In connection with the latest WikiLeaks flap, commenter Brett
Bellmore asks rhetorically, “Do you think America would be better off if the Pentagon Papers hadn’t been leaked?”
Yes! Hell, yes! Much better off.
The Pentagon Papers leak didn’t end the Vietnam War. It did ensure that no subsequent Secretary of Defense would commission a frank, independent analysis of the decision-making processes that led to war.
The notion that governments should have no secrets sounds attractive until you run the game back one step: if there can’t be any secrets, then you can’t write down anything you don’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. That’s a sure formula for making executive-branch deliberations as content-free as Congressional debates.
The choice is not between a world with secrets and a world in which all the citizens know whatever the government knows. The choice is between a world in which officials can share information and carry out reasoned debates with one another and a world in which nothing can be written down. Really, that’s a not a hard choice.