Dutch Wikileaks Cables: Indecent and Embarrassing

I normally don't write my own flawed, simplistic and private opinions into a blog; I change opinions as fast as clothes. Who am I to comment, but... Ah well, see what I think about it in a year or so.

The Wikileaks organization has distributed the cables to some commercial and state-sponsored media in the Netherlands. My feelings so far: Wikileaks, positive for doing what they do - US, neutral for being what they are - Netherlands, negative for being gullible.

The cables exposed private opinions of US diplomats which tried to gather information from people and subsequently tried to influence the decision making process of Dutch politicians. Moreover, Dutch politicians, bureaucrats and police are sharing too much or even confidential information with the US embassy.

The first opened cables were with respect to the previous Afghan mission. Both a party and our then vice prime minister were exposed to the US embassy as the primary adversaries - I am not sure it was that simple. The US embassy subsequently went to great length to influence that decision, some of our psychological weak points were revealing and a bit demeaning.

One of our top diplomats touted the US actions as 'indecent.'   I don't agree. The US politics is a complex conglomerate of lobbying individuals which endeavour to implement private goals, usually achieved by team-play. That the US diplomats do similar here, is just a bit out of line with the traditional Dutch principled approach to political issues; at least, what remains of that. Moreover, I hardly expect our own embassies to act differently.

The more grave issues arrived subsequently. Okay, the US tried to sell us a JSF we might not need; whatever, it's more economics than politics. My main beef is with the fact that Dutchmen willingly supply the US embassy with private opinions bordering on stupidity ("Please, shoot this African warlord,") or civil sensitive lawfully-protected data ("Here are the names and telephone numbers of suspected terrorists.") What the hell is going on here?

The Dutch, traditionally, have a very favorable view of the US and its citizens. Historically, the reasons for that are the liberation of the Netherlands by US allied forces, the support in building the post-WWII economy, the shared front against communist influences, and an overwhelming exposure to US culture through music, movies, tv-series, and other media.

However, despite that and the common European heritage of both, the Dutch certainly aren't that culturally close to the US. The same, but different, the average US and Dutch citizens have very different views on manners, family values, courting and sex, value of friendships, free speech, the right to bear arms, religion, the role of the state, individual social responsibilities, monetary policies, economic policies, third-world policies, international policy, nationalism and -that global US dream- capitalism.

But, fascism and communism are gone, now replaced by the post-9/11-outrage common goal. The Bush doctrine has implemented a new dichotomy, 'a war on terrorism,' possibly a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the Netherlands, the US events, actions and rhetorics gave further rise to a growing tension between the traditional Dutch and the Islamic immigrant, but also the typically Dutch unrespectful comments gave a fundamentalist response: Two murders of local outspoken public Dutch citizens.

The Dutch follow the US, it is assumed we are similar and serve common Truman-like goals. So, our politicians and public are willing to share information and more. But the questionable Bush doctrine, "Lets bring the war to them!" is mostly a response to local US outrage. Was there really a war? Incidents, even if they are outrageous and cost many innocent lives, are not a war. The Iraq interventions were. The Afghan intervention is dubious.

The strangest observation in the Dutch discussion of the possible Afghan 'policing' mission, is that the central 'humanistic' question is never asked. So, we are supposed to go and help the poor people there. Do they want us to help them? Anything else but a locally democratically supported action is not aid, but a military intervention which can back-fire in more local eastern Islamic, fundamental, hatred against the US and the occupying European forces. Since when are we part of that discussion? Since we want to help third-world countries through the UN and the NATO, or since we are part of a construed emotional US reaction, a 'war on terror?'

The Dutch reason the same as in the fifties: What is good for the US is good for us. But, the provincial, naive, principled Netherlands is gone, so are the rural, heterogenous, religious states of the US. Like the US, the media condemns us to consume one-liners by media-trained politicians. Can we please go back to idealistic, thorough, political and economic discussions and get this world to work?

The big problem exposed by the cables with our naive politicians and bureaucrats, which spoke with the US embassy, is that each of them should have prudently stuck to the economic and diplomatic national Dutch issues instead of making donkeys of themselves. The embarrassment should not be on the US side.

Unfortunately, the principled approach is under severe pressure. The Dutch lefties last Sunday have tried to define an answer to the current after-9/11, partly anti-Islam driven, Dutch minority government which wants the Afghan mission. With a strategy which seems to be copied straight from the Obama campaign, mostly a few nationalistic, and optimistic, populist simplistic sentiments and some hatred towards the other side, I should be convinced to vote on the lefties. Even in that everybody is following the trend-setting US: Not a principled discussion in sight - the Dutch cease to think.

God bless the US and the fact that I live in the Netherlands. Though that latter fact may be dubious.