WikiLeaks: The Making of Diplomacy

I've only had a chance to scan some news surveys of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables dump. And my first reaction was similar to watching a "making of" clip at the end of a movie: Everyone knows that diplomacy is a staged event that often requires the willing suspension of disbelief. That's why we balance the official version offered by government spokespeople with off-the-record comments and tick-tock accounts describing what goes on behind the scenes. And the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables are a motherlode of behind-the-scenes accounts.

To say that one version of the events is more important than the other, or that either is insignificant, misses the point. Nations are guided by both interests and individuals. The former are not always clear, and the latter are not always prescient. The WikiLeaks cables reveal the ways in which the relations between nations often boil down to the relations between the individuals that represent them. For purists, that's disconcerting, especially given some of the obvious shortcomings of those representatives.

The leaked cables also reveal that the making of diplomacy, like the making of a blockbuster film, depends on unvarnished truths that might seem to undermine the authority of the official positions they contradict or mock. But as fascinating as the "making of" clips are, they don't "unwrite" the shooting script, so much as they allow us to more fully appreciate what goes into the final production. It's still too early to know whether the WikiLeaks cables will have a significant impact on the script of U.S. bilateral relations with the nations involved, but that might be the biggest difference between them and the movie outtakes we're used to seeing.

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