Retired Army Major General James B. Vaught is a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. And he’s angry at the current U.S. Special Operations Command, who he believes is way too cozy with the media.
“Get the hell out of the media!” he boomed at a recent conference on special operations/low intensity conflict sposnored by the National Defense Industrial Association. He directed those words at Admiral William H. McRaven, who is the Commander of U.S. Special Operations who had just spoken at the conference. He warned that if the cozy relationship continued, it would put missions like the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the rescue of kidnapping victims in Somalia at risk because too much operational information is being shared. Next time, “You’re going to fly in and they’re going to shoot down everybody in the helicopter. You’ve splasing this all over the media, and I flat out don’t understand that.”
McRaven responded that that was an impossible approach in this day and age. One reason he became a Navy SEAL, said McRaven, is because he had seen the classic John Wayne movie, The Green Berets.
As much as I understand the General’s sentiments, the fact of the matter is we live in a media age. And failure to play to media game—when necessary–means that you put yourself at a political disadvantage. I wish it weren’t so–but it’s true. Our armed forces fight multiple battles today, and some of the most important are in the media.