Leaks make US PR task even harder

By Andrew Hammond

Looking specifically at the campaign against terrorism, the scale of the public diplomacy task Obama still faces is regularly highlighted in opinion polls.

THE latest WikiLeaks release of about 250 000 classified US state department documents has been variously characterised as the "September 11 of world diplomacy" (Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini); an "attack on the international community" (US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton); and a threat to "democratic sovereignty and authority" (French government spokesman Francois Baroin).

Debate will long continue about the rights and wrongs of WikiLeaks's actions. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the episode has caused considerable damage to the US.

Underlying many of these issues is the fundamental question of what the WikiLeaks affair reveals about the changing map of influence and power in a world that continues to be transformed by the information revolution and economic globalisation. To date, these forces have generally reinforced US pre-eminence for several reasons, including the country's relative technological edge over much of the rest of the world; the fact that its dominant culture and ideas are very close to prevailing global norms; and its multiple channels of communication, which help to frame global issues.

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