Is Open Diplomacy Possible?

PRINCETON – At Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson, who was president of the university before he became president of the United States, is never far away. His larger-than-life image looks out across the dining hall at Wilson College, where I am a fellow, and Prospect House, the dining facility for academic staff, was his family home when he led the university.

So when the furor erupted over WikiLeaks’ recent release of a quarter-million diplomatic cables, I was reminded of Wilson’s 1918 speech in which he put forward “Fourteen Points” for a just peace to end World War I. The first of those fourteen points reads: “Open covenants of peace must be arrived at, after which there will surely be no private international action or rulings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”

Is this an ideal that we should take seriously? Is Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a true follower of Woodrow Wilson?

Wilson was unable to get the Treaty of Versailles to reflect his fourteen points fully, although it did include several of them, including the establishment of an association of states that proved to be the forerunner of today’s United Nations. But Wilson then failed to get the US Senate to ratify the treaty, which included the covenant of the League of Nations.