Sometimes it is nice when contemporary issues make classrooms discussions suddenly and intensely relevant. (True, it helps that this semester I'm teaching classes on globalization, US empire, and Korea, which are ever-giving wells of contemporary focus).

This week there is an embarrassment of riches from the sudden and quite bizarre emphasis on exceptionalism on the right (and critiqued from the middle) and of course most of all with the State dept. cable leaks, as well as the net neutrality issue, North Korea, and on and on. Too bad the semester is ending (well, in this sense anyway).

My upper level students have been excited about the diplomatic cables on Wikileaks, and any time students get excited about primary documents this is a good thing. The fact that my globalization and empire class just finished a couple of weeks on cyberlaw and international relations (including discussion of Goldsmith and Wu) has made this whole affair even more timely (as has Eurore's antitrust assault on Google.)

Despite the public sector froth and posturing on all sides, the cables don't seem to me like much more than a glancing first pass at contemporary diplomacy and policymaking, but the accessibility and relative illegality of the material is enough to garner some notice for diplomatic history at least. But unfortunately the fact is that hundreds of thousands of documents are being reduced to bullet-point lists of the most salacious tidbits. Historians tend to deal more than in tidbits (though those discoveries of snarky critique in diplomatic correspondence do help enliven some archival time).


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