About diplomatic correspondence in general

Today I would like to say a few words about the usefulness of diplomatic documents in general. If we took Mutt Damon’s criticism seriously, historians could throw in the towel and look for some more useful profession. After all, the past is known to us through all sorts of written documents; if we disregarded them, past centuries would be lost to us. This is especially true in the case of foreign policy issues. Since diplomacy is conducted in secret, written correspondence is our most reliable source for piecing together an approximation of reality.

If I understand Mutt Damon correctly, he doubts the efficacy of the “idle chatter” emanating from diplomatic missions. Okay, he doesn’t use this expression, but that is the message. These documents tell us nothing about reality. The people posted to foreign missions simply formulate their very personal, often misguided opinions. Even if they happen to hit the nail on the head, their observations have about the same value as those expressed in a better blog. (I hope Mutt considers Hungarian Spectrum one of the better ones.happy smiley)

Although this might be taken as a compliment, I have to disagree. Bloggers write their posts in an unofficial capacity while diplomats report back to their superiors in an official capacity. These superiors, if they trust their subordinates, listen to what they have to say and may formulate policy on the basis of information they receive. So, these diplomats are vital links in a large network of people in charge of official policy.

Mihály Varga

 

 

In addition to the personal assessments of the diplomats on the spot, foreign embassies receive valuable information from all sorts of sources, including opinions expressed by important politicians themselves. One might doubt the veracity of Viktor Orbán’s intent to designate Mihály Varga as his successor, but it would be foolhardy to question the fact that he himself informed U.S. Ambassador April Foley of this decision. And only yesterday, there was a piece of news indicating that although Varga didn’t become economics minister, he is still the closest associate of the prime minister. The article somewhat maliciously added that the choice of Varga has something to do with his colorlessness. Pictured above is the grey eminence of the Orbán administration, who was described by fellow economists as a man of limited abilities.

István Stumpf

Moreover, until the release of the documents we had only rumors about Fidesz politicians’ dissatisfaction with Viktor Orbán in 2006, after the lost elections. Now we have “proof” that István Stumpf, Orbán’s right-hand man during his first administration, was ready to send him to Brussels, far away from trouble. Or, as Stumpf not so kindly said, perhaps Orbán “might be better suited to the Presidency, which would give him more rhetorical than practical responsibility.” In brief, Stumpf had a devastating opinion of Orbán’s ability to govern. So, it is no wonder that in the new administration Stumpf was tucked away as one of the judges of the enlarged Constitutional Court. Orbán rarely dumps his former associates completely: they are simply given some less important post as a token of his appreciation for services rendered earlier.

Or what about “Debrecen Mayor Lajos Kosa [pictured below], who has candidly indicated his interest in ‘replacing Orban as John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher,’ emphasizing the importance of being seen as Orban’s heir rather than his deposer given his personal following.” It’s no surprise that Orbán described Kósa to April Foley as “an amusing fellow” who shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

These pieces of information have great value for those of us interested in Hungarian politics and will be invaluable to future historians writing the political history of the period. Commentators emphasize that although surely within Fidesz there must be personal rivalries and differences of opinion, the party under the thumb of Viktor Orbán seems pretty impenetrable to outsiders. Now we have information coming from inside the party walls.

 

Of course, we have also known that Viktor Orbán’s claim to honesty was itself a huge lie, but it’s a boon to a historian to discover that during the election campaign of 2006 he confidentially informed businessmen not to pay much attention to his populist campaign rhetoric. Now we have written confirmation that Orbán, just like all politicians, promised things his followers wanted to hear, not what he intended to deliver.

Lajos Kósa

Orbán’s simple solutions to grave problems are also revealed in these documents. In 2008, for example, he described his tasks after winning the next election: “It is not that complicated. We tell the people that we will restore the greatness of the nation while to the businessmen we will tell what they can expect from Fidesz.” But if you recall from yesterday’s post, the business people were rather skeptical even before the elections. What they think by now we can only surmise.

