Thursday, December 16, 2010

WikiLeaks and U.S. Diplomacy

Wikileaks and U.S. Diplomacy

Ali Asghar Kazemi
December, 2010

Generals and diplomats are said to be at the forefront of a state warriors in defense of its national interests. They act concurrently through wise tactics to “conquer” land in war and tactful diplomacy to “convince” minds in peace for the achievement of a “grand strategy” in pursuit of national goals. While the nature and substance of the two groups’ decisions and actions differ, traditionally they both submit to certain rules and discipline without which no task can be performed and no plan can be achieved successfully.

Now imagine what happens if we take away those two important elements from the equation for the sake of openness or moderation? This will indeed lead to chaos and anarchy in the field, hampering the fulfillment of the assigned task. This will damage the whole national strategy and interests. Thus, we cannot strip off the soldiers and diplomats from their distinctive outfits and leave them naked under the astonishing public eyes.

Recent diplomatic leaks of U.S. Embassies’ cables throughout the world are indeed a formidable event in diplomatic history which eventually will usher a new era of international relations and diplomacy.
Diplomacy is the major instrument of foreign policy by which a state can achieve objectives, realize values and defend national interests. Governments have the function to communicate through their diplomatic agents with those whose actions and behavior they wish to influence, deter, alter or reinforce. This process requires a clear definition of a state’s objectives, rationalizations for them, threats, promises, and the setting up plans and strategies to tackle with problems and contentious issues.

Thus, in its widest meaning the task of diplomacy is fourfold: a)It must determine state’s objectives in the light actual and potential power available for the pursuit of these objectives; 2) It must assess the objectives of other nations and the power actually and potentially available to them for the pursuit of their objectives; 3)It must determine to what extent these different objectives are compatible with each other; and finally 4) It must employ the means suited to the pursuit of its objectives.

With the development of mass communications, diplomacy in its classical terms, i.e. “secret diplomacy” has gradually lost its original meaning and has become a bureaucratic technique performed by carrier diplomats. They have no other choice than to rely on pieces of information they gather in their interactions with their counterparts or the public at large in the host states or during diplomatic conferences. Such pieces of information are rather crude and can only be analyzed along many others gradually accumulated by experts in the field.
The first blow to “secret diplomacy” came about after the Russian October Revolution of 1915 which changed the political configuration of the world. In fact, it was the Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky who first blew the horn. While serving as one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution, as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, he ordered that all secret documents of the Tsarist regime should be made public. Thus, the undisclosed treaties previously signed by the Triple Entente that detailed plans for post-war reallocation of colonies and redrawing state borders were published. Trotsky believed that ‘Abolition of secret diplomacy,’ “is the first essential of an honorable, popular, and really democratic foreign policy.”

Woodrow Wilson expounded somehow similar view in his “Fourteen points” after WWI where he called for “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
Neither the Soviet revolutionary open diplomacy nor the Wilsonian ideal of peace through cooperation and accommodation lasted long enough to produce positive results. Thus, the creation of the League of Nations as a forum of open diplomacy failed to achieve its sublime objectives and World War II occurred with all its atrocities. The conclusion of WWII and the creation of the United Nations were anew the product of a secret diplomacy in Paris and Yalta for the distribution of power and territories among the victors.
Many still believe that secret diplomacy in the past has caused more harm to the world peace and order than any other reason. Opponents of this view claim that it was open diplomacy that in several occasions brought the world to brink of war and disaster. In fact, there are enough arguments for and against the above contention and it is difficult to pass a wise judgment on the matter. The real problem is what degree of secrecy or openness should be tolerated in diplomatic dealings and negotiations.
Proponents of “conspiracy theory” see the hands of U.S. State Department (or at least a fraction of it) behind the leaks and warn against sordid implications of the scheme. To them this whole venture has been initiated behind “the velvet curtain” of “American imperialism” with a view to discredit many world leaders and officials around the globe.

With respect to the actual ramifications of the leaks on Iran’s relations with its neighbors in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East, despite the seriousness of their hostile position on the nuclear issue and their willingness of a U.S. military intervention, the Islamic leaders have shown a low-key approach to the allegations. But, there is no doubt that the matter will remain in the memory of the revolutionary regime and will be added into the records of malevolent states of the region.

With regard to the rest of the world, including the 5+1 states involved in the nuclear negotiations, at first Iranian officials showed interests on the leaks as proof of their accusations against the “Western imperialism.” But, subsequently they condemned the scheme as mere fabrication and worthless documents having no legal value.

Whoever behind the venture and whatever the true aim of recent leaks of U.S. diplomatic correspondence, they seems to cause incontestable damage to states’ mutual confidence in discussing issues and critical matters susceptible to influence their national interests. Those persons responsible for these divulgations have not shown that they are really pursuing a benevolent cause for their deeds. They could eventually be labeled opportunists or anarchists who have no respect for long-established institutions of diplomacy and international affairs. /
Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:
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