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This book brings together different theories on secret diplomacy and integrates them into a coherent analytical framework, thereby filling a gap in the literature.
The complex relationship between secrecy and diplomacy 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. Many of the landmark negotiations and agreements of the twentieth century, the Sykes-Picot agreement (1916), for example, were conducted entirely in private. More recently, covert intelligence gathering operations, recurring accusations of friend and foe spying on one another and the leaking of sensitive government documents have demonstrated that secrecy endures as a crucial yet underexplored aspect of the relations between disparate states, nations and people.
Unsurprisingly, there are many detractors of secret diplomacy. Civil libertarians, old and new media organisations and individuals such as Edward Snowden or Julian Assange complain that the practice is excessive and outdated, mainly because it conflicts with privacy, liberty or transparency. Traditional advocates of the age-old practice of secret diplomacy, however, would strongly disagree. The impact that new technologies have had on the voluminous industry of intelligence gathering or high-level, secret negotiations has been minimal. Moreover, secrecy continues to serve diplomatic utility, particularly when a diplomatic end cannot be achieved publicly between adversaries. As such, ‘back-channel’ negotiations between the Taliban and the United States, China and Japan (over the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands) and Iran and the P5+1, have demonstrated the ongoing value of secrecy to international relations. The fundamental conditions diplomacy seeks to overcome - alienation, estrangement and separation – are imbued with distrust and secrecy, precluded even. If anything, secret diplomacy is a vital if misunderstood and unfairly criticised aspect of diplomacy. It has been so since time immemorial. Diplomacy, in other words, begets secrecy.
This book will be of much interest to students of diplomacy, intelligence studies, foreign policy and IR in general.