The New Greatest Generation
The generation that fought World War II has been dubbed “The Greatest Generation” (a term popularized in a book with that title authored by Tom Brokaw).
But is the generation of Americans now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan in any way inferior to the one that beat Fascism, Nazism and Japanese militarism?
The cool-headed historical assessment has be “no, American troops are as brave, heroic and humane as they have ever been.”
But that’s not the image the media present.
Bing West, a former Marine writing in the Washington Post points to the problem with the media.
Over the next nine months, Fallujah grew into the stronghold of the insurgency and the vipers’ nest for jihadists infiltrating from Syria. The fighting escalated in ferocity. Among the Marines, acts of courage became common. 1st Sgt. Brad Kasal, for instance, threw his body over a wounded Marine and shot jihadists two feet away. Cpl. Tim Connors, 20, battled inside two adjoining concrete rooms for four hours before killing five jihadists and recovering the body of a fallen squad member. So it went, day after day.Unlike the hard anti-war left, the media are not rooting for the enemy, and they don’t hate America’s soldiers. But there is still a residue of the cultural attitudes of the 60s among this generation of reporters.
Hundreds of gripping stories of valor emerged that would have been publicized in World War II. Although there are far more heroes than louts in the ranks, stories of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and now at Fallujah vastly outnumber stories of heroism and sacrifice.
Not to take anything away from The Greatest Generation, but the behavior of our soldiers today will stand scrutiny when compared to the performance of those in any past war. The focus of the press on abuse is not due to any relaxation in military discipline or social mores. Why was valor considered front-page news in 1945 and abuse considered front-page news in 2005?
To subdue hostile cities such as Fallujah, our country needs stout infantrymen such as the Marines and the paratroopers. Fed a steady diet of stories about bad conduct and deprived of models of valor, the youth of America will eventually decline to serve. As the poet Pindar wrote: “Unsung, the noblest deed will die.”
While they like military people well enough, they don’t really identify with them. Unlike the reporters who covered World War II, they think of them as some other kind of people. People who shop at Wal-Mart. People who go to church. People who never go to Starbucks.
And while they may not be actually rooting for the enemy, they can’t help knowing that bad news for America in Iraq is also bad news for George Bush.
The result is biased coverage. They aren’t happy when suicide bombers kill many Iraqis and a few Americans, but neither will they go out and dig out stories of a nation recovering from a brutal regime. Likewise, the heroism of American soldiers, ordinary Iraqis and (especially) democratic Iraqi political figures just isn’t reported.
It’s not quite like Vietnam, but it’s not much better either.