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Opinion: WikiLeaks' latest release is a diplomatic Waterloo

The publication of confidential US diplomatic cables, including unfavorable remarks about leading German politicians, is a disaster for the United States, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.

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The incident is unprecedented: in confidential and top secret documents, US diplomats from all over the world disclose their opinions of America's allies. They write the unvarnished truth about politically highly explosive issues, relying on the confidential nature of their reports.

But now, the whole world is reading their comments! Readers can get an idea of the foundations of the superpower's foreign policies, thanks to an Internet journal that about 2 million people worldwide have access to - an incredible 800,000 people can read even the encrypted messages.

Suddenly, highly explosive remarks are common knowledge and confidential diplomatic cables are exposed to the light of day, leaving the foreign policy of a world power wide open to ridicule. A disaster for the United States.

Never before has the allies' confidence in the superpower America been shaken as it has now. Germany's foreign minister is faced with an American diplomat's assessment of himself as incompetent. The development aid minister is regarded as an "odd choice." Even the federal chancellor must put up with being characterized as "not very creative." Tiny diplomatic slaps in the face that gain weight by the international media's bit-by-bit presentation to the general public.

Some of the ridiculous recommendations by Israel and several Arab states on how the US should deal with Iran are even more explosive. The reader involuntarily holds his breath when reading how the US is urgently pressed to resort to military engagement.

A diplomatic Waterloo

Daniel Scheschkewitz

DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz

The knee-jerk reactions these political analyses might have led to at the height of the Cold War don't bear contemplation. The problem is not so much the fact that diplomats do what has always been their job: to give their government a blunt evaluation of the political situation and the politicians in their host country. That is not objectionable.

What is scandalous is that in this digital day and age, even a technological superpower like the US has not been able to keep these evaluations secret. This is international diplomacy's Waterloo.

The Internet and social networks like Twitter and Facebook have obviously changed the rules of global communication. In times when even NATO is preparing for cyber war, diplomatic services can't pretend that outdated rules of concealment still prevail. All the same, secrets today should still be able to remain secret.

International diplomacy cannot function without discretion. That is true for the trusting relationship among allies, who should not be snubbed in public. But it is absolutely a "conditio sine qua non" concerning security issues. Even if the parameters of international communication cannot be turned back, no one is absolved from the obligation of due diligence. Least of all the superpower that invented the Internet.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz/db
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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