It's starting to become clear why the White House is decrying WikiLeaks' release of U.S. diplomatic cables while the State Department, whose diplomats wrote the cables in question, is decidedly more upbeat. Though the cables include some deeply embarrassing information--for example, that embassies were told to gather "biometric data" on UN officials--they also appear to portray U.S. diplomats and ambassadors in a flattering light. That's what some pundits are saying-- others see the portrayal as less positive.
- Reveals 'Admirable' Importance of U.S. Diplomats The New York Times' David Brooks writes, "The fact that we live our lives amid order and not chaos is the great achievement of civilization. This order should not be taken for granted. This order is tenuously maintained by brave soldiers but also by talkative leaders and diplomats. Every second of every day, leaders and diplomats are engaged in a never-ending conversation. The leaked cables reveal this conversation. They show diplomats seeking information, cajoling each other and engaging in faux-friendships and petty hypocrisies as they seek to avoid global disasters. Despite the imaginings of people like Assange, the conversation revealed in the cables is not devious and nefarious. The private conversation is similar to the public conversation, except maybe more admirable."
- 'Downright Skillful' Diplomacy The New York Times editorial board writes, "The business of diplomacy is often messy and when private communications become public, it can also be highly embarrassing. But what struck us, and reassured us, about the latest trove of classified documents released by WikiLeaks was the absence of any real skullduggery. After years of revelations about the Bush administration’s abuses — including the use of torture and kidnappings — much of the Obama administration’s diplomatic wheeling and dealing is appropriate and, at times, downright skillful."
- Diplomats Don't Have It So Easy The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson writes, "What we've seen thus far shows that post-Cold War rumors of American global hegemony are vastly overstated. If ever there were a time when being a superpower meant never having to say you're sorry, that time is long gone. ... The revelation is how difficult and involved it is to do what ought to be a superpower's right: push people around." He says of China's desire to become a U.S.-like superpower, "Somebody tell them to be careful what they wish for."
- Turns Out They're Fantastic Writers The Washington Post's Dana Milbank is impressed by the writing in the cables, some of which give detailed accounts "worthy of a Graham Greene novel. ... It may have been illegal to leak the cables, but it was a crime to keep [cables such as] 'A Caucasus Wedding' hidden from the world." He praises some of the prose writing and storytelling up and down. "This is diplomacy as it ought to be."
- But in MidEast, Deception All Too Common Time's Tony Karon writes, "The art of concealing true intent and attitude while purporting to speak frankly is as old as diplomacy itself, and hardly confined to encounters between Iranians and Qataris. It would be naive to imagine that the same principle didn't apply in conversations between the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East. ... Choosing your words carefully to produce the desired response in an interlocutor is, after all, the lingua franca of diplomacy."