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And the next war? Military action on the Korean peninsula seems more likely now than it has in decades. The situation throughout the Middle East remains unpredictable. The United States currently has troops stationed in about 70 countries. They are engaged in combat roles in a number of them. That it’s impossible to say exactly how many is a testament to another structural problem the news industry faces—much of this activity is secret, and it’s hard to report on wars when no one will tell you where they are. If any of these potential occasions of strife blew up into a major conflict, the news media would find itself in an all-too-familiar spot. (Forget about Mali and Somalia: How many reporters speak Korean?) There will be another war somewhere at some point. The only certainty, for those who report the news as well as those who consume it, is that much of what we learn at first will be wrong.
Meanwhile, the reporting challenge today that, to me, seems most comparable to that of Vietnam or Iraq is not a military conflict at all. It is the man in the Oval Office. The presidency of Donald Trump confronts the media with all the familiar wartime woes, and on a wartime scale: Officials at every level who lie as a matter of course; events that unfold like surprise attacks; a cascade of urgent news that seems to change by the second; a fog of confusion that no epistemology could dispel. When I brought up this comparison with Tom Ricks, he said, “It resonates psychologically. The fatigue, the dull mental ache, the sense of being shackled to a never-ending fight. I keep on wondering how the White House reporters handle it. Trump’s tweets remind me of incoming mortar fire—never quite predictable, and sometimes quite scary.”
In some ways, the Trump presidency may prove harder to cover effectively than Vietnam or Iraq. For one thing, the field of operations involves the entire U.S. government. For another, the very idea of reality seems up for grabs. In Vietnam and Iraq, there was an economy of truth, sometimes a deliberate distortion of it, often a wish that it might be other than it was—but not an assault on the very idea of truth, as there is now. That aside, the sheer volume of news items—five or six damning stories every day that would each have sunk a Jimmy Carter—lessens the impact of any single piece of it. (“Their time horizons were short. Their focus was narrow.”)
But for whatever reason, something feels different. News organizations of all kinds—newspapers, magazines, and web sites especially—are on a war footing, mounting big investigations and asking big questions, independent of the daily churn. There is another Big Story to be written, and it may have a better ending this time.
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Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/03/iraq-war-anniversary/555989/