May 2, 2007
Media Target: The US MilitaryBy Gerd Schroeder
The US military, the last bastion of credibility in the war, is now the primary target of the media and the enemies of the war. Almost like a plan. Not hatched as a coherent and complete arrangement in some dark, smoke filled room. No conspiracy is alleged. Rather, there is a certain momentum that is a product of groupthink. This confluence of widely-shared perceptions and attitudes has taken on a life of its own, the like-minded feeding off the ideas of others, then amplified in the media.
They smell blood in the water, and turn their attention to the military. Their reasoning is that if they can turn the American People against the military, then the war effort will become unsustainable. But they must be very careful in manipulating the story. They have learned their lesson from Viet Nam. The backlash from attacking the troops directly robbed them of much of their credibility. They will not make that mistake again.
Seize on critics from within
This time the plan is discredit the military from the inside. They do this by seizing on genuine critics, disgruntled retirees, infighting dissidents, and a few dupes and naive people in the military to discredit the organization as a whole. This is where we are right now.
After writing an article in the Armed Forces Journal titled "A failure in generalship," lambasting the general officer corps for not only failing in Iraq but lying to Congress and the American People, many people may assume that the author, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling is on the highway to hell with his carrier in the military. If you figured that, I believe that you have figured wrong. It is rooted in popular misconceptions about what the military is like from an outsider's point of view, which has been carefully built and manipulated by pop culture and the media for years.
That is not to say that I agree with LTC Yingling. I think that many of his arguments are, quite frankly, bull; but the military is really a very introspective organization. Anyone that has seen an After Action Review of a military operation or training event understands that. They are brutally honest and open. No one is spared. We all understand that respecting thin skins is a recipe for death. The reviews are not personal attacks; they are honest assessments.
LTC Yingling's arguments are not new. The points in his article have been debated in the Army for many years. It is not a bombshell indictment of the military leaders the media is making it out to be. He used Clausewitz, and other military thinker's writings and ideas to make his point. Look at the article Toxic Leadership, by Colonel George E Reed. The article, written in 2004, takes on many of the same points that LTC Yingling's article does, albeit in a more tactful manner.
For me, the article is very stimulating, though very flawed. Through articles like LTC Yingling's and Col. Reed's the military stays vital and improves debate and exchange of ideas.
Instead, let us look at why the media has suddenly picked this story up after it has been debated in the military for years. The media are all in a flutter because they think that they can spin this article as an indictment of the war. They do this by pointing at the generals, and in a sly, almost unperceivable way, the media almost seem to whisper in our ears: "see, the military is bad, they aren't worthy of our support, they failed, we can't trust them, we need to get out of Iraq before anyone else dies because of these fascist brutes." Some few have come right out and said it, but most just allude to it.
The military's image
The military image for many people is of an environment with no freethinking, and creativity. The image is one of an organization of mindless, strict adherence to illogical and outdated thinking and morals. One of heavy-handed, overbearing, egotistical Neanderthals bent on world domination, violence, and hate. Backwoods rednecks. Unintelligent dead-enders. Look at movies like A Few Good Men, Stripes, Platoon, and Apocalypse Now. This is the image propagated by the pop culture.
You may say: "that may be true for some, but not for me." I ask you then to think back to when you considered the military. Most men and a few women do this at some point. For some it is just fleeting. For others they study it deeply, but I think most, if not all, men at some point or another have considered joining the military. Why do so few out of so many in this country actually serve? Is it because of the ideas that have been formed from our experiences with American pop culture?
A high percentage of the serving military has a close family member that served or is serving. It is a generational tradition of pride, and a feeling of duty. That is not to say that those that don't serve are any less of a person for taking a different path; clearly not everyone can serve even if they wanted to. However, if you reflect on it you will find than many of your ideas about the military that are unflattering have probably come from pop culture and the media. The enemies of the war in the media use the pop culture's long cultivated prejudice of the military to forward their objective against the war.
Over the last year, maybe two, it is increasingly difficult to find any positive reporting on Iraq and the larger war on terrorism, or any positive stories of the US Military at large. There are some rare exceptions with some local news outlets. Google "Iraq" and see for yourself. It is even more pervasive in the international media.
Look at the resurrection of the Jessica Lynch, and the Spencer Tillman stories as show trials against the military in Henry Waxman's House Committee last week. The message:"The military lied, The generals ordered the lies." This in turn promotes the thought: "The military is bad."
There is no need to rehash the continuing assaults by the press and the pentagon officials that leak politically motivated falsehoods about the Marines in Haditha. John Kerry, and John Martha's attacks on the military are like a drum beat.
How about retired generals like MG Batiste, used willingly in mock impeachment trails by Democrats; or BG Janis Karpinski, used by the press as a martyr, sacrificed by the military for Abu Grab, testifying to hostile governments about the evil US military.
Refer back to the countless stories about Guantanamo Bay, and false accusations of torture; many in the media choosing to believe accusations of known terrorists over the military, and false stories of Koran desecration causing riots across the Islamic World.
Look at the personal attacks on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, because he dared voice an opinion on homosexuals. They implied that the general was unfit because he dared have a personal moral judgment; or attacks by retired Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General (Retired) Shalikashvili, on the military's policy of the so-called ‘Don't ask don't tell policy' of which he oversaw the implementation.
Now the latest insult by Senator Reid (D-NV) that the war is lost and General Petraeus is lying if he says the surge is working.
The press is conducting an information war against the military to discredit it, and by so doing hopes to collapse the remaining support for "Bush's War".
All reasonable people understand the absolute critical need to win the war in Iraq. It is helpful, desirable, and needed to debate in good faith as long as the joint objective is winning in Iraq. Without a doubt, the key to winning this war is the will of the American People to continue supporting the fight. Each downtick in the polls for support of the war by the American People lowers the possibility that the military will be able to carry on the war to a victory.
It is not that we lack the capacity. We, in the military, have the will in spades. But we are, in the end, the Military of the American People, and must have their support; not only to fund the war, but also to maintain morale and a strong fighting spirit. This support of the US Military by the American People is the goal that most in the mainstream media hope to undermine. Why they would do this is a topic for a different article. The fact is that they are actively trying to discredit the US Military.
A final question for the media
What would happen in the war in Iraq and to the terrorists across the world if our press put as much effort into supporting the war that they do in trying to sabotage it?
Gerd Schroeder is a Major in the United States Army; he has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. His personal views do not represent the views of the US Army or Department of Defense.