Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some Good Advice

Michael Yon is a good source when it comes to news about Iraq. Now a free-lance reporter with his own blog, Yon is also a former soldier with the US Army Special Forces, and he has spent probably more time in Iraq than just about any other reporter; certainly more than the lame-stream media types. Yon also spends as much time with Iraqis as he does with the men and women of the armed forces, so he gets a good balance of information about "what's going on." His latest dispatch concerns the Petraeus Report released today. Specifically, Yon's dispatch today concerns the reporting on the Report, of which, I'm sure, all the talking head/bobble-head dolls on TV are all over like a bad rash, telling you what they and their plethora of "experts" think. Yon offers us all (although his advice seems more directed at journalists) some good advice:

Don’t Ask Me What I Think about the Petraeus Report
Ask the battalion commanders.

By Michael Yon

Weeks ago, as the deadline for General David Petraeus’s progress report on the war loomed, journalists were already asking me what I thought of it. Then, as now, I do not know what to think of the report since it is not yet published. Even this coming week, after listening to the general’s testimony before Congress, I will have to read the report and transcripts numerous times, sleep on the information, and reflect on it in light of my own observations of the situation in Iraq. The outcome of the war in Iraq, and to some extent the greater War on Terror, will largely depend upon our decisions today. The outcome is too important for quick words. Many will try to be the first to report on the report, and their reports likely will be the most unreliable.


But here is a hint to journalists who are seeking truth — good or bad. There is one group of officers whose input has invariably proved both relevant and revelatory for me in compiling my work: battalion commanders who are commanding infantry or special operations units. Special operations people are unlikely to go on record, but the special operations people that I’ve talked with tend to be very knowledgeable and frank, and their input on background is critical. As for the infantry battalion commanders, they are the proverbial sweet spot. Battalion command sergeant majors can be excellent, too, but they often will not go on record. Battalion commanders will tend to be willing to go on record, and will tend to talk to journalists.


So, while the BC (Battalion Commander) position is just right, talking with only one or two may not give the most accurate portrayal because they will tend to be focused on their own environment. Therefore it’s necessary to talk with numerous BCs. It’s important to get British input, but though their military is extremely competent, they can be more difficult to get on record. So, I would suggest that to audit the upcoming report, reach out to about ten BCs from around Iraq: Nineveh, Anbar, Diyala, Baghdad. Check the cities of Basra, Samarra, Tikrit, Kirkuk and others. While some BCs may be guarded, others will be shockingly frank, and in aggregate, a reporter can begin to develop a feel for the place as seen through an excellent perspective. Additionally, they will be drawing on the reports of those who are not always going to tote someone’s party line.

Caveat emptor: Do not merely rely on the Public Affairs Office (PAO) in Baghdad to ask for introductions. They might stack the deck. Search the web and you can find which units are where, and with that you can figure out ways to reach out to the units without a middleman. The BC will still likely clear any conversation with a journalist with their PAO, but now you have short-circuited any PAO attempt to give you a “happy tour.” I guarantee that if you get ten battalion commanders to talk, the result will not be a “happy tour,” but a realistic feel from the people who know.

Will his advice fall on deaf ears? Most probably. Far too many lamestream media journalists are too full of themselves and their own biases to let advice stressing objectivity get in the way of their agendas. Keep this in mind when reading your favorite newspaper or watching your favorite TV news outlet.


Blogger BobF said...

In the military, sh_t flows downhill but field information flows uphill. If they really want to find out what's happening, ask the NCO's and junior officers. Commanders only knew what we told them.

3:10 PM GMT+12  
Blogger Oldcatman said...

My observation of our "commanders" is they are politicians first, soldier's second.

1:01 AM GMT+12  

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