The Fog of War and Politics

Sorry to my faithful readers for being a little late posting my column this morning…

The first I heard about the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden was when I checked my Twitter feed Sunday night. If you are like me, I check Twitter about a thousand times a day for my news. I have more Google Alerts and Twitter followers than friends…and they are nicer, too.

Soon after hearing the news, my TV was on, the laptop was on, and I was getting ready for the big announcement like most Americans.

I was proud. I was relieved. I was cautiously happy because there are so many bad people in the world that someone else will surely step up and take bin Laden’s place – but we got the sucker and being a veteran of the United States military, I am proud of my active duty buddies!

Many times when something big happens in the world there’s so much information flowing out it is almost like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant. This successful military mission has exceeded our wildest imagination in this information world.

After the President’s announcement, much of the information has become muddled. I don’t fault the military at all for this because they have certain ways of doing things (briefings, reports, etc.) and the civilian folks have their way.

By the way, they really did not have to stage (or reenact) the big announcement, either. You perform a reenactment of the Battle of Little Bighorn, not the announcement of the killing of bin Laden.

If one thing is for certain in the last few days, it is that the White House has not handled the aftermath of the successful bin Laden mission very well. That is normally what happens when non-military people are trying to explain or write about what the military does. The message got away from them and now the questions arise about what really happened. Reporters are circling like vultures and trying to get the facts. Conflicting information from U.S. officials is the norm these days.

It did not have to be that way if they would have waited, taken a deep breath, checked the facts, doubled checked the facts, and let the military experts handle the briefings. You don’t have to answer every question in the first 48 hours. It’s better than saying a few days later, “I’m not going to discuss beyond what I’ve said already the operational details” which means we’ve basically screwed this up so much my boss won’t let me comment further.

There’s also the scoring of political points in the situation. Somewhere on Sunday night or early Monday morning there was a person or two from Obama’s campaign team sending e-mails or text messages about how to get the biggest bang for the political buck out of this successful mission – like heading to Ground Zero for the first time as President.

That’s not wrong; it’s just the way it is in the political world.

Obama’s team seemed to think that someone was going to take their spotlight, so they answered questions and gave briefings when they did not have the best information. Then they had to backtrack, correct statements, and basically look like idiots during the last couple of press briefings. This whole mission was Obama’s baby and since he has not had that much success, he and his team really fumbled the ball on the way into the end zone.

President Obama decided to do an interview with 60 Minutes. From what I understand, they have already taped the segment as some of the information from that interview (not releasing the photo of the dead bin Laden) has been released. I can almost bet that some of the information he talks about is already incorrect or it is conflicting information from what we know today.

More and more information will trickle out. Here is a recently-released story with some background. In the weeks or months ahead we’ll have a pretty good idea of what really happened during the mission that took out Osama bin Laden and we’ll see exactly how the President will score his political points.

Published in: on May 5, 2011 at 9:58 am  Comments Off on The Fog of War and Politics  
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