It used to be said no man is a hero to his butler. The contemporary version of that: no world leader is a hero to diplomats. In the same way that a butler might revel in getting to see his employer warts and all, Wikileaks has shown the pleasure diplomats take in being allowed to write unvarnished accounts of prime ministers and presidents. There are sound reasons why a government should know about the faults and foibles of the people they have to deal with. Kim Jong-Il is among the world’s largest buyers of cognac but one can see why this is a matter of concern when it comes to a country as tightly ruled as North Korea.
How, one wonders, is the national interest of a superpower furthered by its officialdom knowing that Muammar Qaddafi’s personal nurse is a “voluptuous” Ukrainian blonde or that Silvio Berlusconi parties all night? Not much, but it brings a smirk in the stiff corridor of diplomacy and that was the cables’ intent. Some have expressed surprise that US diplomats seemed to have saved their sharpest barbs for the heads of countries which are US allies or that the targets of spying at the United Nations were often non-hostiles. The truth is that all is fair in love, war and diplomacy.
Wikileaks should be commended less for revealing the deep dark secrets of diplomacy — there was in truth very little of that — and more for showing that affairs of State are, in the end, a very human business done by very human professionals.