Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Openness will not be served by WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks may have scored a publicity coup with its publishing of sensitive cables ... but in the process, they undermined the world's ability to speak freely at a time when greater cooperation is essential to the world's security.

Diplomatic dealings have always been meant for a limited audience. When mainstream media outlets rush to publish intimate details of a government's work, the fallout is certain to be fierce.

WikiLeaks may have scored a publicity coup with its publishing of sensitive cables from US embassies to Washington yesterday, but in the process, they undermined the world's ability to speak freely at a time when greater cooperation is essential to the world's security.

Angry responses are inevitable. Pakistan, for one, has bristled at American diplomats' characterisation of its nuclear programme as poorly protected.Other nations are certain to express similar frustrations as the less-than-diplomatic observations of US officials are spread before audiences from Moscow to Madrid.

WikiLeaks may fancy itself a champion of free-flowing information, but the paradox of the quest for transparency could well be that there is far less of it.

Once the global arbiter of democratic values, America's influence in the region has been diminished of late, from the Iraq war fallout to the lingering effects of the financial crisis. Now it turns out the United States can't even keep secrets secret.

World powers cannot conduct diplomacy if what they say one day is made public the next. That, by its very definition, would be the end of diplomacy. Governments are supposed to conduct negotiations with each other by sharing frank views. When discrete conversations are aired in the same manner as dirty laundry, the ability to be candid is jeopardised.

The documents do, however, raise questions about the behaviour of US officials at the United Nations. They also underscore the extent of concerns in the region with Iran and the willingness of some nations to use force. The documents present with clarity the views of many governments that are often opaque.

The trouble is, openness can also backfire. There's reason to wonder whether the largest diplomatic fiasco in a generation will inspire change for the better, or whether this dump of information will conspire to prevent it. In the long term, however, the leaks will prove an embarrassment but are unlikely to cause lasting damage to any party.

In arguing against the documents' release, the Obama administration urged news outlets to understand that publicising confidential conversations will make foreign governments less willing to cooperate on a broad range of issues. Sadly, this plea was ignored. We hope America and its global partners, in the region and beyond, will eventually look past a few disparaging cables and keep talking. Candid conversation is always needed, now more so than ever.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 An tenant in the Al Barsha area of Dubai has been sent a non-renewable contract by the landlord. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Dubai landlord refuses to pay back Rera fees after losing rent case

Keren Bobker helps a tenant who wants to know how to reclaim his RERA case fees and who has also been sent a contract with a “one-year nonrenewable” note.

 A customer looks at a large mock-up of videogame console Game Boy.  Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP Photo

Nintendo’s Game Boy at 25: hand-held legacy lives on

Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary Monday with the portable device’s legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans.

 Lewis Hamilton got off to an ideal start in the Mercedes at the Chinese Grand Prix. Cliva Mason / Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton completes dominant victory at Chinese Grand Prix

It is a Mercedes 1-2 as Nico Rosberg finishes in second place with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso getting a podium place.

 A projectionist takes a break in the projection room at Ariana Cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan. Going to the movies, once banned under the Taliban, has become a popular form of entertainment in Kabul, but women and children rarely take part. All photos by Photo by Jonathan Saruk / Reportage by Getty Images

Afghan cinema: Forbidden Reel

The lights go down and the projector whirls into action as Sher Mohammed, 35, begins his routine, bouncing back and forth between two projectors, winding reels, and adjusting the carbon arc lamps inside the projectors.

 The mother removes the noose with the help of her husband from around the neck of Balal.

In pictures: Mother forgives her son’s killer as he awaited his execution

An Iranian mother spared the life of her son’s convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National