Military Industrial Media Complex

The first volley in the debate about future Afghanistan policy was fired earlier this week. President Obama hit almost all of the Sunday talk shows, trying to regain momentum for health insurance reform, but he was actually asked a good question about Afghanistan:
DAVID GREGORY: Are you skeptical about more troops? About sending more troops?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, can I just say this? I am— I have to exercise skepticism anytime I send a single young man or woman in uniform into harm's way. Because I'm the one who's answerable to their parents if they don't come home. So I have to ask some very hard questions anytime I send our troops in.

The question that I'm asking right now is to our military, to General McChrystal, to General Petraeus, to all our national security apparatus, is— whether it's troops who are already there, or any troop request in the future, how does this advance America's national security interests? How does it make sure that al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot attack the United States homeland, our allies, our troops who are based in Europe?

That's the question that I'm constantly asking because that's the primary threat that we went there to deal with. And if— if supporting the Afghan national government, and building capacity for their army, and securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we'll move forward.

But, if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way— you know, sending a message that America— is here for— for the duration. I think it's important that we match strategy to resources.

What I'm not also gonna do, though, is put the resource question before the strategy question. Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right strategy I'm not gonna be sending some young man or woman over there- beyond what we already have.
Well, I didn't see any skepticism when Obama increased our forces in Afghanistan by 21,000 soldiers and marines this year, but better late than never.

However, questioning the counter-insurgency strategy contained in General McChrystal's report was too much in some (head)quarters, so the full report was leaked to Bob Woodward.* The headline and sub-head:

McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure'
Top U.S. Commander For Afghan War Calls Next 12 Months Decisive

Nice false dichotomy and the obligatory Chicken Little alarm. PR mission accomplished. Isn't it great that people talk about success and failure when they have no definition of either? And that Woodward will repeat whatever the military tells him uncritically. (To be fair, he and a lot of other reporters do the same with any Administration) What a country!

I'm tempted to prattle on about the supposedly liberal Washington Post, but instead I'll highlight one other case of the military being embedded in the media. Actually, I'll just link to Glenn Greenwald's post on retired military analysts on the NBC Nightly News.

In any case, I encourage you to follow the debate about the potential for even more soldiers and marines to be sent to Afghanistan. And to express your opinions with your Congressional representatives early and often. Don't wait for the moment when all you can do is put up a lawn sign.

* Note that the Administration asked that some parts be redacted, not the military. The story cited below doesn't say when Woodward was given the report (it was delivered to the President in late August), but that he was planning to use it in his upcoming book. But when the report "would have been overtaken by events," Woodward decided it was time to publish. Yeah, right.

UPDATES: Howard Kurtz, the media correspondent for the Washington Post has a story describing the details of the publication of McChrystal's report. Note that Woodward claims that he approached the source recently and asked the source to allow its publication. And he compares this "story" to the Pentagon Papers, which is completely Bizarro. Finally, the WaPo wanted to publish on Sunday morning - the day Obama's interviews were televised - but delayed it one day through the goodness of their collective corporate heart.

More on the retired general story: Bush43's Pentagon chief spokesman, Bryan Whitman, who is still in the job, is implicated in the program. (h/t Scott Horton) The sordid history of that disastrous presidency will continue to leak out month by month. It can get worse.


Marlowe Jenkins said...

What I find interesting, whether it is the push for healthcare reform or military agenda, are the stark differences in the operations of the Obama and Bush administrations. Obama permits dissenting opinions to the point that it undermines his own agenda. As infuriating and counter to our democratic principles as it seemed, The Bush (Cheney) administration worked in such lockstep through the use of fear and intimidation that they seemingly pushed through thier agenda with little to no resistance. You wouldn't see a top military official openly and blatantly leaking a document like this for his own purposes and you would never have seen the type of dissention within the ranks of the republican party as we now see among the dems on healthcare reform.

Your thoughts, Shooter?

Norwegian Shooter said...

The CW is that Democratic administrations are looser lipped than Republican ones, and Democratic unity is lower than Republican. Something about respect for authority and independent thinking. But I wouldn't go as far in criticizing Obama on this topic. On health care, he undermined himself with such a lack of specifics for so long and deference to Congress. I would like to see some arm-twisting but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Certainly Bush/Cheney took internal debate control and strategic communications to an all-time high (or low, actually). And I could go on about Republican run Congress with Tom DeLay and K-Street, power for power's sake, no agenda beyond crony capitalism, et al. But lots of Bush-43's signature achievements had plenty of Democrats signing on.

On the military front, they didn't have to leak stuff during Bush/Cheney, because they were hawkish on everything. I'm going to post again on the McChrystal leak soon. Lots of weird stuff is going on.