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« Continuing Stupidity | Main | Irony »

Is It Just Me?

Or is the press coverage this weekend reminiscent of the coverage of Tet? It was a US victory that was reported as a disaster, because the assumption was that the Viet Cong weren't capable of mounting an offensive.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 24, 2003 03:48 PM
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Note to the media- grow some brass ones and shut up.

Posted by Dr. Clausewitz at March 24, 2003 04:15 PM

A good article over on Fox in NewsWatch on the media coverage of the war, and the over-simplification of the effort. The article isn't as general as this upcoming gross generalization I came up with, but it comes close. Basically, it comes back to the view that some people thought that "the war will be over in 3 days and no US personnel will shed any blood, even by a papercut." Unreasonable expectations placed on a rather major, and dynamic event.,2933,81841,00.html

Posted by John at March 24, 2003 05:19 PM

I can not say whether war in Iraq is a good thing or bad...However, as I read the history of the world, I am ever so amazed by the parallel that seems to arise when I see that a Pope almost a thousand years age began the Crusades. One of his reasons were to free the Holy Land from the evil infidel. Is this what GW Bush is saying too, Free the Oil Land from evil.

Posted by Geof Holman at March 24, 2003 05:52 PM

No, he's saying Free the People of the Oil Land from evil, so they can sell the oil for their own benefit, instead of evil's.

I'll give you (minimal) points on attempt, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 24, 2003 05:56 PM

I was only 8 at the time of Tet, but my adult knowledge of it says you might have something here, Rand. I was watching CNN (not my was on at work) and Judy Woodruff looked like a damn funeral director that had just swallowed a toad. Every time a GI twists his angle it sends the press into a paroxym of agony.

What the hell *is* this? Defeatism is too simple.

Posted by Jeffesonian at March 24, 2003 06:09 PM

It's the sound of one knee jerking, Jeffesonian. Let's face it, this generation of the press corps was trained to believe the Vietnam protesters were moral paragons, and the US military an incompetent and brutal instrument of eeeevil. Whether they admit it or not (even to themselves), they're hard-wired to the paradigm of the 'quagmire'. They're so far behind, they're not even fighting the last war--they're fighting two or three wars ago.

Posted by Will Collier at March 24, 2003 06:19 PM

My dad's a WW2 vet, and he's got a lot of books on that war, including a lot of the collections of the writings of war correspondents, etc., and I've read some of them. And the comparison to what we're being fed now is just pathetic. Many in the media don't seem to understand what they're looking at. They don't seem to understand the sheer magnitude of what's being undertaken (and how relatively light we've gotten off so far). Mostly, though, they seem like spoiled kid at the pizza parlor who just got blown up at their favorite video game. They're mopey and whiny and keep hitting 'reset' to try and wish themselves back to three lives and a full 'strength' meter.

Of course, casualties, are depressing, but these people are supposed to be our eyes and ears. We don't need their defeatist editorializing.

Posted by Laurie K. at March 24, 2003 06:38 PM

Has CNN been hijacked by a convention of Funeral Directors? Judy Woodruff is as you noted, but Aaron Brown is the Funeral Director from Central Casting. He was even wearing a solid black suit.

Posted by Jabba the Tutt at March 24, 2003 06:38 PM

Steven Den Beste over at USS Clueless has done a great job of covering this issue (

It seems to me this is just an effort by the news services to make "news", rather than some sort of evil plot. US victories aren't spectacular enough, at least in the backrow journalists' eyes, but POW captures or deaths are headline-grabbing enough to publish. They're too used to gore, death and destruction to cover something positive like the amazing amount of progress the coalition troops have made in the last 6 days.

This all reminds me of when I worked at a software company whose primary business was dealing with customers (yes, they really do exist!) The primary thing I learned from my experiences there was "set reasonable expectations and you'll have a happy customer". If you tell someone a bug will be fixed in four weeks and you do it in 27 days, you're good. Take 14 days and you're a hero (or a really lousy estimator). But take 29 days and you're a demon.

The government could learn a lesson here. If General Franks/President Bush/et al had told everyone we could expect the war to take
several months and perhaps cost thousands of lives, while the sell job would've been much tougher most people (and especially the journos) would be celebrating with glee right now. Instead, the officials were somewhat realistic about their estimates and too many people seem to have mentally halved them. I don't know how well that would've played, however. ("Thousands of lives" would've scared a lot of people but it may even be accurate, and I hate to say it but we need to be prepared for some pretty lousy scenarios.)

It seriously bugs me that the news services are giving Saddam plenty of free air time. He has nothing worth saying, especially when you consider that his "speeches" are very likely pre-recorded and he's not addressing any sort of reality. It certainly doesn't sound like anything meaningful anyway--"we will crush the US"... sure, of course you will. Rah rah, dude!

I'm really rambling far too much in a comment box, I should be writing this in my own playpen. Sorry 'bout that.

Posted by Sanitation Engineer #6 at March 24, 2003 07:37 PM

I'd worry more that "Shock and Awe" may turn out to be sorta the high tech upgrade of McNamara's body count strategy.

The Peter Braestrup analysis of Tet as a vast American victory was always pretty shallow, even as it scored excellent points on how journalism is... well, journalism. But the fact that folks can LOSE a battle and win a war is at least as important as the more popular apposite idea.

The more this war appears to Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims as Crusaders and Zionists fighting for oil, the more surely we will lose it, no matter how massive the damage we do to Saddam's regime or how minimal the loss of life on all sides.

National Review Online
February 22, 2002
The Theology's the Thing

Posted by TheAmericanist at March 24, 2003 08:04 PM

That is damned unlikely. Winning the war can only be defined by removing Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, no matter how much the Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims think of us as Crusaders and Zionists fighting for oil. And, regardless of how much they might think this is about oil, or empire or a Judeo-Christian "Holy War" against Islam, the bottom line after Milosovic in '99, the Taliban in '01 and Saddam in '03 is this: who next wants piss of the US by sponsoring terrorism?

Posted by Tim at March 24, 2003 09:23 PM

Tim, you gotta get out more. Last time I looked, 9-11 came after '99. We fought FOR Muslims in the Balkans, too -- how much better evidence d'ya need for where we're losing?

Posted by TheAmericanist at March 25, 2003 04:04 AM

The differences today are 1) we?ve seen this before, 2) our population is much more media savvy, 3) sources of information and commentary representing genuinely different perspectives are both quantitatively and qualitatively superior to those available in the sixties. Good faith, resolve and follow-through, not media spin, will determine the outcome.

Posted by H. Myers at March 25, 2003 07:41 AM

This whole subject is about the least thoroughly discussed topic in warfare: the shifting definition of victory, which is always a combination of objectives sought and constraints to be observed. You might want to check out:

Posted by Francis W. Porretto at March 26, 2003 05:41 AM

Man, you guys are rationalizing like a kid who didn't do his homework. This ain't complex: Our host notes that the Iraqis actually fought back against their invaders (us), and wonders if the press coverage is sorta like the coverage of Tet, i.e., a defeat for the enemy is reported to appear like WE lost.

But that's just stupid, if only because it doesn't understand what happened in Vietnam. As the late Colonel Summers liked to tell the story, when he got drunk with an NVA colonel, he told him: "We whupped your ass on the battlefield." To which the NVA soldier replied, after staring through the bottom of his glass: "True -- but irrelevant."

That ain't exactly the least discussed subject in warfare.

Posted by TheAmericanist at March 26, 2003 01:40 PM

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