The magic of leaks

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - I.A Rehman

Wik­ileaks' lat­est as­sault on se­cret diplo­macy has put the world in a spin. Many ad­min­is­tra­tions are red in the face at be­ing found out, many oth­ers are cry­ing foul, but a vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple around the globe is ap­par­ently in a state of mer­ri­ment that only a full-blooded scan­dal can pro­vide.

The epi­cen­tre of the com­mo­tion, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, is the US be­cause it can­not rel­ish a de­tailed ex­po­sure of the ways in which it tries to ad­min­is­ter the world, how it seeks to de­mol­ish its ri­vals and dis­si­dents, and how it goads and ca­joles al­lies it can nei­ther trust nor ad­mire. The doc­u­ments prove the adage that fact is of­ten stranger than fic­tion. What­ever the form of protests by gov­ern­ments/in­di­vid­u­als whose rep­u­ta­tion has been tar­nished, there is no rea­son to doubt the au­then­tic­ity of the doc­u­ments. Spec­u­la­tion about the iden­tity of hands in­volved in the af­fair and their mo­tives will nonethe­less be in or­der.

No sur­prise then that the US govern­ment has be­gun a fullscale ef­fort to re­as­sure for­eign gov­ern­ments and its own di­plo­mats/ bu­reau­crats/ op­er­a­tors of its plans to pro­tect their se­crets. New York Times

Even be­fore Wik­iLeaks dis­closed the con­tents of as many as 250,000 con­fi­den­tial US diplo­matic ca­bles there were "shud­ders through the diplo­matic es­tab­lish­ment [the an­tic­i­pated dis­clo­sures] could con­ceiv­ably strain re­la­tions with some coun­tries, in­flu­enc­ing in­ter­na­tional af­fairs in ways that are im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict", says a re­port in the . Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton and US am­bas­sadors around the world were re­ported to be con­tact­ing for­eign of­fi­cials to alert them to the ex­pected dis­clo­sures.

The State Depart­ment's le­gal ad­viser warned a Wik­iLeaks lawyer that "the dis­tri­bu­tion of the ca­bles was il­le­gal and could en­dan­ger lives, dis­rupt mil­i­tary and counter-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tions and un­der­mine in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion against nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and other threats". New York Times Times

And the New York Times has made a spe­cial ad­dress to the read­ers to ex­plain the rea­son for pub­lish­ing the Wik­iLeaks dis­clo­sures: "The be­lieves that the doc­u­ments serve an im­por­tant pub­lic in­ter­est, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the goals, suc­cesses, com­pro­mises and frus­tra­tions of Amer­i­can diplo­macy in a way that other doc­u­ments can­not match."

A con­sid­er­able part of the ma­te­rial now put on the Wik­iLeaks web­site merely con­firms what had al­ways been sus­pected or par­tially known. That em­bassies, and not only of the US, are now giv­ing their es­pi­onage mis­sion higher pri­or­ity than ever is no se­cret. Sim­i­larly, Mos­sad plans to at­tack Iran or Arab un­easi­ness at Iran's nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity (to the ex­tent of call­ing for a war against it), or the de­sire by some sec­tions of the US ad­min­is­tra­tion to take pos­ses­sion of Pak­istan's nu­clear ware­houses have been known to a large ex­tent if not wholly.

How­ever, the value of the archival record of the kind now put on dis­play in the eyes of his­to­ri­ans and an­a­lysts can­not be doubted. These doc­u­ments pro­vide pre­cious source ma­te­rial just as pri­vate pa­pers of em­i­nent per­sons did in the past. But while re­searchers of­ten found it dif­fi­cult to ac­cess the pri­vate col­lec­tions of letters, notes and view pieces, deal­ing with men and mat­ters of the writ­ers' times, ac­cess­ing such ma­te­rial now re­quires only a tap on the com­puter key­board for any­one who wishes to get to the bot­tom of the mat­ter or sim­ply wishes to stay abreast of the times. An­other proof of the majesty of sci­ence and technology. Mrs War­ren's Pro­fes­sion

Be­sides, the joy or­di­nary peo­ple de­rive from the ex­po­sure of po­ten­tates, no­bles and pu­ri­tans is in­fec­tious.

For quite a few days the world will be re­galed with sto­ries with a stun­ning de­noue­ment in each diplo­matic thrust or coun­ter­punch, such as Balzac man­aged in some of his droll sto­ries, or Shaw pre­sented in or Saa­dat Hasan Manto spe­cialised in. Even those who sin­cerely de­nounce the seamy side of life can­not re­sist en­joy­ing the fun.

Many peo­ple, es­pe­cially the utopian ide­al­ists, who judge in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions by moral prin­ci­ples (just as they ex­pect pol­i­tics to be gov­erned by moral­ity), are shocked at the use of im­proper, in­de­cent, even il­le­gal means to fur­ther the mo­men­tary in­ter­est of a state. But such views do not last long. Within a short pe­riod even the most shame­ful de­vi­a­tions from pro­pri­ety in in­ter-govern­ment dis­course are for­got­ten and all gov­ern­ments/peo­ple be­gin to ra­tio­nalise their ac­tions by in­vok­ing the dic­tum that ev­ery­thing is fair in diplo­macy (whether in­spired by love or based on hos­til­ity). Re­mem­ber the stir caused by the pub­li­ca­tions of de­clas­si­fied doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to Pak­istan re­leased from US and Bri­tish archives and how quickly they were for­got­ten?

The Pak­istani peo­ple will nat­u­rally be in­ter­ested, above ev­ery­thing else, in find­ing out what their lead­ers have been do­ing and what for­eign di­plo­mats and ob­servers think of them. Al­though Pak­istan is one of the coun­tries where scan­dals in high places are rarely se­cret, Wik­iLeaks has of­fered them quite a few fresh and juicy sto­ries. No less amus­ing than these ex­po­sures is the va­ri­ety of re­sponses from the par­ties af­fected.

For in­stance, a pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son has tried to undo any pos­si­ble im­pact of King Ab­dul­lah's opin­ion about Mr Zar­dari by say­ing that the lat­ter treats the Saudi monarch as his elder brother. This could ei­ther mean that no­ble­men are not sup­posed to talk back to their elder broth­ers, or that the king could not have pos­si­bly said about his younger brother what has been at­trib­uted to him.

Sim­i­larly, a PML-N spokesper­son has ar­gued that a UAE prince's de­scrip­tion of Mian Nawaz Sharif as one who is dan­ger­ous but not dirty is an af­fir­ma­tion of his party chief's cre­den­tials as a prin­ci­pled politician.

This surely is a wind­fall for the coun­try's TV an­chors. They can hold an end­less se­ries of talk shows with all the Hump­ties and Dump­ties on the ques­tion of whether Pak­istan will be served bet­ter by a leader who is ' dirty but not dan­ger­ous' or by one who is 'dan­ger­ous but not dirty'.

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