Sample Ethics Paper on Contemporary Ethical Issues in Intelligence and Diplomacy

The post-9/11 era and its focus on combatting terrorism has profoundly impacted diplomacy and intelligence. It has brought up challenging ethical issues that have come to the forefront. Most of these ethical issues are centered on the business of policing globalization in the contemporary period. The developments and changes offer novel opportunities for exploring ethics and the role of diplomacy and intelligence in a modern democracy.

Ethics, Intelligence, and Diplomacy

Diplomacy, intelligence, and ethics have always had a controversial association, mainly due to the ethical responsibilities and constraints that diplomats and intelligence officers have in juggling their duties. The very nature of diplomacy restricts, on the one hand, the diplomat’s duties to exercise morality. It is important to note that diplomats are third parties since they do not represent themselves (Kerr & Wiseman, 2017). Rather, they perform their actions on behalf of a collective author, either a state or regional body. It means that the diplomatic agency is the consequence of a conditional shift of priorities from the state or regional authority to the diplomat.  It is the delegation of duties that enables diplomats to execute their traditional role of information-gathering, representation, and negotiation. On the other hand, the diplomat’s aptitude to execute duties is limited by diplomatic work. Diplomats work and live within the proximity of power; however, it is hard for them to use their power directly.  Overall, while the limited range of diplomatic agency protects diplomats against moral and ethical scrutiny, their exercise of power, even indirectly, subjects them to issues of moral accountability.



Ethics and Diplomacy

The rise of social media has compounded the ethics surrounding diplomacy. The rise of social media has transformed the information space that surrounds conflict (Kerr & Wiseman, 2017). Individuals impacted by conflict exceedingly have the resources to record and share what they have experienced with the world and to contribute to the media by using the cell phone camera and using the internet. The information passed through these networks can affect the nature and result of conflict, impacting public opinion, and gaining support domestically and internationally. Social media contributed to peaceful solutions, stability, meaningful dialogue, and a mutual identity in war-ridden and weak nations; it had adverse effects. Power-hungry people utilized these same platforms to arrange for political influence, recruit members, and plan political influence (Kerr & Wiseman, 2017). Besides, citizens used information technology to polarize people, reinforce biases, spread rumors, and instigate violence.  Despite the evolution of the media environment, policymakers and donors have vigorously debated and developed programs and policies in weak states affected by the conflict based on traditional media forms. This has been prevalent with examining media’s impact on early warning signs, reconstruction after disputes, nations’ stability, governance, and conflict. Projects and evaluations associated with peace journalism and war reporting and reinforcement to independent media forms are also mainly based on traditional media despite the threat that has been brought about by novel innovations. Social media platforms, especially Twitter, are key in increasing practices related to Digital Diplomacy. As a practice, Digital Diplomacy has gained a negative reputation, similar to public relations, due to the conventional top-down flow of asymmetrical information that is the primary basis of the practice.



Ethics Intelligence-Gathering and Espionage

            The controversies of the last few years around mass surveillance and espionage have led to unprecedented ethical concerns regarding the role of intelligence in the modern world. On the one hand, the perception is that the very nature of intelligence and espionage is unethical, but the tasks need to be performed to safeguard national security (Richards, 2012). On the other hand, the perspective is that the unethical nature of espionage and intelligence damages the security and legitimacy f democratic states hence is unacceptable. The situation has become more multifaceted due to the exceedingly open environment in which covert intelligence activities currently occur, along with public assertions by policymakers on the vital role of intelligence in safeguarding national and global security.

The Historical Research Method

            The historical research method is suitable for this study as it enables the researcher to examine the topic from the lens of past events. The ethical issues surrounding diplomacy and ethics have been studied since the Cold War era. It is crucial to tap into these insights to determine the relationship between the three concepts in the modern era.


The ethics of diplomacy and intelligence gathering is a multifaceted area due to the evolving nature of international relations. The ethics surrounding the sectors have become even more multifaceted with the advent of social media. The challenges offer a novel opportunity to explore ethics amid modern democracy.



Kerr, P., & Wiseman, G. (2017). Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Oxford University Press.

Richards, J. (2012). Intelligence dilemma? Contemporary counter-terrorism in a liberal democracy. Intelligence and national security27(5), 761-780.