As a former ambassador myself (the country’s first, in fact — I’d been sent to France in the 1700s to secure diplomatic and financial support during our Revolutionary War), I know very well the serious nature and multitudinous expectations of this very high level job. Letter writing alone consumed a great deal of my time, just as it similarly must have dominated much of Mrs. Clinton’s attention, particularly at the point of the attacks on the embassy.
A great deal of my own correspondence was never made public until many, many years later. As well it should have been, since a good deal of the content of my letters were highly confidential — had they been revealed or released to the newspapers of my day close to the time they were written, they very well could have compromised our mission, both during the years in France, and afterwards. I say that because foreign relations is never a one-time-only, “done deal,” as you 21st century folks are fond of saying.
In other words, while the main message of any of my letters may have had immediate import to the issue at hand, the decisions, paths, and policies that came about as the result of my personal communications with Congress continued to be felt years and decades later.
If it had turned out that my secret deliberations had been revealed, even only a couple of years after a strategic victory, the ongoing diplomatic relations, for example, with France or Britain, could have been irreparably damaged through an insensitive or sensationalist reporting of them by the editors of my time.
The alliances we had so carefully forged with France might have been jeopardized, and even though we ultimately won the war, and continued to reap the benefits of these agreements, this might actually have been reversed if the French had learned of the behind-the-scene machinations that we all had to put up with in order to achieve our end goals.
With that said, I have to applaud Ambassador Clinton for trying to be as forthright and candid as she has been, turning over her documents to the State Department to determine the advisability of making public any or all of these emails in question.
Time will tell the wisdom of these current debates over the Benghazi emails, and history will be the final judge of who was right and who was wrong in demanding full public disclosure.
Your humble servant,