Wikileaks: What if all diplomacy were entirely open?

Do diplomatic negotiations have to be secret? The release of thousands of covert communiques on the Wikileaks website has been an embarrassment to the US, but could diplomacy go the same way as UK parliamentary expenses – and be open to everyone, asks Adrian Henriques.

It seems almost counter-cultural to suggest diplomats’ thoughts should be shared. Diplomacy derives from the word “diploma” meaning “official document conferring a privilege”. And there’s no privilege if something is available to all.

Diplomacy is a means of reflecting national interests. It is the exercise of power. This has been true at least since the Amarna letters from the Middle East written nearly 3,500 years ago, which show remarkably similar appeals for help against enemies to those of the Wikileaks messages.

Open communication – or transparency – is a defence against power; a way for the vulnerable to protect themselves.


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