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Alternatives in War

By Bill Roggio | November 18, 2005

It isn't always the strongest gust of wind that bends a branch to its breaking point. More often than not, the limb is broken by the gust that is unexpected and counter to mainstream forces. This same contravening wind is found in independent military bloggers — who, without the vast resources of the mainstream media, manage to remind that the war in Iraq is more than headlines of casualties, car bombs, and IEDs.

We approach this Friday's remembrance of veterans, past and present, with a nation bent into the gale-force winds of a story that, while not false, is far from the truth. And so, more and more are looking outside their local daily paper or nightly news for insight into the war — or they are turning it off entirely. The consequences of this culture of quick headlines and blurb news is that we see not the war, its heroes, its villains, or its predicament. Instead we are left with the nausea of casualty counts, grim milestones, and acts of terror without hope, gravity, or context. Poll numbers show the impact. Fortunately there are those who stand against these winds.

In the halls of the Capitol building today Sen. Rick Santorum and four bloggers will stand to present — in what is believed to be the first joint press conference of a senator and bloggers — we will be offering an alternative view of the war. The point is to bring the character and context of the underreported story to the forefront, to highlight the men and women in service to our nation's defense, and to broaden awareness of the larger, more vital, reality in this war: U.S. and Coalition forces are defeating the insurgency.

The non-lethal weapons of our enemy, no matter their political or religious affiliation, include our own apathy and acceptance of the media's presentation of the war. In their efforts to be objective citizens of the world, the media's oftentimes morally neutral reporting on the terrorist insurgency-in all its horror — paints an incomplete picture of what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It isn't my place to predict tipping points in the political arena or the social impact of blog going mainstream, nor would I offer advice to the mainstream media. Yet I do see in the words of the families left behind, and the soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine on distant shores that the media must be more aware of its perhaps unintended consequences in striving for ultimate objectivity. Reporting is more than stating a run of details, numbers, and facts. To convey as accurate a portrait of our efforts in Iraq as possible, the media must be willing to develop context, present the situation rather than the result of an action, and be clear that the scattered success of a car bomb or IED is far from the steady progress of coalition forces throughout Iraq, or political progress by the Iraqi people.

Concerned Americans will continue to seek alternative sources of reporting. And more political leaders will recognize that polls don't show the state of the war, only the state of our misgivings. As such, more will follow the lead of the Senate, which this past week began reading the accounts of servicemen and women in Iraq. This act is one of recognition and respect and highlights the need for all of us to remember, no matter our general awareness of the war or its status, that these Americans are our friends and neighbors, our husbands, wives, children, and parents.

[Originally published at the National Review Online on November 9, 2005.]