April 27, 2008

More on the Generals

A good friend of Kip's had this to say about the Bateman response to the NY Times article on graybeards being used, tsk tsk, for information operations. An interesting civilian perspective on the whole thing (reprinted with his permission)--Kip is still more inclined to agree with Bateman on this one (mostly because he doesn't really understand "myopic expediency").

The whole point of the NYT article, as I read it, was the access, regurgitation, further access, while simultaneously using those very connections to further financial self-interest. If true, this, in my opinion, was damning mostly for the individual analysts involved, and more broadly the system complicit in it (i.e., the news networks negligently turning a blind eye and the military knowingly exploiting it).

The example of the general who was 'cut off' seemed relevant only in this regard. While acknowledging that this is 'legit', he [Bateman] normalizes it by analogizing to lawyers and doctors on the air (which is a problem in its own right), but doesn't give any weight to the idea that lawyers and doctors aren't speaking to the most fundamental aspects of self-governance in our society.

Aside from this relativity perspective, he also wipes away all agency on the part of the analysts by asking how they were 'supposed to know about the journalism ethics?' The point, as I see it, is how could they be so blind to the basic ethical dilemma of conflicts of interest, specifically and especially when the stakes are so high and their words carry the weight of every soldier wearing the uniform before them? Furthermore, the entirety of his piece washes the hands of the military clean through historical examples. In my opinion, history repeated is not a logically valid argument for ethical behavior.

That being said, I have sympathy with the idea that institutions and organizations, like any living thing, tend to follow the objective facts of history: fly where you can eat. The short-term perspective of running a war efficiently, including on the home front, forgives the officials reasoning to use whatever means necessary, even if this means exploiting an inherently corrupted system. That, however, is the very reason that institutions and organizations need policies to avoid the long-term detriments of myopic expediency.

Furthermore, I think it would have been worth mentioning similar actions from this particular administration including the planted 'journalists', the bought and paid for editorial writers, the prepackaged 'news' clips, the attempt at creating a propaganda office, etc. (especially if you're going to take a jayson blair shot).

Here is Dr Irack's post from yesterday on the same topic.