Recently Angela Merkel has found herself in two complex situations. The first, as we all know, has stirred a bitter global debate about American spying. The second, though largely ignored, deserves at least as much attention because it may have even larger implications for international security. It’s about a prank using a drone.
Let’s start with the first: The chancellor is furious with Barack Obama. She called to berate him for U.S. snooping. “We need to have trust in our allies, and this trust must now be established once again,” she said a few days later.
Merkel is not the only head of government who is upset at the U.S. Dilma Rousseff, her Brazilian counterpart, abruptly cancelled a state visit to Washington when it became public that the United States was spying on her. President Francois Hollande of France is also indignant, as is Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Upon learning that the U.S. and U.K. intelligence services had been monitoring Italy’s telecommunication networks, Letta said, "It is inconceivable and unacceptable that there should be acts of espionage of this type."
Really? Inconceivable and unacceptable? Unacceptable perhaps, but surely not inconceivable. It’s rather normal, in fact. Governments that have spy agencies use them. Is Barack Obama more at fault than his Russian, Chinese or, for that matter, French counterparts? What is the likelihood that any world leader and, increasingly, private organizations, with the technological means to tap into the telephone or email communications of other powerful players will refrain from doing so? Nil.