Earlier this month, the world was treated to a glimpse of what happens behind the strict politeness of international diplomacy, when the reporting cables of Britain’s ambassador to the US were leaked to the press.

Regardless of the personalities involved and of the unidentified flying adjectives that went around, this episode raises important questions about international diplomacy and whether the practice of appointing ambassadors is still necessary.

Before the communication revolution, it was vital for a country to maintain diplomatic missions in countries whose actions may impact its vital interests. Diplomats were responsible for keeping their government aware of any policy statements or political developments that may affect bilateral relations, and for maintaining good relations with the host government to smooth over any difficulties that arise.

To enable diplomats to perform their duties, international conventions were developed that defined the activities which diplomats may perform, guaranteed their freedom to

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