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Anglo-U.S. Relations Can Overcome WikiLeaks Fallout

Author: James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair
December 3, 2010
The Times (London)


November was a tough month for President Obama. It began with a "shellacking" in the US congressional elections. It ended with his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on the phone apologising to leaders around the world for the imminent public release of thousands of unflattering State Department cables.

Nothing about the congressional elections was good news for the Administration. But the WikiLeaks fiasco does have a silver lining.

Julian Assange boasted that the purloined cables would expose "American hypocrisy." What they showed instead is that American officials spend most of their time saying privately what they say in public.

Rather than pulling strings behind the scenes, American diplomats struggle to find common ground with foreign governments to solve shared challenges. That presumably is what a leading global power should be doing.

The other good news is that despite all the ink spilled on the WikiLeaks story no critical secrets have been revealed. More than half the 260,000 cables were, in the parlance of the US system of secrecy, routine, "confidential" items of low importance. None of the items were "top secret." The WikiLeaks fiasco is not an intelligence debacle but a diplomatic embarrassment.

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