We already brought you the top five revelations in WikiLeaks' dumping of U.S. diplomatic cables. As commentators rush to assess the news and the possible damage to U.S. foreign policy, one big question is this: what do our allies think of this story? European friends, certainly, weren't always portrayed in a flattering light in these State Department communications. So how are foreign media reacting? As it turns out, British, French, German, and Israeli media do express some concern at the revelations, but are largely siding with the U.S. government here: more than a few foreign journalists are dressing down WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, saying U.S. diplomats weren't doing anything diplomats don't normally do. The rundown:
- If Anything, Doesn't This Help the U.S.? "The disclosures," writes The Telegraph Richard Spencer, "set out extremely clearly the thinking underlying US government policy--including rationales that cannot usually be given publicly for fear of offending allies or revealing secrets. Their partiality might be questioned--but their coherence can't." In his view, "the leaks reflect far worse on Middle Eastern regimes, including but not only Iran, than on the United States."
- This Is Just Ordinary Diplomacy "Effective diplomacy involves all the transgressions Wikileaks is exposing," judges Benedict Brogan, also at The Telegraph. "Embarrassment is just the consequence of exposure."
- 'Is There a Bigger Self-Aggrandizing Pillock in the World Than Julian Assange?' asks Guy Walters at The Telegraph. "I doubt it," he responds. The exposures will lead to less openness overall. "Countries, just like people, are entitled to keep some things secret. Covert activity does not necessarily mean criminality. Why does Mr Assange not understand this?"
- That Said, U.S.--What Were You Thinking? "Before US government officials point accusing fingers at others, they might first have the humility to reflect on their own role in scattering 'secrets' around a global intranet," suggests an editorial in The Guardian. Timothy Garton Ash, with an op-ed in the same publication, concurs: "the US government must surely be ruing, and urgently reviewing, its weird decision to place a whole library of recent diplomatic correspondence on to a computer system so brilliantly secure that a 22-year-old could download it on to a Lady Gaga CD." Meanwhile, Simon Jenkins adds that "if WikiLeaks can gain access to secret material, by whatever means, so presumably can a foreign power."
- I Now Have More Respect for the State Department That's one of Garton Ash's other comments. "In recent years, I have found the American foreign service to be somewhat underwhelming, reach-me-down, dandruffy, especially when compared with other, more confident arms of US government, such as the Pentagon and the treasury," admits the respected journalist-historian. But he's delighted by some of the cables he's reading, adding that William Burns's account of a "wild Dagestani wedding attended by the gangsterish president of Chechnya" is "almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh."
- Israel Comes Out Just Fine, decides Yaakov Katz at the Jerusalem Post. "WikiLeaks may have done the country a service on Sunday. By presenting the Arab leaders as more extreme in their remarks than Israeli leaders, the cables show the dissonance in the region and the danger involved in allowing Iran to continue with its nuclear program." Nor is Katz unhappy with what is presented of American attitudes towards Israel: "the United States is clearly listening to and recording what Middle Eastern leaders have to say about Iran. The question left unanswered is what the US is willing to do about it."
- 'Banal' Revelations, Dangerous Precedent To news that U.S. officials have described German chancellor Angela Merkel as lacking in creativity, Die Welt's Andrea Seibel replies: "that's supposed to be a secret?" But she adds that this
isn't about Germany, but about the right to discretion and confidentiality. ... Don't the defenders of absolute openness realize that it needs laws and rules? That not everything can be hurled, unfiltered, into the world? Why isn't someone trying to crack unjust regimes like North Korea or Iran? Why prefer to hurt one's own democracies?
- Damage Control in France American Ambassador Charles Rivkin takes to the pages of Le Monde to inform the country of the U.S.'s "profound regret" regarding the "revelation of all information which was intended to remain confidential." He also adds that these were private communications, and that "diplomats must be able to conduct frank discussions with their colleagues"--he thinks "every French ambassador would say the same." He expresses confidence that reasonable citizens will realize that the internal cables "alone don't represent the official foreign policy of a nation."
- The UN Stuff Is a Bit Disturbing Nicolas Richter in the Süddeutsche Zeitung brushes off the news that American diplomats have been reporting the conversations of German politicians. He does think that the U.S.'s plan to "collect the credit cards" of U.N. officials, though, is "reminiscent ... of North Korea." Le Monde's Rémy Ourdan expresses similar concern.
- WikiLeaks Not Helping That's Nicolas Richter's main conclusion. The organization's publications don't come with the same guarantee of responsible disclosure that big revelations in traditional media do. He adds: "a state department that must constantly be diplomatic even internally doesn't work. Neither does a human that can't write to anyone anymore what he thinks."
- No Mention of the U.S. Economy in These Cables Karsten Polke-Majewski in German newspaper Die Zeit finds that odd.