Wikileaks: nothing new
Gamal Abdel-Gawad, Wednesday 1 Dec 2010
The classified documents which are being published on Wikileaks are doing more harm than good

The recently published Wikileaks documents have revealed that Saudi officials advised the US to aggressively work against the Iranian regime; but is there anyone who actually thinks that Saudi Arabia or any other Gulf state are pleased with Iran and its interference in the affairs of the countries in the region? The documents revealed that Gulf officials expressed to the Americans their concerns about Iran possibly becoming a nuclear power; but is this actually a secret? And is there anyone who doubts that a nuclear Iran would not be a serious security nuisance for its neighbours?

There is nothing in these documents which we couldn’t conclude by simple political analysis which is taught to freshman political science students. Accordingly, the damage caused by the publication of these papers is not because of the revelations we were not aware of, but because it threatens diplomacy -- the chief tool of conducting relations between countries. States have converging, diverging and overlapping interests, but opposing interests rarely result in conflicts and wars. This is because countries resort to diplomacy to express their interests and intentions, and attempt to reach compromise to avoid conflict or even enhance benefits.

There is an art to diplomacy, most notably because it is conducted calmly and away from the limelight. Until a compromise is reached and announced to the public, diplomats wrangle together, exchange strong language and complements. If made public, some of these exchanges could damage relations and worsen conflicts. If diplomats said the same things behind closed doors as they door in front of cameras, their conversation would mostly be void of content and peppered with hollow and unnecessary compliments. This would render diplomacy useless and the world would lose a vital tool in resolving conflicts between countries, and preventing disasters which price is paid by the innocent.

Yes, it is the right of the people to be informed about what goes on behind closed doors, which is why many countries have laws regulating the declassification of government documents after a period of time, and in a manner which protects interests. Some disagree with the restrictions this process entails, but it is up to them to work to modify disclosure procedures. But to publish the documents however they see fit is certain to cause harm and benefit no one.