How Western diplomacy got devalued
Posted on January 12th, 2011

By Philip Fernando, Former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

 Diplomatic practices of the West got devalued almost irreparably as a quarter-million diplomatic cables dug up by WikiLeaks exposed their villainous nature. Conscientious diplomacy gave way to unadulterated voyeurism, said one analyst. The leaks depicted many diplomats as Machiavellian creatures seeking spurious information that undermined the moral fibre of the hallowed art they vowed to uphold. In several diplomatic dispatches from Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy were caricatured as ‘mercurial’, ‘hyperactive’, ‘authoritarian’, ‘erratic’ and ‘monarch-like.’ Someone was practicing a dubious backroom parlour game.

 Worse, the half-wits were at their best embellishing or twisting things taking cudgels against many Asian nations. Diplomacy preached and practiced by them never broke new ground in disclosing with clarity or persuasive flair the complex issues they handled. Notoriety had devalued the sanctity of the profession and healthy candour fled through the back door.

 Most diplomats did not observe, discover and report accurately but relied on hear say. Trying to enforce their moth-eaten self-serving strategies had become sacrosanct.

Masters of humbuggery

The rapprochement among countries in Asia, for example, did not appeal to the West but evoked grumblings and eventual de-stabilizing attempts. Diplomats had become the masters of humbuggery. Trying to de-stabilise the Third World became second nature to them.

 Sri Lanka’s flourishing trade relations with China, Iran and others seemed an affront to the established orthodoxy of the West. It looked as if prior approvals were needed for trade to commence.

Even the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s plea to re-chart US strategy away from the counter-productive human rights bogey fell on deaf ears.

 So it is now-as I write-the general prospect of a Sino-Japanese rapprochement after decades of hostility is again brushed aside by the top-notch mindset of Western diplomacy.

They are unable to fathom that the Chinese and Japanese are brokering their own policy renewals without a central role by the US.

 Strangely, that comes amidst a rocky period in the US-Japan relationship, with fears of a realignment of Japanese interests away from Washington and towards Beijing-logically acceptable to most Asians.

 Among the long list of revelations the WikiLeaks documents showed for example, collaboration among US, German and Spanish Governments to quash investigations into torture. The contempt for international law sticks out like a sour thumb.

Countries leaving the Western fol

The WikiLeaks exposed the daily intrigues of State departments and their allies. Reciprocity among most Western nations to thwart what they perceived as ‘countries leaving their fold’ looked damningly shallow and simplistic.

 WikiLeaks showed that there were secret discussions in the West over the possibility of war with China and Russia. That took the cake because the talk of war never appeared in any form. Diplomacy was meant to-check-discover and report accurately in order to persuade.

 Total fabrications

 Sri Lanka was thought to be obtaining arms from North Korea or Iran. Both rejected as total fabrications by Sri Lanka. It is a fact that Government Forces never faced shortages in ammunition and equipment needed to sustain the terror war offensive.

Authoritative data from Lanka Logistics and Technologies Limited, which functions under Defence Ministry control, proved that Sri Lanka procured the required equipment from regular suppliers.

Yet, Sri Lanka’s strong bilateral relations with North Korea and Iran alarmed the West.

 The unprecedented 120-day interest free credit facility from Iran to help Sri Lanka obtain its crude oil supplies annoyed them, more so, because the oil deal eased pressure on the Treasury in 2008 at the height of the terror war.

 Such WikiLeaks showing speculative assumptions were diplomatic gaffes. Even high school children would not take them seriously. Another Western dispatch after the terror war in Sri Lanka said that civilian deaths were being talked of and they were on the look out.

Double standards beyond the pale

Vague and unsubstantiated accusations were heresies unworthy of the profession deemed to be based on factual assessments.

Besides the double standards in letting the terrorist Tigers go unscathed while taking a sovereign state to task was indefensible. That was beyond the pale.

 Where on earth were the thoughtful, well-informed and dedicated servants wearing diplomatic lapels during the killing sprees of the Tigers? Tigers could purchase arms from any sources with impunity-but not Sri Lanka. Their turning a blind eye to Tiger atrocities seemed a disgraceful diplomatic acquiescence to terror tactics.

 They preached Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to Heads of States but behaved in a callous and deplorable manner dealing with ruthless terrorists.

 As WikiLeaks undermined diplomacy in a jiffy, the contacts the diplomats relied on started to self-edit. They will go quiet-some would just fade away, particularly in the more conspiratorial parts of the world which also tend to be the most unstable, like the Middle East.

 Layers of secrecy will be added. We have not heard much in the torrent of post-Wiki-chatter about those admirable career diplomats whose diplomacy is now condemned to be more secretive. The conscientious diplomacy died. What awaits the world is hard to fathom.

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