Sunday, June 10, 2007

Echoes of Vietnam? Iraq and Press Responsibility

Robert McFarlane has an interesting commentary up at Opinion Journal this morning. He highlights military successes on the ground in both Vietnam and Iraq, then notes the media's distorted reporting of the conflicts:

Today, four years into the war in Iraq, we've come full circle to the point reached 40 years ago--unfortunately in both respects. On the one hand we've found military leaders--men such as Army Gen. David Petraeus and Marine Lt. Gen. Jim Mattis--with a solid grasp of what is needed to turn the military tide, and who are managing that task with early evidence of success. More money is going into winning hearts and minds. More resources are being devoted to quality of life fixes that are visible to Iraqis. Shuttered factories are being opened in a major new program launched by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and headed by his subordinate Paul Brinkley. A major agricultural program is about to be launched in Anbar province, again under Pentagon leadership.

The truly good news is that the results are being felt. Sheiks and tribal leaders watching the changes being made in Anbar are coming our way, and offering various kinds of support to help root out al Qaeda and deal with the insurgents. Yet news of these successes is very hard to find in our mainstream media. It's February '68 redux--with far greater consequences I fear.

I don't mean to imply that all is well in Iraq; the political situation remains a shambles. It is imperative that we rally the leadership of each of the leading factions in Iraq and make two things clear. First, we intend to stand with them for as long as it takes if they demonstrate a sober willingness to reconcile their differences over time through formation of a functional coalition government devoted to a fair distribution of political and economic power within the country. Second, our ability to sustain support for them at home is tied to their performance. Although this prescription for winning the war is easy to describe it is hard to accomplish, especially the fostering of political reconciliation. Yet it must be done. The good news is that there are experienced veterans who possess the requisite skills for the job.

The question remains, however: Should the Iraqis succeed in this crucial endeavor, how will it be reported? For the press this is yet another moment of truth. Will it continue to publish a distorted picture of this war as it did in Vietnam, and share responsibility for the same result?
Read the whole thing. I wrote previously about better public marketing of our overseas military engagements. McFarlane adds the further important point about the media's responsibility in reporting America's successes.

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