More broadly, what you see in this diplomatic traffic is how security and counter-terrorism concerns have pervaded every aspect of American foreign policy. But you also see how serious the threats are, and how little the west is in control of them. There is devastating stuff here about the Iranian nuclear programme and the extent not merely of Israeli but Arab fears of it (“cut off the head of the snake”, a Saudi ambassador reports his king urging the Americans); the vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile to rogue Islamists; anarchy and corruption on a massive scale in Afghanistan; al-Qaida in Yemen; and tales of the power of the Russian mafia gangs, that make John le Carré’s latest novel look almost understated.
If the leaks are a representative sample of US diplomatic activity and if the Oxford (and Stanford) scholar’s judgment is accurate, then the focus on counter-terrorism is both understandable and unfortunate.
Unfortunate because given the US role and influence in the world we might be better at counter-terrorism if we were focused on a more positive strategy of global engagement.
The world is in the midst of a fundamental shift. This can be observed in economics, politics, demographics, religion, and more. Terrorism is one symptom of this profound transition. There are other crucial issues, some which have an indirect but potentially powerful influence on terrorism. How is US diplomacy being applied to shape a new synthesis?
Our choice is almost always between giving more attention to risks or more attention to opportunities. A strong defense may win more football games. It is seldom the best strategy in the rest of life.