The role of the media is critical in nearly every walk of life now because of its expanse especially in the last decade. The media has grown into such a powerful tool of communication and influence that it has now become an integral part of the wars that are being fought e.g. The War on Terror or the U.S. intervention in Iraq. The reason behind the media being such an integral part of the international wars is because the world is now a global village where to preserve the right image and intentions in fighting or winning a war it is important to win the opinions and the support of the global community. Even though most media outlets aim to present both sides of the story, many journalists agree that the pattern has always been the formation of an opinion that is inclined towards one side more so then the other.
The importance of media in winning the wars is perhaps best understood by the United States. The post-Cold War era, where they had to conduct war tactics in Somalia, Kosovo, Haiti and Afghanistan, were all conflicts that weren't just defended out on the battlefield but had to also be defended consistently up at the political front. The media was hence given enough leverage and power to become a part of the medium that allowed the political parties to stand up and defend their actions for the global community.
It cannot be denied that the media poses an unbiased and balanced approach towards reporting the incidence of wars and conflict nevertheless their reporting has a definite influence on the overall public opinion that is formed within the global community. Furthermore, there are many programs on the mediums of television and radio that are framed around the promotion of certain activities over others in the long run. For example there have been many programs based on the necessity, justification and extent of torture tactics that can or can't be used within the dynamics of war. Another example is the use of pictures depicting the joy that the people of Baghdad felt on April 9, 2003 when the war had in some ways ended. It could have also been easy to report that the actual battle wasn't really over and there was still a lot of bloodshed in the region but the picture that the media wanted to convey to the world was that the political loss of the battle was a relief to many natives who found celebration in the end of it.
Role of Media in the U.S. intervention in Iraq:
It is important to note here that the international media outlets cannot be efficiently or accurately broken down into different parts. Even though the media is a varied body of instruments, all of the instruments are interconnected and includes various frameworks that are political in nature, culturally diverse, commercial corporations that control the market as well as the advertisers that sponsor the media. This is perhaps one of the main reasons that the representation of facts as well as the influence of media on the public opinion regarding the war in Iraq has not been completely impartial.
It is also important to note here that the negative media coverage that the United States' government had to face during the Iraq intervention was anticipated by many because of the massive embedding of reporters and troops in the area. This allowed the media to bring a personal opinion into the situation because the embedded reporters were witnessing and going through what the natives of the region were going through. Hence, the fear and the insecurity of the situation was the denominator between the natives and the embedded reporters.
This level of freedom and access was granted to the media irrespective of the high probability of the negative projections that could be openly discussed. The overall disastrous situations and the distaste of many of the soldiers that were sent to Iraq was another negative report that the media highlighted on the global screens which aided in the formation of the negative public opinion. A great example of this was published in the Washington Post when Lieutenant General William Wallace was interviewed and asked to asses the situation he was in charge of. The Lieutenant said that in his opinion this entire exercise was being conducted against an enemy that was "different from the one we war-gamed against."
However, that wasn't what the Department of Defense's Office of General Counsel reported in May 1999 on the state and reasoning behind the similar attacks like the one made on Iraq:
Enemy military forces are declared hostile. They may be attacked at will, along with their equipment and stores. Civilians and civilian property that make a direct contribution to the war effort may also be attacked, along with objects whose damage or destruction would produce a military advantage because of their nature, location, purpose, or use.... Civilian media generally are not considered to be lawful military targets, but circumstances may make them so. In both Rwanda and Somalia, for example, civilian radio broadcasts urged the civilian population to commit acts of violence against members of other tribes, in the case of Rwanda, or against UN-authorized forces providing humanitarian assistance, in the case of Somalia. When it is determined that civilian media broadcasts are directly interfering with the accomplishment of a military force's mission, there is no law of war objection to using the minimum necessary force to shut them down. The extent to which force can be used for purely psychological operations purposes, such as shutting down a civilian radio station for the sole purpose of undermining the morale of the civilian population, is an issue that has yet to be addressed authoritatively by the international community."
The fact of the matter is the medium of all media activities is human and every individual has the right to have and express their opinion on situations around them. hence, the entire approach of the Department of Defense that was taken through the above statement was again severely criticized in the media and the global community. This was so because every statement made above was conflicted by the reports that most of the embedded reporters were presenting on the news on the line of attack and the war tactics that were being employed within Iraq and the number of innocents who were facing the consequences of these tactics. The increase in the importance and dependence on the mediums and channels of media allows the journalists to pose harsh criticisms on the approach employed in Iraq as well as present hard facts that may or may not damage the image of the U.S. government in the short or long run. This of course does stand true for only the embedded reporters but also stands effectively true for most of the media analysts and political assessors.
Ralph Peters is perhaps one of the advocates of the media and its power in the modern world and he after analyzing the condition prevalent in Iraq after the withdrawal of troops from Fallujah in April-May 2004 explains the overall that media authority that media has in the result of the military activities in the following words:
The [U.S.] Marines in Fallujah weren't beaten by the terrorists and insurgents, who were being eliminated effectively and accurately. They were beaten by al-Jazeera.... The media [are] often referred to off-handedly as a strategic factor. But we still don't fully appreciate [their] fatal power.... In Fallujah, we allowed a bonanza of hundreds of terrorists and insurgents to escape us -- despite promising that we would bring them to justice. We stopped because we were worried about what already hostile populations might think of us. The global media disrupted the U.S. And Coalition chains of command.... We could have won militarily. Instead, we surrendered politically and called it a success. Our enemies won the information war. We literally didn't know what hit us. The Fallujah stalemate demonstrates that the neutral status that the press enjoys in conflicts is far removed from neutrality in any normative sense. The question then becomes whether this is an appropriate circumstance, whether it is sustainable, and what are the likely implications?"
Another impact that the media had on the U.S. government tactics was adding the pressure on coming true to their promise of withdrawing the U.S. troops from Iraq once they had liberated and freed the Iraqi of the oppressive governments that had ruled them in the past. Yet throughout the entire conflict, Channels like CNN, BBC and FNC were all comparing the prior activities of the U.S. government when most conflicts fought on the name of liberation were contradicted by the disrespectful destruction of statuettes and local structures. However, again they were able to twist all that negativity as a point if closure and celebration when they positively reported that the war in Iraq was over with the destruction of Hussein's statue at…