Thursday, June 09, 2011


Java Jones had written something on the last round of Wikileaks revelations. He felt that the leaks were helpful, I disagreed and wrote a reply that kept growing longer so I decided to post it on my own blog instead.

I had not read his blog for some time, so this reply is almost six months late but I think the point is still valid.

What the last round of Wikileaks revelations has done is damage diplomacy, which is a danger to all concerned.

Previous leaks, such as the footage of helicopters shooting civilians was in the public interest. Action needed to be taken and making the news public was necessary.

Releasing diplomatic cables revealing the opinions of diplomats on meetings, personalities and other routine matters was grossly irresponsible and highly damaging.

The fact that diplomats felt they could not trust certain Saudi ministers or their thoughts on Chinese and North Korean officials do not further anyone's interests. It is not necessary to talk to ones friends but one must always talk to ones enemies. The alternative to not talking is misunderstanding, conflict and worse.

It is not possible for leaders of countries to talk to each other face-to-face on a regular basis, so their representatives - diplomats must do do so on their behalf. They then need to make as frank an assessment of the people they meet and the situations they encounter and report these to their superiors.

They need to be polite to people they meet but they also need to be frank in their assessments. This is not double dealing or hypocrisy, this is simply good manners and necessary. We do this all the time; when we deal with unpleasant neighbours, co-workers and the like, diplomats are no different. Nothing that has been leaked is completely unknown or unexpected but it does embarrass all concerned.

Wikileaks needs to edit and release information on the basis of public interest, their last revelations have been anything but.


Patta Pal said...

You make a very good point here. Diplomatic communications by their very nature must remain confidential in my opinion for at least 30 years. They can be revealed later.

I notice that sometimes when statesmen write biographies they do include some very confidential information that is potentially embarrassing and is done to sell their books, so in a way it is of a small 'wiki'

Anyway if I am a diplomat and I am sending info to my head office, I will be more careful in what I write in future if I know it can get into the wrong hands and then my country may not get my assessment of the country situation I am reporting on accurately and may make the wrong diplomatic move against my country's interest.

Jack Point said...

Thanks for the comment Patta Pal.

Not only will diplomats be more careful of what they write, officials will be more careful of what they say, especially off-the cuff.

In certain repressive regimes, prominent people who spoke confidentially to diplomats may not do so again for fear of being found out.