Monday, February 19, 2007

Aim Higher

Genhardt I recieved an email this weekend.

Its a photo of a US Servicement holding a little Iraqi girl.

The caption accompanying the photo was oh so very telling

"Why isn't this all over the news?  If he had done something wrong, it surely would be!"

Unfortunately, the discourse over the war has been reduced to swapping emotional images and lamenting the PR battle. It saddens me, because it shows how far we have fallen from grace.

To answer the emailer's question, it is not all over the newspapers because its not news. The good guys are supposed to do things like this. Its only news when the bad guys do this.

The good work of a US Military officer, a small kindness in a war zone -- thats what is expected of us. We are Americans, and in case you forgot, we are the GOOD guys. We are expected to do good deeds -- it is who we are.

We saved the world from anarchy in the early parts of the last century, from Fascism in the middle of the century, from Communism later in the Century.

The United States has time and again saved the world from evil -- and yet never before have any of us complained about the "PR" of our actions  Our list of global accomplishments and good deeds goes on and on. There was a concern for the results, not media imagery. This is a subtle but important point.

Can you imagine partisans whining that US Servicemen had freed the camp victims at Auschwitz -- but there wasn't enough coverage, it wasn't front page news?  That rebuilding of Germany and Japan after WWII wasn't getting enough airplay? The foodlifts to Africa, the inventions of life saving medicines, the racing to comfort earthquake victims, tsunami survivors, disasters anywhere on the planet neneded to be exploited further? Back then did anyone cry "Hey, where's our credit?!"

Absolutely not -- you shut your mouth and you got the job done. The results mattered more than the image.

That was a different era. We had leaders of great intellect, courage, and judgement. They surrounded themselves with the best and the brightest. They purposefully kept aides around them who challenged their views, thought strategically, mapped out all possible consequences, believed in Science. They were pragmatic, not idealogues; they were experienced experts, not partisans.

Too many people have lowered their standards to a point that is absurd. Hey, everyone, we repainted a school in Baghdad!

Talk about the soft prejudice of low expectations. Is that what our measure of greatness has become?

I regularly appreciate all of the great deeds done by US Servicemen, working with insufficient equipment under a great hardship. We've donated old cell phones to servicemen, participated in raising money for armor. Do not misinterpret this as anything but supportive of the troops in harm's way.

But recognize who we are talking about: These are the US Marines, the greatest fighting unit in the history of mankind! These are Air Force officers, flying the most sophisticated and powerful weaponry know to the planet. US Army personnel, Navy sailors -- these aren't just any military -- these people make up the Armed Forces of the United States of America! Does the emailer complaining about the lack of media coverage understand the history of these institutions, what they have accomplished over the past 2 centuries? I think he does not. Because if he did, he would not be as concerned about a single gentle kindness, about the imagery, about the PR, rather than the actual war itself.

The Marines understand war and their obligations within a conflict; that's why Semper Fi -- Always Faithful -- is their philosophy. The Air Force says "Aim Higher" -- because their philosophy is to achieve greater and greater results, as opposed to media spin. 

No, my dear emailer, you have forgotten who we are and what we are all about. A good deed by a US serviceman is what WE DO ANYWAY. In case you didn't know, we are the GOOD GUYS. If this not being in a newspaper is what upsets you, than you NO LONGER GET IT. This is what the United States is all about. This is what is expected of us. This is the standard we aspire to. This is who we are.

Follow the advice of the Armed Services. Worry less about the PR, and more about what really matters. "Aim Higher."

Posted at 06:05 AM in Philosophy, Politics, War/Defense | Permalink


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you saved the world from communism? I think you (the United States) were afraid of it as a philosophy that differed so much from your own (the same could be said of your foreign policies in general) and fought against it both in 'hot' and 'cold' wars. As it happened, communism as a philosophy was so full of flaws it crumbled from within. Are you now claiming this as an American victory?

I notice your previous post was part of Bill Hicks' 'Shane' sketch. do you not think what you say in this post contradicts most of what is said in the previous post, the shane sketch being used as an analogy of the first Iraq conflict?

by the way, in conflict there are no good guys or bad guys. There are only two opposing sides.

Posted by: jason | Feb 17, 2007 10:21:33 AM

1) I hold multiple points of conflicting views at once.

2) Yes, there are good guys and bad guys -- those who murder women and children and civilians by the 1000s obn purpose by design are the very bad guys.

For most of the past few centuries, the U.S. was thought of as the good guys . . . I dunno if thats still our image after this past few years . . .

We certainly used to be the good guys . . .

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz | Feb 17, 2007 3:25:38 PM

How about we turn this around?

Every day the media covers how US troops aren't trained properly and don't know what they're doing. They torture innocent farmers, shoot civilians for fun, abuse children, and put the Koran into the toilet. Members of Congress have called soldiers in the US Armed Forces Nazis and have said that you only go into the service when you have no choice*.

*Of course, the esteemed Senators have both profusely apologized for their comments, but where does the Military go to get back their reputation.

My quick Google check found that atrocity is just as often associated with the US military as with Al Qaeda.

If that kind of behavior is what is expected, then when a soldier does something good that SHOULD be news because it is the exception according to what I see on TV. Isn't that your definition of what should be news, the exception?

With news coverage like that I don't we can truly say that everyone knows that the US military is full of good guys and gals.

What does your dream news channel cover? Does it focus only how Mother Teresa wrote a letter of support on behalf of Charles Keating? Does it skip over her good works because everybody knows she was good?

What do the polls say? What percentage of voters think that the military is a force for good? With the round the clock negative coverage, I suspect the numbers have been trending down. Of course it doesn't matter as long as it weakens Bush.

It's interesting that you rip the e-mailer for not getting it, when the media is really where the criticism should be focused. This is the same media that agreed to not report Saddam's atrocities so they could keep their Baghdad offices open. Does that sound ethical? The same media that are led to staged* atrocities that they report without skepticism.

*This is not saying everything bad was staged, but there have been enough cases that have fallen apart under further scrutiny that the media should apply the same level of doubt that they give Pres. Bush to Al Qaeda claims.

The question is why are you so incensed that someone wants to see an occasional positive news story with respect to the US military? What is the bad effect?

If good PR is so unimportant, I imagine if someone falsely accused you of unspeakable behaviors then you wouldn't bother replying or suing for libel because everyone knows your good.

Posted by: Sean | Feb 19, 2007 9:48:17 AM

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