Alastair Horne, author of “Savage War of Peace” has an interesting blog piece in today’s Spectator in praise of the late “Stormin Norman Schwarzkopf. In it he touches on a subject dear to my heart: the strategic challenges presented to military leaders by the modern 24 hour media:
I asked Schwarzkopf what had been his biggest headache in the war? He replied instantly: ‘The media.’ It was, he explained, ‘a management problem; in Vietnam, we had 80 press, and news came on TV 36 hours later; in the Gulf we had 2,060 – and instantaneous TV – how do you control such a huge number?’ In 1990 he had ‘switched off all TVs in my HQ,’ If there were heavy losses, ‘I didn’t want it to get into the brain cells of my staff – better to rely on their own instantaneous judgments than Stateside experts, often giving wrong assessments.’
I asked him what might have happened if there had been CNN on Omaha Beach, that first bloody day of June 6 1944? He replied simply: ‘There would have been no D-Day plus 2.’
This reminded me of the spoof CNN D-day story that briefly became an internet meme in 2003 or 4. Inspired by some of the more egregious Iraq war coverage, it was written by one William Mayer and titled: Tragic French Offensive Stalled on Beaches (Normandy, France June 6 1944). You can read it here or here.