October 29, 2013
But why are we doing this? Is it all really about coping with the terrorist threat? Or is it because we have the ability to do it, and the more information we have, even stolen surreptitiously from friends and allies, the better? Gives us a leg up in the great game of nations.
U.S. diplomats say that one of their assignments abroad is to know what the host government is thinking and planning politically, economically, strategically. That this is an aspect of diplomacy.
But relations among friendly nations are not unlike the NFL. While films are taken of rival teams’ games and studied, scouts observe practices, and rumors are picked up of injuries, there are lines that most opposing NFL teams do not cross.
The lines of unethical conduct and criminality.
To learn that an owner or coach of one NFL franchise had wiretapped the home phones of coaches and players of a Super Bowl rival would, if revealed, be regarded as rotten business.
What kind of camaraderie, cooperation or friendship can endure in an environment where constant snooping on one’s closest friends is accepted practice?
In the Nixon White House, there were serious leaks that revealed our secret bombing of Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia to protect our troops, and of our fallback position in the strategic arms talks.
Wiretaps were planted on aides to Henry Kissinger and White House staffers who had no knowledge of what had been leaked.
Relationships were altered, some poisoned for a lifetime.
Why should we not expect a similar reaction among foreign friends who discover their personal and political secrets have been daily scooped up and filed by their American friends, and found their way into the president’s daily intelligence brief?
The Cold War was a clash of ideologies and empires for the future of the world. Men took drastic measures to preserve what they had. At the end of the Cold War, the old tactics and measures were not set aside, but improved upon, and now are no longer restricted for use against the likes of al-Qaida, but against allies.
At the Cold War’s end, the late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick talked hopefully of America becoming again “a normal country in a normal time.” Seems as though the normal times are never coming back.