Richard Haass on Transparent Diplomacy

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (BankingBum/Wikimedia Commons)

The hundreds of thousands of secret memos released by WikiLeaks this week shine a bright light on a world used to being away from the public eye. Some argue secrecy in diplomacy is important.On Monday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton responded to the release by saying that "it is imperative that we have candid reporting from those who are in the field, working with their counterparts, in order to inform our decision making back here in Washington." But what would it be like if the art of diplomacy was always this open?

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, looks at the transparency foisted onto U.S. diplomats, and how relations would change if this became standard. 

Haass takes the opportunity in one case to take issue with a characterization of the words of American Diplomat April Glaspie in the run-up to the Gulf War in 1990. Ambassador Glespie's words to Iraqi leader Sadam Hussein may have held some nuance concerning U.S. interests in the region; Haass believes she made U.S. intentions to defend Kuwait clear, though some suggest her statements were more convoluted.   


Richard Haass

Produced by:

Jen Poyant

Comments [3]

Dimitris Vayenas from Athens, Greece

After Wikileaks diplomacy cannot be the same again. Let us not confuse transparency and privacy. As we cannot confuse privacy and secrecy. The New Era cannot afford waste due to abuse of, the usually preffered treatment, institutional "secrets" over public reality.
In my country, 60 years ago - and for more than 15 years - the Marshall Plan Aid was not fully utilised, most likely because the sources of similar "secret" signals of the past, where abusing their prefferential status, misreporting the reality, influenced by certain local actors.
Now that the financial crisis is global, and the need for financial aid\collaboration ecumenical, it will have disastreous effect if years of necessary progress are to be lost, because some under a "secrecy" framework, try to hide behind their finger.

Dec. 02 2010 12:32 PM
Jefferson from Guilford CT

It's not just diplomacy! Privacy in ANY form of negotiation is a critical prerequisite for achieving a settlement.

School board deciding on budget cuts? College staff deciding on which candidates to admit? Parents setting allowances for 8 year olds? Management and labor negotiating the next contract? Congress deciding on tax increases and spending cuts?

If it is all out in the open during the exploration process... or if those engaged know or fear that individuals' positions are likely to be leaked to into public view post-settlement... we'll all be worse off.

Problem with Julian Assange is that he's leaking secret stuff apparently on the presumption that if it's secret, ipso facto the stuff is bad. His lack of ability to discriminate seems a monumental error in judgment. Thank heavens he was not along on the Walk in the Woods!

Dec. 01 2010 06:13 PM
Dimitris Vayenas from Athens, Greece

"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." Ayn Rand

"Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein

These issues have been dealt in the past but it appears that the common man on the street (or a diplomatic office) is more of a savage to carefully consider them, thus assuming that he speaks for himself (and to himself). Apparently he is not, and thus soon these signals/memos may need to have a footnote that "the opinions expressed are those of their authors... ". Thus diplomacy as we know it will be forever changed.

Dec. 01 2010 02:50 PM

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