All in all, although I disapprove of WikiLeaks’s methods, I’m grateful for the valuable information we have received from these cables. I’m pretty sure that Viktor Orbán is upset. At least this is what Péter Szijjártó’s remarks today indicate. According to Szijjártó, the prime minister is not interested in the continuing soap opera of the American entertainment world. That is one way of describing what happened.

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Paul
Guest

If you’re going to post pictures of Kosa, can we at least have a warning at the start of the blog?
What a shock when I paged down accidentally!
Us (part-time) Debreceni see enough of this clown’s face without it disturbing our evening’s surfing as well.
And I was eating at the time!

Member

To Orban (not thta he reads this, but I am sure someone in his circle does): “According to Szijjártó, the prime minister is not interested in the continuing soap opera of the American entertainment world.” I am not interested in soap operas at all, and i never watch them, but I am more and more interested in the soap opera of Hungary with the leading man Orban. So, if we could get the reader’s digest version of Orban’s truths, lies and real belives from the main character himself, millions could rest their case.
On an other note, I am glad to see that Hungary Chooses Bela Tarr’s ‘The Turin Horse’ as its official entry for the Oscars. I cannot wait to see the film.

Ron
Guest

Some1: So, if we could get the reader’s digest version of Orban’s truths, lies and real believes from the main character himself, millions could rest their case.
Why don’t you contact April H. Foley she use to work for Reader’s Digest.
About ‘The Turin Horse’ have you seen the trailer.
http://www.pestiside.hu/20110902/the-week-nation-enters-dead-horse-for-next-years-oscars/

Kirsten
Guest

I wonder why it is necessary to think about who might follow Viktor Orban (from Fidesz!). I thought he is young and intends to govern for at least 20 years. But if it were true that there are debates about his merits and who could replace him, while “critical people” are “shunted” to the Constitutional Court, it sounds more like a sworn community than a single dictator at work. I would not rely on disputes between these people and OV, that appears to be show to me. Whatever they think, the current positions are too good. The whole crew has to be replaced.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “The whole crew has to be replaced.”
Of course! But don’t forget that what the cable here is talking about the situation in 2006 after the lost elections. Moreover, Fidesz can’t exist without Orbán. If he were replaced the whole deck of cards would collapse.

Kirsten
Guest

Eva: “If he were replaced the whole deck of cards would collapse.”
That is very convincing. I am sorry I did not realise that these were assessments from 2006.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Somewhat off topic, I just received an invitation to the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, DC. In part it reads “on Sunday, September 11, 2011, 7:00 p.m.
at the Embassy of Hungary, 2950 Spring of Freedom Street, N.W., Washington, DC, 20008, Commemorating remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas O. Melia
and Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker”
That’s Thomas “who the f*ck is” Melia and Nancy “Fidesz is anti-semtic” Brinker. I wonder how long Ambassador Szapary will last….

Member

Eva; What is the translation for szemelyi kultusz? I think what drives the Fidesz is the szemlyi kultusz of Orban. I think that is what you areferring to when you say the whole deck would collapse. I agree with you for sure.
Ron, thank you. I have seen the trailer, that is very reflective of Tarr’s whole body of work I think he is one of those directors that you either hate or love, there is no in-between. But anyone who wants to criticise him must watch his work on bg screen. (Unfortunately that is almost impossible.) I just purchased my tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival’s The Turin Horse and I am vey excited.
I did not know that Ms Foley used to work for the Reader’s Digest. I guess Orban choose to be casted in this American soap opera with his own lies, but now he wants to quit.
Sackhoes Contributor, yes and yes. It will make a very interesting evening.

kormos
Guest

…and tomorrow we’ll read about Akos Kertesz and genetically inferior Hungarians. Perhaps I should have written the word “Hungarian” with lover case, just to be small enough for this blog.
@Some1. Rest assured this blog is known. No wonder, that you do not see anyone from
M.Sz(M)P.
Nobody and nothing last forever. Orban will go eventually, but do not hold your breath.

