Learning a Trick from the Ba'athists

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The military is curtailing its embedded journalist program in the wake of news stories reporting on troop dissatisfaction with longer-than-expected tours of duty. The move effectively puts journalists on notice that preferential access depends on reporting through rose-colored glasses. Families of soldiers are also being warned not to talk to journalists "in a negative manner regarding the military and this deployment."

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  1. If taxpayers can’t get the facts, suspend the funding! As if that is an option, but it sure would be nice.

  2. I bet they wish they would have made this decision to pull the reporters out while the military PR department was ahead when they spun the Lynch story. Funny how the mainstream media still hasn’t strongly recounted the myth behind that and told everyone the truth.

    Speaking of that, funny how this is in PR week. They must find the Lynch spin to be one of the best PR moves in decades.

  3. I know that in the mid 80’s when I was in the military, saying anything other than “I love the NAVY, can’t wait to go to sea and kick ass, rah rah rah” would land you in serious trouble. One guy on my ship got 45/45 half for two (that’s 45 days detention, 45 days extra duty, and half pay for two months) for saying that the food he use to ladle out volunteering at a local soup kitchen back home was better than the slop they fed us. It got printed on like page 6 of his hometown gazette. Even bigger problems came from the wives. Civilian spouses were constantly getting their on-duty mates in hot water. They either couldn’t believe the power the military wields over it’s members or simply didn’t care.

  4. To quote that legendary study of politics Crimson Tide, “We’re not here to practice democracy; we’re here to defend it.” Still, this seems like a really clumsy move that’s likely to encourage more negative reporting by vengeful media.

  5. The military isn’t there to accomodate the press.
    If the military sees embedded reporters as undermining the ability of the men and women on the ground to do their job effectively (and I would think broadcasting a drop in morale to your enemies isn’t exactly helpful), then that’s their perogative as far as I’m concerned.

    We should focus our criticism on the civilians that put the troops there in the first place.

  6. Brian, please explain how the media is undermining the ability of soldiers to do their jobs. It’s not like they’re forcing the soldier to be unhappy, or tricking them into being unhappy. The soldiers are unhappy, and will continue to be unhappy whether a newspaper reporter is there or not. Thinking that getting rid of the media will fix the morale problem is like thinking you can fix that knocking in your car’s engine by turning up the radio.

  7. The article misses several points. First, most embedded reporters since about May 1 were pulled out by their employers, not kicked out by the military. The media’s interest in sending back war stories declined rapidly when it looked like the war was over.

    Second, during major combat operations most embedded journalists (especially though not exclusively the TV reporters) were kept back somewhat from the front lines. Now that there are no front lines this is harder to do. Embedding new journalists for short stays in the current environment means risks for the journalists and an additional concern for troops trying to ward off attacks while sparing the civilian population.

    Third, 3rd ID soldiers were the source of some widely publicized griping because their departure from Iraq had been twice delayed and, at one point, they were led to believe that they would be there indefinitely. This was an Army screwup that has since been fixed. 3rd ID troops began leaving Iraq last month, and the entire division will be back in Georgia by mid-September, making the issue of embedding reporters with that unit moot.

    I understand libertarians fuming about conspiracies to force reporters to see things through “rose-colored glasses,” because that is one of the things libertarians do, but is anyone aware of complaints from media organizations about the military’s change in the embedding program?

  8. Hal E.–

    (Sorry for the delayed response…I posted just before leaving work yesterday…)

    My point was that these decisions should be up to the military, because they are in a position to determine what does and does not help them do their job…far better than you or I.

    I don’t think that removing reporters is viewed as a solution to the morale problem…I think that having a morale problem being broadcast is a strategic problem unto itself, to which removing the reporters is most certainly a viable solution.

  9. Why are the families being silenced? Isn’t that the real outrage in this story? Soldiers, well, they signed up for this gig and should know the rules, although I loved the photo of the sign posted on one military truck in Iraq: “One weekend a month, my ass!”

    But the family members are presumably still free citizens of this land, with all the first amendment rights that implies.

    The commander who issued such a blatantly stupid and un-American directive to the families should be shown the door. I hesitated before typing “un-American” because it’s harder and harder to tell what qualifies for that designation these days.

  10. Thinking that getting rid of the media will fix the morale problem is like thinking you can fix that knocking in your car’s engine by turning up the radio

    That’s not a useful allegory. Saying on TV that all the troops in Iraq have increasingly lousy morale (whether it’s true or not) contributes to making the morale of the troops in Iraq increasingly lousy. Hearing people bitch about a job you share with them makes you feel worse about the job you do. This is fairly basic organizational-management knowledge.

  11. So are military FAMILIES under the UCMJ now? Along with Ari’s “watch what you say,” I’d say this falls under the category of “No, YOU mind your own fucking business!”

    And I’m sure the guys in uniform will be smart enough, after the reaming out over the “four aces” comment, to make their complaints to the press anonymously. So now the command will have TWO unseen enemies.

  12. “please explain how the media is undermining the ability of soldiers to do their jobs.”

    Under this president, the job of every federal employee is to help Republicans get elected. By pointing out obvious failures, these soldiers are failing in that duty.

    More than one lesson from the Baathists.

  13. Brady: Where have you been? The mainstream press, every time they so much as mention Lynch, talks about the early inaccuracies about Lynch, going so far as to embrace some false “inaccuracies,” even after their own news organizations exposed that they were false.

  14. When I was in the military, I was given what I consider a sage piece of advice from an old NCO regarding soldiers. “If they ain’t bitchin’, they ain’t happy.” It’s when they stop complaining that the officers really need to worry.

    So a certain amount of complaining is normal and healthy, but in my various opportunities to lead and to be led, I’ve learned the benefit of keeping whiners quiet. Just a few of these guys can destroy the morale of a whole unit. Democratic? No. Essential to the success and survival of the unit? IMHO, Yes.

  15. I’ve never been a soldier, but I’ve been an employee at lots of shit jobs. Coworkers get together and whine, always have, always will. I imagine it’s the same for soldiers. However, these guys aren’t complaining about bad food, or the heat, or having to take orders. They’re complaining about policy. That’s bad.

  16. Military families are indeed in some sense part of the service. Their contributions are explicitly recognized, sometimes with certificates and more, at promotion and retirement ceremonies, for instance.

    Part of what has been happening recently is that national guardsmen and reservists have been called up. Many of these people didn’t really BELIEVE they would actually have to DO what they were trained / paid to be able to do. Even more often, their families are disconnected from the support system & the sense of accountability that career families have.

    I have less than zero sympathy for the “1 weekend a month” attitude & the jerk who put it up on his vehicle. Did he think he was getting pay and privileges just to wear funny clothes occasionally? He took the same oath that the full time guys did.

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