In connection with the latest WikiLeaks flap, commenter Brett
Bellmore asks rhetorically, “Do you think America would be better off if the Pentagon Papers hadnâ€™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.