The magic of leaks
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'.