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article imageOp-Ed: UK tries to defuse damning diplomatic report about Trump

By Paul Wallis     Jul 7, 2019 in World
London - Diplomacy is a many-jagged edges profession. The leak of a truly murderous assessment of the Trump administration hasn’t done the UK’s diplomatic service any favours as they try to unravel how it leaked and deal with it.
The UK has ordered a probe into the leak. That’s not much of a move, given the thorough description of the Trump administration as inept, dysfunctional and clumsy. They’re not denying that it’s an official document, they’re trying to find out how it leaked.
Matters are not improved by the fact that Trump, inevitably, has responded saying the author of the letter, UK diplomat Kim Darroch, hasn’t done a good job in serving the UK.
Why write a report like that, anyway?
Diplomatic staff have a pretty wide range of subjects from which to choose when writing anything about other countries. Where a relationship with another country is involved, how the other government behaves is an obvious subject for evaluation.
Diplomatic assessments typically deal with things like trade deals specific policies and negotiations. A broad overall evaluation of a foreign government may relate to an accumulation of issues. Darroch’s commentary on the Trump administration relates to issues since 2017.
A report may have been requested, but by whom? Why would you need information like this in writing?
• A formal request for a report of this type seems unlikely at best. Teresa May hardly seems to need any more problems, and this subject is almost totally irrelevant to current major issues facing the UK.
Darroch is a senior diplomat. He should know better than to put any kind of report in such blunt phraseology, even if that is what he thinks. It’s indiscreet at best, and downright stupid in any possible sense.
• This sort of information could also have been purely verbal for senior UK government heads. There’s no particularly good reason why it should be put in writing at all.
• The practical diplomatic value of the report is also questionable. Someone may be utterly useless, but what possible use could that information be to anyone? Wouldn’t it be easier to just put up a health warning, or “Here there be idiots” sign?
Diplomatic damage control 101
The diplomatic fallout is unlikely to do much more than stir the teacup, if a bit more vigorously than usual. The US and UK are hardly likely to sever relations over a virtual post-it note, however irritating. The US has confined itself to what is basically a diplomatic sneer, fairly appropriate under the circumstances.
The Darroch report has ironically created more problems for the UK than the US:
1. The supposedly top-level report was leaked very effectively, worldwide. That’s not a good look for UK security, or the UK diplomatic corps as a whole.
2. The UK now has to do some rather difficult diplomatic fence-mending and a rather expensive leak enquiry. That’s extra work for no good reason.
3. The leak creates quite a bit of “social leverage” for the Trump administration. Diplomatic basic practice is not to supply other countries with leverage. This leverage can be used in negotiations and other interactions. It’s such a basic mistake it’s truly appalling.
Exactly how the UK will bury this rotting corpse of a report will be interesting to see. Don’t expect diplomatic miracles, but you can expect yet another humiliating UK song and dance routine.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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