WikiLeaks, Ramifications for History?

The most recent WikiLeaks disclosures, consisting of tens of thousands of reports and analyses made by US embassies and diplomatic missions around the world, may or may not lead to greater public scrutiny – and hence democratic accountability, as Mr Assange hopes – of the conduct of foreign policy.

The most vociferous criticism of the disclosures has come from those most embarrassed by them, although others charge that they have put the lives and security of confidants at risk. But historians and international-relations scholars have been contemplating the wider consequences of WikiLeaks, looking beyond the content of particular cables to consider the ramifications for their own craft and the future study of the early 21st century.

Some fear that the disclosures, rather than catalysing increased transparency, may constrain the future ability of scholars to understand how decisions were made.

Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University, Massachusetts, believes that the leaks will result in less being written down, with communications conducted more informally where possible.

“Governments do not respond to security breaches by surrendering themselves to the fates,” he said.

He predicted that the circulation of information through government will be tightened and narrowed, making it more difficult for academics to assess the inputs and contours of decision-making.

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