Can We End The Afghan War With More Press Coverage?
A new documentary, Restrepo, by intrepid war correspondents Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, chronicles the experiences of 15 men in an Afghan military outpost. The film offers viewers the perspective of the outpost’s soldiers: The cameras never leave the valley, interview generals or diplomats, or offer any perspectives not available to the soldiers themselves.
My favorite Podcast, WNYC’s “On the Media,” aired a worthwhile interview with Junger, who discusses bonding with the soldiers by, among other things, being blown up in a Humvee with them (his co-producer walked down a mountain with a broken leg).
The entire interview is worth a listen, but the bit that most intrigues me is Junger’s response to Brooke Gladstone’s question about why he does what he does:
It’s important work. You know the wars that happen in the world are tragic, often unavoidable and I think almost always stoppable. And they get stopped when the press reports on the tragedy of it sufficiently to trigger international action.
No one did anything about Liberia for years and finally U.S. forces stepped in and brought the war to a stop literally without firing a shot. Sierra Leone, likewise with the British SAS, they went in. They fought for about ten days. I don’t think they lost one soldier, and they brought that war to a stop. Bosnia, the same thing in ’95, NATO stopped that genocide, a quarter million civilians dead.
All those wars were stopped in part because of press coverage. So if you’re part of that endeavor that brings these stories to light and affects some change, for me it’s just an incredible honor to be able to do that. And there’s a risk and there’s a reward, and I very carefully monitor those two levels because I don’t want them to get skewed. But there is some good that comes out of this work which is worth a certain amount of risk. And every person calculates those two levels personally.
Two things strike me about Junger’s statement: One, in some instances, force can be used for peace; but these instances should involve a clear enemy, goal, and end game. And two, we need more reporting from war zones. Kudos to the brave journalists—like Junger and Hetherington—who are willing to show us the realities of war, up closeClick here for reuse options!
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