Jim Dunnigan on the war’s progress so far:
Speaking of mass media, there is an interesting gap developing between how the mass media sees the progress of the war and how the military (and anyone with a knowledge of military history sees it.) In five days, coalition forces have marched across the country to the outskirts of Baghdad with minimal resistance. At least two Iraqi divisions have melted away, several Republican Guard divisions have been chopped up from the air and all other Iraqi divisions have stayed away from coalition ground units. This is, by historical standards, a remarkable military operation. But in the mass media you get the impression that, because there has been some Iraqi resistance, the coalition effort has been a failure.
One reader asked me if the media’s misinterpretation of events was due to ignorance or malice. I’d have to guess mostly out of ignorance, and also because of two misconceptions which tend to feed off each other.
First, most journalists only experience with a big war was the ’91 Desert Storm/Desert Saber campaign. For reasons discussed elsewhere on this blog, there was just no way for this new war to be like the old war. But due to ignorance of military affairs, many journalists seemed to think that if we could beat them in 96 hours last time, surely we should have done it just as quickly this time.
The second problem is with the embedded journalists. Now, I’m all for this program. I think it’s a great idea, and one which will eventually lead to more-knoweldgeable reporters with less antipathy for warriors. But in their inexperience, every small exchange of gunfire or mortar rounds is a great battle, and each sign of resistence is a symptom of failure. That’s just not true, but try explaining it to someone with little training under fire for the first time.
It’s a catch-22 for the reporters and for the viewers back home. Only time and experience will sort things out. Meanwhile, a lot of us are getting whiplash over here.