There has recently been a resurgence of interest in the art of diplomacy, fuelled by the growing popularity of the idea of 'soft power'. This article reviews three books key to this revival, all of which argue that a transformed and revitalized diplomacy can and should play a positive role in international politics. One calls for diplomats to overcome their traditional reserve and become 'guerrillas' fighting for human security, peace and development; another for a broader and deeper engagement with 'public diplomacy' - the practice of speaking to foreign peoples rather than just foreign sovereigns. The last favours a return to inherited diplomatic wisdom now half-forgotten. While welcoming this renewed concern for diplomacy, this review article argues that its place in contemporary international politics is perhaps less secure than the works reviewed allow. The 'management of legitimacy' - the central task of diplomats - is a much more difficult task than is often acknowledged.