out of here.
As for the Department of State and the Foreign Office and the Peoples Bureau of World Comity or whatever other countries are calling their diplomatic corps, the transparency provided by these leaks might embarrass, but they sure don't startle.
Herewith a passage recounting a meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and a congressional delegation including Scranton's own James Bond – Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham recounts that both Barak and his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, feared that once Iran got the bomb they'd make their systems redundant, so a one-time strike wouldn't rule out Iranian retaliation.
"Barak estimated a window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable. After that, he said, any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage."
Well, that sounds about right. Are we shocked? Not if we can remember way back to 1981 when the Israeli Air Force wiped out a nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq. Much clucking and howling about that at the time. Our own military can vouch for the fact that the Iraqis didn't build another.
The world might have been taken by surprise by the timing of the attack, but to think the outcome would have been different required narcotics. The Israelis blow stuff up so it won't blow them up. Barak said that to Sen. Casey and the delegation and he could as easily have announced it at a press conference.
That King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia also suggested someone knock out Iranian nuclear plants is equally unsurprising. That he said it so clearly – "cut off the head of the snake."
Doubtless if – maybe it should be when – Israeli does this, King Abdullah will issue an angry proclamation about Zionists and the United States will express "grave concern" and governments from Yemen to Dubai will howl at western interference and militarism. In other words, everyone will get back to the coded language of diplomacy which has, for the nonce, been breached by coarse veracity.
On Monday, an opaquely irate Obama administration suggested it might take legal action against WikiLeaks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with what had to be unintentional clarity.
"This disclosure," she said, "is not just an attack on America's foreign policy, it is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conventions and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
She is exactly correct. This is an attack on the International Community, an auspicious group that includes the assorted secretaries of state and prime and subprime ministers and global speculators and corporate masters whose national flag is a product bar code. It is an attack on their privacy, not the rest of us they would buy and sell.
Global security and economic prosperity are crucial to these people. It remains for the rest of us to pick up the shards of broken pensions and get felt up in airports. They don't fly coach.
It would be interesting to know precisely how President Breath of Fresh Air would justify his legal pursuit of WikiLeaks. Much like the Israeli air strike on a nuclear facility, this sort of thing has been tried before though with far less success. The case was called The Pentagon Papers and, in addition to clarifying the majesty of the First Amendment, it delineated the boundary between a President and a Monarch.
That Obama wanders into this morass tells me he is not secure in his own sense of leadership. I have long argued that our first black president would be a Republican. I still think I'm right, but I hadn't anticipated that the Republican he'd be was Nixon.
Photos: Gadhafi, Free Republic. Columnist multi-tasking, Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette