Wikigate

The recent furor over the Wikileak revelations regarding diplomatic communications reinforced for me many of the reasons I am not a professional diplomat and would never be effective as a professional diplomat.  Simply put, I lack the patience and or the willingness to hear and see inane and senseless behavior while remaining cool, calm, collected and seemingly unaffected by inane and senseless behavior, especially if people’s lives and security are at stake.

I have not read large portions of the leaked correspondence, but what I have been exposed to confirmed my suspicion that even diplomats have a difficult time being diplomats in the face of the inane, senseless, and ridiculous.  I especially enjoyed hearing a former ambassador interviewed on NPR.  He was asked if he thought that the sarcastic and caustic sentiments expressed in many of these documents reflected the true feelings of diplomats toward their counterparts in other countries.  He tried to put a good face on it but when pressed admitted that it was probably pretty accurate.

I realize that some national interests may have been compromised by leaking these documents but I got the distinct impression that the more significant result was the embarrassment it caused the diplomatic community.  It was as if they thought that the average citizen was shocked by these revelations of diplomatic discord, that we were appalled that high ranking government officials would think of their counterparts as dweebs, dips, idiots, dorks or useless, mind numbing twits,  that the Italian Prime Minister was the self-serving mouth-piece of Vladimir Putin who threw wild parties to gain favor with his constituents (Berlusconi denied that he had ever attended a ”wild party”) or that Angela Merkel was a Teflon queen who carefully avoided all confrontations in order not to find herself on the unpopular end of an issue. 

Come on folks, we are not shocked by any of this dirty laundry and all the official, diplomatic posturing with lots of huffing and puffing only makes it worse.  Being a diplomat is tough, I get it.  Having to look across the table at a complete dweeb and act like they are an engaing and intelligent person for the nation’s best interest takes real skill.  Just don’t pretend that you live like a diplomat.  It’s your job, not your life.  A few glasses of wine later and you are ready to admit that you spent all day with a mindless twit.  Most of us have done that a time or two, so we understand.  We just don’t have to do it with someone who is insecure, angry and owns nuclear weapons.

I am reminded of two great movie scenes.  In The Last Samurai,  Nathan Algrin is meeting his assigned translator for the first time.  The translator told him that he was a failure as a diplomat in a country where no one actually said what they meant so he now accurately translated other people’s lies.

In the movie Patton, Patton is sitting with a Russian general at a party celebrating the VE day and the Russian asks Patton to share a toast with him.  Patton tells the translator to inform the general that he has no intentions of drinking with him or any other Russian SOB.  Using the translator the Russian responds that he thinks Patton is a SOB as well.  Patton agrees and they decide to toast, one SOB to another.

I think  a lot of diplomacy is like that too.

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