Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media on Afghanistan

The Globe & Mail profiled General Mohammed Daud Daud in this weekend's edition.

As I read the article, or the "story", I started to feel that we're falling into our old ways in dealing with Afghanistan. The US/Canada/NATO/Western approach of allowing damaged states to continue is pragmatic, and serves our interests in the short term but ultimately has failed in the past. Puppet governments, sympathetic strongmen, and deals with the devil may put a lid on a hot pot but the result is often a bigger mess to clean up later.

And reading the article, I saw that the journalistic device known as the "story" tends to encourage these arrangements.

Stories work best at times of crisis, such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait or the 9/11 attacks. A "story" is not factual, it's a relevant narrative. As such, a story doesn't get the interest of the public until a situation reaches the breaking point. Unfortunately, we don't have any type of media yet that supports allowing the type of monitoring required - that gives a persistent and constant report of progress. We need a media package that allows the public to watch such situations, that are constantly move forward at a slow boil, over long periods of time.

Now, military affairs do necessitate a certain amount of secrecy, and I don't think that governments are obliged to reveal their their secrets. But they do need to communicate overall goals and to be honest with their people as to how they're achieving them.

And ultimately, if we are intervening in situations around the globe it is our responsibility to stay current on what is happening there, and to hold our governments to best practices moving forward.

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