Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cablegate

The diplomatic cables slipping out through Wikileaks are intriguing.

On the one hand, it might make life a little difficult in the rarified atmosphere of the diplomats circulating on the party scene in Washington or Paris this Christmas season. Or will it? I suspect that most professional diplomats will shrug and think that there, but for the grace of God, go any of them. It is the job of a diplomat to speak truth to their government, even if they are more measured or reticent in public and I'm not sure that any of them would wish their unvarnished opinions revealed to their hosts. Even then, I doubt that the opinions will truly shock - foreign services typically have a pretty good understanding of how they are seen by their friends or foes. In terms of shock value - there might be some intriguing titbits, but this is the foreign service, not the CIA's message service, where the really good stuff will reside. In short, I suspect that any anger on the part of host countries who feel affronted will be largely synthesised for domestic or regional political effect.

On the other hand, although my academic sensibilities are rusty and dulled, I can't help but be intrigued at the prospect of reading the minutiae of diplomacy for the little gems that they will reveal about ambassadorial thought and function. It could prove to be a valuable archive to historians of the past forty years - arriving in an unexpected and unexpurgated way. Fascinating doesn't even begin to describe it. As something that will have informed the evolution of US foreign policy, this collection is of immense historical importance.

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