Member

@kormos Just a gentle reminder that the purpose of this blog is to discuss events, politics, history – everything related to Hungary in English. Basically to provide information to the mostly English speaking readers. So it doesn’t make much sense to send cryptic messages that most of the readers don’t understand. Even Johnny Boyo knows this. He’s mission is to correct what he perceives as misinformation. So let’s not turn this blog into the usual Hungarian (with capital H) pseudo-intellectual digital pig hole. I’m sure the readers of this blog would be very interested to read an English language summary of the Akos Kertesz article if you have some time to write one.

Andres
Guest

Eva, I think you’re spot on. There is a significant difference between these reports and people’s private diaries (which are also of interest to historians, of course).

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sackhoes: “That’s Thomas “who the f*ck is” Melia and Nancy “Fidesz is anti-semtic” Brinker. I wonder how long Ambassador Szapary will last….”
I think Szapary got instruction to start a charm campaign. Surely, he wouldn’t have dared to invite them without consulting Martonyi or perhaps even Orbán.
By the way, Szapáry, the great economist with a Ph.D. from Georgetown University, was one of those twelve or thirteen “yes men” who allegedly told Matolcsy and Orbán that the current economic policy is just fine and dandy!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Andres: “people’s private diaries (which are also of interest to historians, of course).”
Oh, yes! Diaries, newspapers, old photos, letters, etc. I remember a fascinating article written by the late Péter Hanák who got hold of thousands and thousands of confiscated letters written by ordinary soldiers during World War I. The military censorship thought the contents of these letters objectionable. What a find! I think he found them in some military archives in Vienna.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kormos: “genetically inferior Hungarians.”
If you translate, translate accurately. What Ákos Kertész, a writer, wrote was that “Hungarians are genetically predestined to be vassals.” That would be a more accurate description of “genetikailag alattvaló,” an awkward and inaccurate phrase. They are not genetically but culturally predestined to feel just fine while being subjugated.
This Kertész affair can be described as “much ado about nothing.” The funniest thing is that the extreme right screams the loudest. The group of people who are themselves racists.
Kertész is bitter, no doubt about it but I will quote you one day Sándor Márai’s opinion about Hungarians that will not warm the cockles of your heart. He was also bitter in 1945. Happens.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Some1: “What is the translation for szemelyi kultusz?”
Cult of personality! Yes, of course, this is exactly what’s going on.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

For early signs of cult of personality in Hungary, here is an opinion piece by Iván Andrassew: http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=467793

Member
Eva: Cut of personality? Well, that would of been simple to translate. Somehow I though there is some expression I am missing. What I find very interesting (and this is not about Hungary) is that how all of these very educated people, and very developed countries can be duped? Is it because so little attention is given to seemingly “peaceful” countries like Hungary? I am not questioning that Gyircsany is likeble or not or if he is any better then Orban or not, what I am questioning i that here is Orban, who’s legacy up to the point of Ms. Foley’s arrival as Ambassador of Hungary was already very questionable (even by American point of view). Orban never shied away from using every tool to raise his popularity, even if that meant to “reform” himself to any trends going (religious, politcal, etc.) Did all the countries missed Orban’s first round as Prime Minister? Did anyone miss his doing as opposition, that he did not show up in parliement, that he never separated himslef from the extreme right, he has always supported the revision of Trianon, his great ambition on organizing his own social groups, his constant meetings all over the… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

“who was described by fellow economists as a man of limited abilities.”
Pure lie, not even Varga’s adversaries ever said anything of the like. Varga is very highly regarded in all economic circles.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Cult of personality”
I bet Gyurcsány’s 20-storey tall portrait during the 2006 elections doesn’t qualify as cult of personality by your standards.

