Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our diplomats are pretty smart

Most of the revelations that came out of the WikiLeaks scandal weren't particularly surprising for those of us who obsessively stay up on international affairs. But it was quite reassuring to see the level of insight possessed by U.S. diplomats as well as the candor and depth in their writing. This 2009 cable from our embassy in Damascus is a good example. The summary:
As the U.S. continues its re-engagement with Syria, it may help us achieve our goals if we understand how SARG officials pursue diplomatic goals. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is neither as shrewd nor as long-winded as his father but he, too, prefers to engage diplomatically on a level of abstraction that seems designed to frustrate any direct challenge to Syria's behavior and, by extension, his judgment. Bashar's vanity represents another Achilles heel: the degree to which USG visitors add to his consequence to some degree affects the prospects for a successful meeting. The SARG foreign policy apparatus suffers from apparent dysfunctionality and weaknesses in terms of depth and resources but the SARG punches above its weight because of the talents of key individuals. SARG officials generally have clear, if tactical, guidance from Bashar and they are sufficiently professional to translate those instructions into recognizable diplomatic practice. But in a diplomatic world that is generally oiled by courtesy and euphemism, the Syrians don't hesitate to be nasty in order to achieve their objectives. The behaviors they employ as diplomatic "force-multipliers" are the hallmarks of a Syrian diplomatic world that is generally oiled by courtesy and euphemism, the Syrians don't hesitate to be nasty in order to achieve their objectives. The behaviors they employ as diplomatic "force-multipliers" are the hallmarks of a Syrian diplomatic style that is at best abrasive and, at its worst, brutal.

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