Secret Diplomacy: Concepts, contexts and cases

Corneliu Bjola, University of Oxford
Stuart Murray, Bond University

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Bjola, C., & Murray, S. (Eds.).(2016). Secret Diplomacy: Concepts, contexts and cases. Oxon, UK, Routledge.

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Introduction: The complex relationship between secrecy and diplomacy thus figures prominently in the "dialogue between states". Like it or loathe it, the practice of intentionally concealing information from other governments, the media and/or the public is woven into the fabric of diplomacy, both past and present. Not surprisingly, there are many detractors of secret diplomacy. Shortly after the First World War, the call for outlawing secret diplomacy rang loud and clear. The expectation was that such a move "would not bring Utopia, but it would make diplomacy honest, straightforward, clean; it would make almost impossible the chicanery, fraud, intrigue that for centuries have deluged Europe in blood and brought misery" (Low 1918: 220). More recently, civil libertarians, old and new media organisations and individuals such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange complain that the practice is excessive and outdated, mainly because secret diplomacy conflicts with privacy, liberty or transparency. In the post-modern digital age where openness is the order of the day, the "end of secrecy is nigh". Hoarding, pilfering or sharing secrets with allies and enemies is downright sinister, amoral and anachronistic and only creates more not less security problems for states. Echoing Woodrow Wilson, the days where the media or the public are excluded or isolated from diplomacy and foreign policy are drawing to a close - open covenants of peace must be openly arrived at.


This document has been peer reviewed.