The editors at Der Spiegel can’t contain themselves. Even before publication of the WikiLeaks documents, they’ve taken to their website to announce jubilantly that the leaking of these documents “is nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.”
And the Obama administration and Congress can, acting together, ensure that this is nonsense. They can even turn this disgraceful crime into a moment of American strength. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has properly given our allies and others a heads-up as to what is coming. But that should be it. From now on, a policy of no comment about anything in any of these documents should be the absolute rule. No apologies, no complaints, no explanations, no excuses. No present or former government official should deign to discuss anything in these documents. No one in the executive branch should confirm or deny the accuracy of any document. No one should hasten to reassure any foreign leader of anything, or seek to put any cable in context. No one in Congress should cite anything in these documents to make a point about any issue. The entire American government and political class should simply go about its important foreign policy business, and treat these leaks as beneath contempt, and beneath comment.
American foreign policy may take some lumps, but they will be minor and short-lived. And then America will still be strong, and Der Spiegel will once again be wrong.
UPDATE: A couple of responses to this post suggest to me that I didn’t make myself entirely clear: I didn’t mean to say that treating the leaks as beneath contempt and beneath comment was all the U.S. government could or should do. My original post didn’t deal with the possibilities of criminal prosecution or covert action or cyber-warfare against WikiLeaks. I’m for whatever can be done on these fronts. I was simply addressing the issue of what the public response of U.S. officials to the content of the documents should be.