April 15, 2014

Ancient Cables and Dutch Treats

I recently stumbled across an almost ten-year-old cable from the U.S. Embassy in The Hague back to the State Department in Washington.  Classified “Secret,” the document now resides openly in the ether, courtesy of Wikileaks.

Two careers ago, I had some experience with drafting such cables as a Foreign Service Officer posted in Latin America, with additional service in Europe and Washington (a “cable,” incidentally, is a fancy word for what passes as an email in today’s parlance, the former simply pre-dating the latter, and the word lives on).

Generally speaking, the Officer drafting the cable has carte blanche and is trusted to capture his or her recollections of an event or observations on a topic, subject to the editorial review of senior officers for either substance or tone or both.

Once the cable is sent and distributed, it and its content take on the nature of “fact.”

What struck me about this particular cable was the fact-based reporting of a remarkably non-fact-based interaction between U.S. and Dutch Government officials.

According to the cable, Embassy staff were joined by U.S. Commerce and Defense Department export control officials in briefing Dutch officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economics and Defense on a U.S. Government “non-paper,” about which no detail is provided in the cable.

We can divine, however, by the subsequent reporting on the Dutch officials’ response, that the U.S. delegation and the mystery non-paper were focused on (wait for it regular readers) disrupting the international supply chain of China-based technology companies, including Huawei, my ever-beleaguered employer.

It seems that the Dutch, with global commercial realities in mind, took the time to explain to the U.S. delegation that Huawei was a major global telecom gear manufacturer and a customer of Dutch suppliers, of, e.g. analog-to-digital converters (ADCs). 

Quoting from the cable: One of the Dutch representatives “…thanked the U.S. side for its information and remarked that Huawei, for example, was among the largest telecommunications base station manufacturers in China and a probable Philips customer.”

The U.S. side was quick to counter that “firms that are established ‘defense contractors’ to the PLA and have extensive ties to PRC national security agencies cannot be...trusted…”

I have no doubt that there is some truth to that concern.  But Huawei, in the world of facts, is demonstrably no such firm.

The U.S. went on, however, to comment that “the only companies that can be trusted… are those that are strictly focused on the civilian market... “

Ding, ding, ding…  Now that little descriptive would, in fact, apply to Huawei.

But facts be damned.

So, what’s my point?  Simply put, that mis-informed – albeit quite possibly intentionally so – U.S. Government representatives have been spreading Huawei FUD for the better part of a decade, and, each and every time they’ve done so, they’ve contributed to an ever-bloated body of “facts” built on little more than bullshit.

But God bless the Dutch.

Commercially rational, and in the context of sound and fair regulatory policy, the Dutch, per the cable, explained their plans to require “ADC buyers to track and account for their ADC inventory, rather than prohibiting altogether ADC sales to certain companies."

Further from the Dutch Government representative: ‘It would be hard,’ he concluded, ‘to shut out Huawei, one of the biggest players’ in China's third generation cell phone program…With this in mind, the GONL had been drafting sales contract language requiring 14-bit ADC buyers to put parts control programs in place for the converters.”

Ten years later, belated applause…

(Link to the cable: http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/04THEHAGUE3156_a.html)