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 issuesit raises over at Small Wars Journal. West manages to present some verythorny and potentially explosive issues passionately but not stridently(quite a feat these days), keeping the piece both thoughtful andthought-provoking. Mostly light, with just enough heat (and in theright places) to make it resonate. I’m not quite sure I agree with his answers, but he’s asking the right questions.

West addresses two aspects of Rosen’s “embed” that had occurred to mewhen I read the piece. First, that he was basically agreeingto the possibility and even the likelihood of accompanying hostile forces as they conducted operations against American troops. Second, that he accepted the terms ofthe embed, which depended on his guides being subject to a family-widedeath threat to secure his safety. The latter is, to my mind, aclearcut ethical lapse. The former lies in what even West concedes is aethical-legal gray area.

I held off making those criticisms in my remarks at the time,because I was unsure about what was driving the negativereaction I had to the piece. As an armchair analyst, I felt reluctantto engage in kneejerk criticism of what, despite the ethical grayareas, remains an incredibly dangerous and gutsy field assignment. There’s alsothe question of what role the press plays in times of war, and whether it is, in fact,above and beyond the ethical and legal issues that proscribe othercitizens.

I don’t have any definitive answers. If you have any thoughts on the matter, feel free to weigh in via email.