Supposedly Sticking It to the United States

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Byline: Christopher Dickey and Andrew Bast

The very essence of diplomacy between nations in the old days, maybe even yesterday, lay in knowing the difference between official communications, unofficial ones, and those that, being leaked, might be denied. Not very long ago, U.S. ambassadors in Central America or the Middle East had a ready solution if they thought Washington was ignoring their cables: just share them with correspondents, knowing that news reports would have a better chance of reaching the secretary of state's desk.

So one of the great ironies of the latest WikiLeaks dump--expected to total more than 250,000 State Department documents, mostly from the past decade--is that these industrial quantities of pilfered cables actually show U.S. diplomats doing their jobs the way diplomats should, and doing it very well indeed. When the cables detail corruption at the top of the Afghan government, the Saudi king's desire to be rid of the Iranian threat, the personality quirks of European leaders, or the state of the Russian mafiacracy, the reporting is very much in line with what the press has already told the public. …