Thursday, October 30, 2008
Patriotism and the Press in Times of War
Speaking of Nir Rosen's Rolling Stone article, Bing West discusses some of the ethical and legal issues it raises over at Small Wars Journal. West manages to present some very thorny and potentially explosive issues passionately but not stridently (quite a feat these days), keeping the piece both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Mostly light, with just enough heat (and in the right places) to make it resonate.
West addresses two aspects of Rosen's "embed" that had occurred to me when I read the piece. Namely, the fact that he was basically agreeing to at the very least the possibility of accompanying hostile forces on operations against American troops. And he also accepted the terms of the embed, which depended on his guides being subject to a family-wide death threat to secure his safety. The latter is, to my mind, a clearcut ethical lapse. The former lies in what even West concedes is a ethical-legal gray area.
I held off making those criticisms in my remarks at the time, because I wasn't quite sure about what was driving the negative reaction I had to the piece. As an armchair analyst, I felt reluctant to engage in kneejerk criticism of what, despite the ethical gray areas, remains an incredibly courageous field assignment. There's also the question of what role the press plays, and whether it is, in fact, above and beyond the ethical and legal issues that proscribe other citizens in times of war.
I don't have any definitive answers. If you have any thoughts on the matter, feel free to weigh in via email.
Cross-posted to World Politics Review.