Posted Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, at 8:35 AM
The State Department pointed out yesterday that the authors of the WikiLeaks-dumped cables were diplomats, not intelligence assets. The implication: We're going to find stuff that embarrasses people, but not stuff that reveals state secrets or blows the whistle on anything rotten. And so far, sure, these leaks are heavy on gossip and light on revelations. They are peeks at future Bob Woodward books. Consider the October 2008 memorandum on an overlong brunch with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, in Kyrgyzstan.
To his credit, he diligently tried to understand the Kyrgyz point view. However, when participants explained that some Kyrgyz feel that they were "unfairly" led in the 1990s to sign unfavorable contracts with Westerners, he evinced no sympathy. "A contract is a contract," he insisted. "You have to take the rough with the smooth." "ALL OF THIS SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE FRANCE"
He then went on to "these (expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere" and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business. The crowd practically clapped. He then capped this off with a zinger: castigating "our stupid (sic) British and American governments which plan at best for ten years whereas people in this part of the world plan for centuries." There were calls of "hear, hear" in the private brunch hall. Unfortunately for the assembled British subjects, their cherished Prince was now late to the Prime Minister’s. He regretfully tore himself away from them and they from him. On the way out, one of them confided to the Ambassador: "What a wonderful representative for the British people! We could not be prouder of our royal family!"
And we end with an editorial comment:
Prince Andrew reached out to the Ambassador with cordiality and respect, evidently valuing her insights. However, he reacted with almost neuralgic patriotism whenever any comparison between the United States and United Kingdom came up. For example, one British businessman noted that despite the "overwhelming might of the American economy compared to ours" the amount of American and British investment in Kyrgyzstan was similar. Snapped the Duke: "No surprise there. The Americans don’t understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!"
I have a story going up later about the difficulty Republicans face when they ask for WikiLeaks to be designated a terrorist organization. It's hard to argue that bitchy revelations about the Duke of York are on par with, say, funding a suicide bomber.