In defense of diplomacy

In an interview Swedish foreign minister codemned Wikileaks becuase it damaged diplomacy. Well spoken Mr FM. But how about defending the TRUTH. Without the truth there is no democracy, only lies and diplomacy.

In a post a long time ago I described the war that goes on between different levels. The war right now, in the case of Wikileaks is between level three, the society level and level four, the intellectual level. Even if the society level can do short time gains as in the case of church against Bruno and Galilei, in the long run they will fail. Simply becuase level four gives more freedom.

Suppose that the TRUTH is that your mother-in-law is an uncivil old b*tch whose voice makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound soothing.

You might tell your best male friend this. You might even tell your wife. But I doubt you’d announce it to her assembled family at Thanksgiving dinner.

So also between countries. It does not serve anyone’s interest for every scrap of conversation between governments to be front page news.

FWIW, one of the revelations of the Wikileaks adventure has been that the US government’s public pronouncements are pretty much in line with its private conversations with other governments. That’s no doubt a side effect of our relatively open system: if there were a serious mismatch, it would have leaked long before now. (See also Pentagon Papers, The.) Not so with many of the world’s more authoritarian regimes…


For those alleged diplomats, questions which — if asked before and not after the fact — might have relegated these latest Wikileaks to a minor cocktail party conversation piece:

  1. Did you think about what you wrote?
  2. Did you review it before sending?
  3. Was there any reason to send it?
  4. Could it have waited for a courier?

How can any political figure in 2010 profess surprise or dismay upon discovering that electronic communications are intercepted and circulated?


These days, secure email is the courier, and is probably more secure than shipping paper around.

Conveying information about the site of their posting to their home government is a diplomat’s job, and has been for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

None of the diplomats involved are responsible for the fact that (a) their dispatches were put on a system accessible to effectively the entire security-cleared workforce of both the Defense and State Departments, including (b) a disgruntled individual who is now facing felony charges because of the leak. It’s important to note that the system was not cracked and the communications were not “intercepted:” they were leaked by an individual who had passed all the system’s normal vetting procedures and was given access as part of his job.


Isn’t diplomacy a process of

  1. Understanding what id “best for my people”
  2. Present a form of that understanding to a third party.
  3. Observe the nature of the third party and listen to their position.
  4. Provide “my people” an educated (by step 3) opinion or view of the other’s position.
  5. Go to #1.

So it is with the mother in law. So it is with psychopathic regimes that seem bent on destroying the world (some of which are actually democratic). Diplomacy is the art of lying directly to the face of another knowing that the other knows you are lying and everyone pretending that they believe you. The problem with Wikileaks method is
• It violates several international agreements on the privacy of diplomatic communications.
• It exposes those who have to seemingly “lie with the devil” to actually achieve what is in the best interests of their people (Saudi Arabia, Jordan).
• It promotes criminal activity for the personal gain of a few, not the public gain of society.

There is no real effort to promote freedom here. This is just a ploy for attention.

Don’t blame Wikileaks, blame the leaker.

I read somewhere long ago that diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.


I apologize for posting quickly and therefore ambiguously, while trying to do several other things at the same time. I multi-task not well, sometimes.

It was careless to say “intercepted” when what I ought to have said was, simply, unauthorized taking. That is what happened. Perhaps “stolen” would have been the appropriate term. And in this context, it is most likely to happen with electronic data (hence “intercepting,” which is my acquaintance with the business.)

My first three points remain valid, and many of the documents I’ve seen, even in their most redacted form, violate basic precepts of intelligence transmittal as well as common sense dictates of diplomacy for sure-to-be-shared communiques. Hand-written personal notes and personal conversation – unless recorded, of course, and one may never be sure about that – remain the most secure-able ways to convey information. One copy only, or no copies. Burn after reading.

No guaranteed permanently secure way exists to share data: what the King whispers in the Lord Chamberlain’s ear may find its way into memoirs of Lord C’s nephew fifty years on. As you suggest, one ought not to insult the mother-in-law if the insult is liable to be published. And if she is insulted in a diplomatic communique which is part of an electronic data base, it may get published – that is, made more public than was the original intent.

I don’t (fully) believe any of the narratives so far presented or adduced to explain Wikileads’ possession of documents.

A 23-year old Spec3 had legitimate unlimited and unmonitored access to everything? I cannot believe it. Some part of the story lies hidden.

Did he nevertheless access it all? Some, certainly; all, perhaps, but only if intelligence safeguards are worse than we’d ever have imagined.

Are others involved? I’m sure of it, although they may never be identified.

Will the young man take the rap? Good chance. SOP is to dump it as far down the chain of command as the media are likely to fall for, and so far, they’re falling for this one.


I don’t like Wikileaks, especially regarding the release of (at least some of) the war documents, but the furore over the diplomatic releases is ridiculous. “Lives at risk” the US State Department says. Really? How? It said the same thing about the war leaks (which, on the face of it, was a very credible claim), but I have yet to read any verified reports of casualties caused by that leak. Again, I do not defend WL on that matter, but I do now question the State Department’s claims. Sounds like it is crying wolf. Again. But this time it just seems silly.

What happened to measured, temperate and accurate communication? Why the need for what is, in essence, international name calling? Again I have not (yet) heard of any leaks that don’t already match public domain material - opinion on national leaders and opinion on the security threats between nations (e.g. comments by our former Prime Minister Rudd to, and about, China. Embarrassing? Yes. Surprising? No). I hope diplomats do more than just plagiarise the Murdoch press…

As for the example of the hypothetical mother-in-law: the TRUTH is that she is speaks directly in a tone and manner that frequently offends many people. An OPINON is that she is “an uncivil old b*tch whose voice makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound soothing”. Perhaps if more diplomats understood that distinction, and refrained from reporting opinion as fact, then just maybe there would be nothing for Wikileaks to release.

Or maybe I’m also overreacting and the U.S. Sate Department simply needs to look more closely at how it classifies internal communication and who has access to what.

But seriously, calls for Julian Assange to be assassinated (reportedly suggested by a Canadian politician)? Suspending his bank accounts (Swiss government) and calling him a terrorist (US administration)? Really? The content of the leaks I can actually understand, however intemperate they seem to me. But the response to their leaking is absurd scaremongering. It makes it very hard to take current government administrations seriously. And the mock outrage by many conservatives in the USA would be laughable if it wasn’t so scary to citizens of a tiny nation like mine.

Now, speaking of steal, I would like to know what happened of the money in that account (including my money).

I’m surprised that the action of Assange and friends is considered a danger for democracy. For example, is letting my compatriots know that our democratic government helped supplying sophisticate weapons to Iran a way of “endangering democracy”? Is this (as in the words of our foreign minister) “destroying the world”, while selling weapons to a criminal regime is mere business?

Some of the leaks may be like saying that someone’s mother-in-low is not very well educated. Others, are a way to understand that the word security can sometimes be used to hide industrial espionnage, or that personal interest in energy and weapons trafficking is sometimes called “a Country’s interest”.