The real truth of the whole Wikileaks saga is that it shows US diplomats en masse doing first-class professional diplomatic work. (Update: Rupert Cornwall agrees).

Getting out of the Embassy and meeting people, analysing all sorts of information, reporting it all back to HQ in good businesslike prose, often with sharp insights and lively ideas.

Here is a readable in-depth look at one bloc of leaked reporting, namely a lot of material from US diplomats based in Moscow analysing the Russian political scene and finding a lot to be depressed about:

In language candid and bald, the cables reveal an assessment of Mr. Putin’s Russia as highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt. The Kremlin, by this description, lies at the center of a constellation of official and quasi-official rackets.

…The Kremlin displays scant ability or inclination to reform what one cable characterized as a “modern brand of authoritarianism” accepted with resignation by the ruled.

Although this is odd:

… the cables reveal the limits of American influence within Russia and an evident dearth of diplomatic sources. The internal correspondence repeatedly reflected the analyses of an embassy whose staff was narrowly contained and had almost no access to Mr. Putin’s inner circle.

This might be true. But maybe the writer is mistakenly assuming that what has been leaked, vivid as it appears, is all there is?

A key point to remember in all this Wikileaks business is that what you are seeing blabbed out on the Web is only part of what has been sent – it is stupid to draw  definitive policy conclusions from any one piece of work or even larger blocs of work.

In particular, if one or two cables contain some disobliging remarks on foreign people and their policies, so what?

One of the key strengths of the US/UK reporting style (unlike eg those of many EU partners) is that diplomats at the coal-face are able to give their personal comments.

But a comment is just that – the thought of the drafter, not a policy conclusion or even recommendation. Policies come from HQ taking myriad comments and working out what is best.