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View Full Version : The Press as an Agent of Defeat?



Shek
18 Feb 07,, 22:54
It's a common excuse given for why we lost in Vietnam - the press made us lose! Often accepted at face value as a contribution to our lack of success in Vietnam, this journal article by William Hammond critically examines the "press as an agent of defeat" thesis and finds it to be lacking.

Instead of being a leader, Hammond finds that the press was a follower. As government prognostications became more and more skeptical, the press followed. Furthermore, he tears down the facade that many senior generals erected in trying to color the authenticity of the reporters serving in Vietnam, questioning the experience of those reporters. Yet, in the early years, it was the inexperienced reporters that were most gung ho for success; the very ones criticized later on by some of the leadership. Additionally, much of America didn't even form their opinions based on the news reports - it was a matter of either preaching to the choir or atheists.

In the end, I find Mr. Hammond's argument to be quite compelling, and while I've found myself question some reporting from OIF, this article has made me think about whether any of the reporting is leading public opinion, or just reinforcing preconceived notions.

Mr. Hammond is the Chief of the General Histories Branch at the U.S. Army's Center of Military History and has authored a two volume set on the relations between the U.S. Army and the news media during Vietnam.

Ray
19 Feb 07,, 08:24
Shek,

It is JSTOR and hence one cannot access the article.

Bigfella
19 Feb 07,, 09:22
You just love stirring up trouble, don't you Shek?

Hammond is perhaps the foremost author currently in the field. No one seeking to engage the issue of the Press in Vietnam should do so before reading at least some of his work. This is an excellent introduction.

Ray, I've tried to save this into a different format to reproduce here, but the bugger won't do it. I'll have a bit of a search on the web & see if I can find it in something you can access.

Ray
19 Feb 07,, 10:19
Bigfella,

Thanks

Shek
19 Feb 07,, 13:19
Shek,

It is JSTOR and hence one cannot access the article.

Ray,
It is, but you can just download the .pdf, which I hung on the post. Let me know if you need me to email you the file.

Ray
19 Feb 07,, 13:56
Shek,

Thanks.

This time it opened.

It started with Page 312.

Earlier, it was just giving a message that I was unauthorised.

Bigfella
19 Feb 07,, 21:06
Ray,

Glad you could get in, because I couldn't find it in an alternative format on the net.

Great article. If you look at Hammond's teaching history you will see a lot of time spent in military colleges, where I believe he is held in high esteem. While many laypeople still hold to the 'media lost the war' thesis, I'm pretty sure the US military has moved beyond that (Shek will know more). A tribute to their willingness to deal with unpleasant realities rather than take the easy excuse.

Shek
28 Feb 07,, 03:12
Another great article on the subject that was pointed out to me by Bigfella.

http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/05summer/darley.pdf

Shek
28 Feb 07,, 03:25
While many laypeople still hold to the 'media lost the war' thesis, I'm pretty sure the US military has moved beyond that (Shek will know more). A tribute to their willingness to deal with unpleasant realities rather than take the easy excuse.

Bigfella,

I'm not so sure if everyone has moved beyond that (although I would place the feeling as a collective blame in the press and policy makers) - in a grand sense, the US Army blocked the Vietnam experience from its collective memory as opposed to facing its problems fully. The Army that rebuilt from its hollow early 70s shell did so by focusing on the "big one" at the Fulda Gap and relegating COIN into something that we don't do. Only now do you see a large scale unearthing of the lessons from Vietnam as we search for answers in Iraq.

How it manifests itself today is the fact that soldiers feel that some of the good things they are doing at the micro level doesn't get reported at the macro level. While there is definitely plenty of truth to this, the imbalance that exists is the importance that folks will place on the good deed they did, raising it far above what a holistic view would assign to it. A clinic that is built and dedicated may be a step forward, but does the clinic get stocked with medicine? Does it get staff with medical professionals? Can residents come to the clinic without getting death threats from insurgents? Is it even used, or does it become another source of graft and corruption? It is this context that isn't perceived, and so the perception of a media disconnect is overblown and made into an us vs. them thing.

Now, my experience may not be typical and I was in Iraq when it was still popular, but the media embeds with my unit, and even the freelance media that would come up to my unit gave very fair coverage (except for the Army Times, LOL!, but that was because of a pissing contest between my commander and the reporter, and so he made his piece into a hit piece I think to spite my commander).

Bigfella
28 Feb 07,, 09:31
"Bigfella,

I'm not so sure if everyone has moved beyond that (although I would place the feeling as a collective blame in the press and policy makers) - in a grand sense, the US Army blocked the Vietnam experience from its collective memory as opposed to facing its problems fully. The Army that rebuilt from its hollow early 70s shell did so by focusing on the "big one" at the Fulda Gap and relegating COIN into something that we don't do. Only now do you see a large scale unearthing of the lessons from Vietnam as we search for answers in Iraq.

How it manifests itself today is the fact that soldiers feel that some of the good things they are doing at the micro level doesn't get reported at the macro level. While there is definitely plenty of truth to this, the imbalance that exists is the importance that folks will place on the good deed they did, raising it far above what a holistic view would assign to it. A clinic that is built and dedicated may be a step forward, but does the clinic get stocked with medicine? Does it get staff with medical professionals? Can residents come to the clinic without getting death threats from insurgents? Is it even used, or does it become another source of graft and corruption? It is this context that isn't perceived, and so the perception of a media disconnect is overblown and made into an us vs. them thing.

