There has been much argument about what technologies and international factors played a role in Tunisia's revolution. We covered Facebook's role, which I would summarize as significant but not determinative. Now, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch has an editorial in which he definitely states "the cables did have an impact." The piece is worth reading in full, too, for what it says about the efficacy of secret diplomacy. The basic takeaway is that "it's time that the gulf between what American diplomats know and what they say got smaller." Here's Tom Malinowski's key opening statement:
I asked our experts at Human Rights Watch to canvass their sources in the country, and the consensus was that while Tunisians didn't need American diplomats to tell them how bad their government was, the cables did have an impact. The candid appraisal of Ben Ali by U.S. diplomats showed Tunisians that the rottenness of the regime was obvious not just to them but to the whole world -- and that it was a source of shame for Tunisia on an international stage. The cables also contradicted the prevailing view among Tunisians that Washington would back Ben Ali to the bloody end, giving them added impetus to take to the streets. They further delegitimized the Tunisian leader and boosted the morale of his opponents at a pivotal moment in the drama that unfolded over the last few weeks.
Read the full story at Foreign Policy.