There was a moment at today's final first-day session of The Washington Center's Top Secret seminar that crystallized for me the media and military relationship.
One of my small-group students, Dana Hackley, who is working on her doctorate in communication at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, asked Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster about any similarities he saw in the media coverage of the Vietnam War to that of Iraq.
Now, before I go any further, let me make something clear -- I am not criticizing the military, nor am I attempting to introduce a kind-of back door ripping of it. (And don't you try to do that either.)
Her question allowed me to instantly flashback to a McCormick Foundation report from 2005 that examined the media-military relationship. (There also are plenty of more academic works that you can find on the Web as you attempt to learn more about this complex relationship.)
The premise of her question stemmed from a comment Brig. Gen. McMaster made at the beginning of his remarks, when he noted -- and I am paraphrasing poorly here (my notes from this morning are not complete) -- that all wars have similar characteristics. Needless to say, Hackley -- a former television journalist -- (and I) jumped on the potential for there to be a media angle to this comment.
Brig. Gen. McMaster delivered an eloquent answer, examining some of the lessons learned from Vietnam and its similarities to Iraq. But he never acknowledged the media in his response.
He then asked one of his co-panelists, Dr. Mark Moyar, who is a professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University, to add whatever additional comments he wanted. He did, and he, too, said nothing about the media.
I reiterate, I am not criticizing either man. They and their two other colleagues delivered a compelling discussion of military operations in this ever-changing world. Rather, I am noting that this former journalist and current journalism educator found it interesting to hear what was not said as much as I heard what was said.
1st UPDATE: 8:55 p.m. EDT: And on a much more serious note, Connecticut's attorney general, who is running for the U.S. Senate, appears to have embellished (more than once) his military record. Now, this is a man who didn't "not answer the question," but he is a man who didn't tell the truth about his past.