Keller @ Large: What International Diplomacy Is Really About

BOSTON (CBS) — Private First Class Bradley Manning is in big trouble. He is the Army intelligence analyst who allegedly downloaded and leaked hundreds of thousands of classified state department documents to the website Wikileaks, which in turn is making them public.

Private Manning has been arrested and will probably spend much of the rest of his life in prison, as he probably should, since his illegal actions will likely lead to multiple deaths and all sorts of damage to international relations.

Nonetheless, this accused criminal has done us a service of sorts. According to a summary of some of the leaked information in yesterday’s New York Times, it provides confirmation of something many of you likely suspected all along – that international diplomacy is not a lofty discipline balancing power with principle, but is instead an exercise in dealing with liars, thugs, and criminals of every possible description. And that’s just our allies.

For instance, while it may not surprise you to learn that our buddies the Saudis continue to be the chief source of donations to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, did you know that our ally Quatar, which plays host to major US military installations in the Middle East, is seen by the State Department as the “worst in the region” when it comes to counter-terrorism?

How about another ally of ours, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who kisses up to us while exchanging “lavish gifts and contracts” with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin?

And how about our allies in the dubious effort to establish a stable democracy in Afghanistan, the Karzai clan, one of whom is described by our diplomats as, essentially, a pathological liar?

Give me diplomacy over war whenever possible, absolutely. But there’s a good reason why diplomacy so often fails. We’re often dealing with crooks and liars, not that we’re always so simon-pure either.

Keep that in mind next time a candidate claims they’ll restore diplomacy to a pre-eminent place in our playbook.

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