Sunday, December 19, 2010


Our first Christmas lily of the year has just burst into blossom. Good timing!

There is a definition of an ambassador – ‘a person sent abroad to lie for his country.’ Diplomacy is a cornerstone of international politics.

As long as there have been diplomats they have reported home to their masters. Many a Tudor melodrama has a shifty-eyed Spanish ambassador as its villian. I’m equally sure that Spanish equivalents have an equally dastardly Englishman.

This knowledge means I fail to get excited about Wikileaks. In most cases it seems to me confirm what I already know (or suspect). I would hope that our government has a good handle on what is happening in Fiji. I am not surprised that John Key was disappointed his officials couldn’t arrange a meeting with President Obama. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.

And I must say much of what has been reported is obvious. Indeed, the American diplomatic service comes out as doing a surprisingly good job. From their angle. That is their job.

The character of the Italian prime minister had been reported in the local and international press long before Wikileaks revealed the diplomats were saying the same thing. The sudden rolling of Kevin Rudd by his colleagues took me by surprise. The Wikileak reveals a diplomatic assessment fairly early on as to why he was vulnerable. I am not shocked to learn that other Middle East Arab states fear a nuclear Iran. I would expect them to be.

And at the risk of bringing down ire on my head I think their judgements about our scene are not too far off the mark.

The big exposure of this week has been the claim that the Lange government was anti-nuclear for reasons of cost-cutting. Well, when Messers Bassett, Tizard and Goff can agree that is not so, the claim is seen for what it is – wishful musing on the part of a few senior public servants.

At the time it was common knowledge around Wellington that some of these boffins were unhappy about the change of policy. Of course the diplomates would carry such tittle-tattle back to Washington. If they were doing their job they would have also reported the overall feeling of the nation. There was a majority conviction. The French testing was still fresh in our minds.

As an education bureaucrat I was surprised at the intensity of the conviction expressed by some middle echelon Treasury officials. In those heady days Lange and Douglas could do no wrong in that quarter.

I understand American outrage. I appreciate their concern that names may be released and people’s lives put at risk.

But as long as there are diplomats people will try to intercept and decode their messages. Such is the nature of Government. And local people will use such information if available for their local causes and efforts. What else is in the Wikileaks that is not being researched or released. That is the question?

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