Member

Johnny Boy: “I bet Gyurcsány’s 20-storey tall portrait during the 2006 elections doesn’t qualify as cult of personality by your standards.” We are talking about O-r-b-a-n., not about Stalin, Rakosi, Ceasar but Orban. Understand? In any case an election poster does not qualify. You should read on (next to many oter things you are lagging behind) about “cult personality” and move on from there.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“They are not genetically but culturally predestined to feel just fine while being subjugated.”
Fine. So when Kertész, a proudly self-confessed Jew, writes the word “genetically,” it means “culturally”.
If I write that Jews are genetically vassals, how does that sound?
By the way, speaking of exact translation, the primary meaning of the word “alattvaló” is indeed vassal, but the word actually means something that is under one another. ‘Vassal’ is only a derived meaning from this, and, frankly, to a Hungarian reader when he reads this sentence, it is not ‘vassal’ that immediately jumps in but, as kormos correctly observed, ‘inferior’.
Kertész is just one disgusting, miserable rat, and should be deprived of all prizes and recognitions as a Hungarian. He hates Hungarians, even in his wording he distances himself from Hungarians, then why need anything from this vassal and ‘muck-gobbling’ nation that is alone responsible for the Holocaust?

kormos
Guest

@Ms. Balogh
Yes,you are absolutely right.Your translation is correct. I misunderstood the meaning of “alattvaló”
I will take a look at this “personal cult” in a few days. I am curious.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Sorry, but I am lost… Who is Akos Kertesz and what did he write? Is there a link I can use to read his article in English or Hungarian?

Member

The Kertesz letter:
http://nepszava.com/2011/08/velemeny/kertesz-akos-nyilt-levele-az-amerikai-nepszavahoz.html
Here is the best part in Hungarian:
“A magyar genetikusan alattvaló. József Attila talált mentséget: „ezer éve magával kötve, mint a kéve sunyít, vagy parancsot követ.” De ez nem mentség arra, hogy a magyar a legsúlyosabb történelmi bűnökért sem érez egy szikrányi lelkiismeret furdalást, hogy mindent másra hárít, hogy mindig másra mutogat, hogy boldogan dagonyázik a diktatúra pocsolyájában, röfög és zabálja a moslékot, és nem akar tudni róla, hogy le fogják szúrni. Hogy se tanulni, se dolgozni nem tud és nem akar, csak irigyelni, és ha módja van legyilkolni azt, aki munkával, tanulással, innovációval viszi valamire.”

Member

@JB “If I write that Jews are genetically vassals, how does that sound?”
The usual …

Johnny Boy
Guest

Mutt Damon: you lie. I never wrote anything even remotely similar to that, yet you don’t have the guts to measure with the same standards.
I call you to condemn Kertész’s fascist and racist comment!

Member

Johnny Boy; Who the f00k are you to call Mutt Damon to condemn. I call you to condemn your comments against homosexuals. You are a piece of work.

Member

Oh the “who the f00k are you” in my previous post should be put in quatations. I quetd from Tamas Deutch and from Johnny Boy.

Kirsten
Guest
some1: “How could anyone miss that? So, shame on them. Shame on all who got duped, because it was coming.” I do not know whether one can call this “duped”. In international affairs, “sovereignity” is still an important principle. Unless there are binding treaties (which still can be difficult to enforce), it does not matter much how the domestic affairs look like. Countries will often try to maintain some relations. And other considerations can play a role too (did not someone write here that Hungary has been very helpful in the recent war in Libya?). You will find only few cases of complete international isolation of countries. War is waged also only in a few cases. I think these international affairs follow some logic and can even take values seriously such as democracy and human rights but the way how disapproval is shown are not necessarily open criticism. The EU, within which Hungary has committed itself to certain values, is the more relevant place to voice criticism. And what is certainly the case is that there are people out there in other countries who share the ideas of Viktor Orban, including in the US. As there are people who are… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

@The Kertesz letter, the “best part”.
At least he shows that he is fully infected by the “Hungarian culture”, Johnny could actually be very proud of him. But seriously, this paragraph at least is not helpful at all as it contains much of what is problematic in Fidesz’ ideas. The indulgence in “how bad we are” (above all: genetically), which can be only remedied by claiming “how good we are” (the Fidesz answer) should be replaced by some more sober analysis. The idea of the whole nation sharing such melodramatic traits should be discarded. Also the idea that there is anything like an unchangeable nature of Hungarians, which appears to me to be a consciously chosen straightjacket – if we change, are we then still the solitary “kelet nepe” which cannot count on any neighbour? This text is far overdone, and unfortunately it uses the same logic it professes to condemn.

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