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Wikileaks, Germany, and Herr Westerwelle

November 29, 2010

Having written here before about Wikileaks when they released the video of US gunships killing Reuters journalists, I cannot resist commenting on the issue on everyone’s minds today. As with many with whom I have spoken, I am of two minds about the wisdom of revealing 250,000+ diplomatic cables, but in the end, I think the balance comes out positive. Really, anyone engaged in diplomacy should not have their feelings hurt by being called names in diplomatic cables, and the U.S. does enough nasty stuff out in the open that anything we learn of from these cables likely will not set the world on fire.

For my part, I headed straight for the cables issued by the embassy in Berlin. German politics and politicians are well known to me, so I can read these cables without a lot of head scratching and googling and still get the gist. For the most part, they are banal. The writing is generally remarkably good, and the analysis is pretty spot on, too, even if I disagree politically with the American view at times.

The most shocking revelation so far for me, however, is contained in this pithy sentence from a February 2010 cable:

Westerwelle (who spoke with ease in English) was in a buoyant mood and more confident on his issues than we have seen him so far.

What what what ?!?! Guido can speak English with ease? And I thought he was Mr. Anti-English. And he was in a good mood and making sense? Hold the presses!

Thank you, Wikileaks!

  1. Jerry permalink
    December 4, 2010 15:48

    Well, okay. Mr. Westerwelle’s english is far from what I would ‘recommend’ for an Aussenminister, especially regarding the amount of people speaking english in the world. But, he made a very good point. In no country would any journalist, who’s not out of his mind, dare to ask a for a permission to ask questions in any foreign language. And if he did, he’d be kicked out asap. So I think the journalist was way out of line. Imagine a german reporter requesting to ask questions to Mrs. Clinton in german…

    • Dale permalink*
      December 7, 2010 09:54

      Jerry – I think you are correct that it was a bit cavalier of the reporter to ask the question in English, but German culture as it currently exists sort of invites such an attitude. Ja, wir können doch alle Englisch is sort of the leitmotif of the day.

      What Westerwelle did not have to do, however, was make a scene in a press conference. It did not win him many friends, and just underscored his reputation as a thin-skinned preener. Not sure what he hoped to gain. As foreign minister, one needs to stay above such silliness to be taken seriously. No wonder the US Embassy views him with such disregard.

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