October 27, 2010

An Open Letter to the Washington Post

Dear Sir or Madam:

As one of your readers, what in the world am I supposed to make of an article in yesterday's newspaper claiming that the United States and its allies are kicking the holy crap out of the Taliban, and another article today that claims that, no, actually, U.S. and allied operations are not having much of an effect at all on the Taliban's ability to conduct operations?

Can you see how this is confusing? I know the articles were written by different journalists working from different sources, but as a layman, I read these two articles and note that one was sourced almost entirely from officers within ISAF and that the other was sourced almost entirely from officers within the intelligence community. I also note that one article was sourced entirely from Afghanistan while another was sourced entirely from Washington. Was no attempt made by the left hand to figure out what the right hand was doing?

Here's a radical proposition: why don't you direct your reporters to pool their sources, work together, and write an article that highlights the conflicting assessments rather than write two articles taking each set of sources at face value? Because I shouldn't forget to read the newspaper one day and miss the news that we're winning. Or losing.


Andrew Exum