Now, my experience may not be typical and I was in Iraq when it was still popular, but the media embeds with my unit, and even the freelance media that would come up to my unit gave very fair coverage (except for the Army Times, LOL!, but that was because of a pissing contest between my commander and the reporter, and so he made his piece into a hit piece I think to spite my commander)." - Shek

Shek,

Point taken. I was taking heart from a number of articles I have read written by serving officers or people associated with military institutions - like Hammond. I don't doubt that the broader picture is a bit muddier. Still, the military do appear to have moved farther than many who commentate from the sidelines.

I wish I could say you were wrong on COIN. I get the impression the military & many in government simply swore never to get involved in such a war again. Thus Papa Bush's decision not to stay in Iraq in '91. I get the impression COIN was shunted off to the 'specialist' category & not taken very seriously until it was too late. Rather than 'fighting the last war', I thin many just tried to pretend it didn't happen.

As for the Army Times, I thought a 'West Point Liberal' like yourself would have felt quite at home with those pinkos. ;)

Ray
28 Feb 07,, 19:14
Q: To which extent do you think that the mass media are capable or even willing to defend themselves against campaigns of disinformation?


A: Whether they want depends on whether they are
dependent. During the hearings on the operative principles of the CIA at the end of the Vietnam war it became apparent that newspapers had received payments and that the intelligence services had placed their people in news agencies. The CIA can deploy their people in all news agencies of the world. Whenever the situation requires it, they can supply them with news which is so exclusive and „hot“ that it pushes other news into the background.

World-Information.Org (http://world-information.org/wio/readme/992003309/1052744021)

The foregoing excerpt is from Psychological Warfare Calls for Disinformation
An interview with Andreas von Bülow

Andreas von Bülow, former German Minister for Research and Technology and former German Secretary of Defence, currently a lawyer in Bonn, on disinformation strategies and the role of intelligence services.

Therefore, the media is double edged weapon!

Ray
03 Mar 07,, 17:40
Punishment to Fit the Nuclear Crime

By Anne-Marie Slaughter and Thomas Wright
Friday, March 2, 2007; Page A13

A joint sting operation by the CIA and officials from the Republic of Georgia foiled an attempt by a Russian man to sell nuclear-bomb-grade uranium on the black market last summer. This event, only made public in January, was the latest in a series of alarming incidents that remind us of the severity of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism.

To build a nuclear weapon, terrorists must acquire materials from a state. National governments are unlikely to cooperate with terrorists because they fear retaliation from the victim of such an attack and its allies, but rogue scientists, generals or other individuals can work with criminal networks to deliver nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. To counter this danger, we should make the illegal transfer of nuclear materials a crime against humanity triable by international tribunals and by national courts in every country.

Current efforts to close down the nuclear black market have an Achilles' heel -- certain states will not cooperate and will even protect nuclear criminals. For instance, A.Q. Khan, Pakistan's "father of the bomb," lives comfortably under house arrest; U.S. officials have not been allowed even to interrogate him. Pakistan's government is too frightened of a domestic backlash to act harshly against a national hero. Globally, of the dozens suspected of involvement in his network, only three have been successfully prosecuted.

During the Cold War, the United States used deterrence to avert Armageddon; the Soviet Union understood that aggression, even of a conventional nature, would carry too high a price. This old wisdom offers new hope; the United States should actively deter individuals who trade in nuclear materials by making the costs of such behavior unacceptably high.

Making nuclear transfer a crime against humanity captures the enormity of the offense and would dramatically increase the cost of getting caught. Nuclear transfer threatens the lives of millions of people. It merits a place in infamy alongside genocide and other evils. Creating a nuclear transfer taboo would strip away feigned protestations of innocence and illusions of a victimless crime. It would stigmatize black-market financiers and other facilitators of nuclear transfers as the ultimate merchants of death.

In addition to highlighting the dangers of this action, making nuclear transfer a crime against humanity would greatly expand opportunities for prosecution, denying national governments the ability to shelter these criminals.

The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity. The inclusion of nuclear transfer as such a crime could be confirmed at the next review conference, in 2009. The ICC could then indict and prosecute those suspected of such acts. Even if the United States cannot bring itself to join the ICC, it could work with allies to empower the ICC to act, just as the Bush administration has done on Darfur.

Similarly, as a matter of international law, crimes against humanity are subject to universal jurisdiction. That means that any nation, including the United States, could prosecute nuclear traders anywhere in the world. National governments can pass statutes confirming such jurisdiction in their courts.

Finally, the U.N. Security Council could pass a Chapter VII resolution urging a prosecutor to investigate these cases or even establish a special tribunal to prosecute those suspected of nuclear transfer. A tribunal could be a fallback if efforts to incorporate nuclear transfer into the ICC charter were unsuccessful.

This initiative would make international law work as a tool of American national security strategy rather than as a constraint on it. Failing states would no longer provide safe haven for rogue individuals. The potential costs of nuclear transfer for criminal networks would clearly exceed its potential rewards. It would be multilateralism and international law at its best: hard-edged tools to further American and global interests.

Most important, it is the only way to overcome a real problem. The status quo -- trusting nondemocratic states to safeguard U.S. security interests by cracking down on their criminal networks -- has failed. The convention on genocide was signed after the Holocaust. This time, we should not wait until after the fact to act.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is dean of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a co-director of the Princeton Project on National Security. Thomas Wright is senior researcher for the Princeton Project on National Security.

washingtonpost.com (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/01/AR2007030101326.html)

This article will indicate that the media is also used to assist national security.

Therefore, media is actually double edged a weapon.