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The Brass Ring of American Diplomacy

Reader comment on item: Pouring Cold Water on WikiLeaks

Submitted by Tim Hunter (United States), Dec 26, 2010 at 16:52

From your posting of 12/14/2010:

"...as Dalia Dassa Kaye of the Rand Corporation notes, "what Arab leaders say to U.S. officials and what they might do may not always track." The masses hear policies; high-ranking Westerners hear seduction.

This rule of thumb explains why distant observers often see what nearby diplomats and journalists miss. It also raises doubts about the utility of the WikiLeaks data dump. In the end, it may distract us more than clarify what we know about Arab policies."

Often overlooked in the discussions about the nature and role of US diplomacy in the middle east are the conflicting motivations of sections of US diplomats: for those in the political, public diplomacy, and economic "cones" of the Foreign Service (as well as comparable disciplines of the Integelligence agencies) it is reasonable to aspire to one day becoming an Ambassador. Not all areas of the Foreign Service are included in this particular endeavor.

To get the "brass ring" aspiring diplomats and intelligence personnel aim at cultivating various godfathers. The godfathers look forward to having friends on the top levels of the various agencies as their cadets rise in their careers. The Saudis are masters at cultivating long term relationships with selected dyoung and rising diplomats are able in the US capital to play various parts in bringing about the elevation of their cadets.

I would say that anyone who are understood Shakespeare's play about court politics can figure out the true nature of the Saudi royal family. The al Saud family are pretty transparent, if one is used to looking for certain things. As someone who read Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy it was easy to put together the various contractions of Saudi policy to uncover the duplicity of Saudi Arabian policy. I noted that every military officer I met in the US Mission (I had entree largely as a result of the fact that I am myself an officer in the Army Reserve and therefore speak "military") - saw the Sauds as allies in limited senses and enemies in many other. I should also mention that the courses preparing US diplmats to serve in the middle east were excellent in my time and - if one did the massive reading that was prescribed - one had a good awareness of what was actually happening. These courses are taught by former US diplomats, including some who had become whistleblowers and academics. The major defect in the Foreign Service School in my time was that the classes and training were not graded and made part of one's career personnel record. Thus, many of my classmates did not try to keep up with the course readings and did not participate actively in class discussions. I also derived some additional insight from reading Leo Strauss' Notes on Machiavelli. Further, if one had a passion for the study of World War II and the rise of the fascists, nazis and communists it was easy to see what a totalitarian state the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is. Since I had gone from the US Embassy in Canada to Jeddah I was familar how a friendly country treats and respects US diplomats. The Saudi treatment of the actual US Mission personnel in the Kingdom was cold, threatening and full of menace any reasonably sober person could penetrate towards an awareness of the evil in the al Saud regime. I should emphsize that there was an actual lack of sobriety am ong many US diplomats and intelligence personnel due to the tremendous amounts of legally imported alchoholic beverages being handled and sold into the black markets - a trade that was closely tied to the agency Station Chief and certain hencemen (and hencewomen). It helps to keep in mind that on one level the Kigdom is not unlike the USA in the roaring 20s - when there was a formal system of alcohol prohibition. The consumption of alcoholic beverages by diplomats and staff was higher than any other post in the US foreign service post.

So, if one combines the habitual drunkeness of US diplmats and staff with the "brass ring" pursuers and those who had simply converted to Islam and taken the $40,000 (or whatever it was that was paid out of the royal purse for "conversion expenses") not to mention a lot of other things swept under the rug it is not surprising that US diplomats have failed to adequately interpret the real meaning of their conversations with top Saudi Arabian officials. Equal ability at interpreting and detecting the al Sauds dynasty can be achieved whatever ones physicial distance - one can be either in Riyadh or Washington, DC and see the same things, fundamentally.

Tim

Submitting....

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