General Stanley McChrystal and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele have something in common. Both men took a lot of heat recently for their comments on Afghanistan. Though many seek to chastise them for their off-putting rhetoric and poor word choice they should be thanked for one thing: getting our attention homed in on one of the most critical wars of our time.
Until now the media has covered the war in Afghanistan as background chatter to the more sizzling and sexy news of the day. Many newspapers lack the resources to send reporters to the region for quality, in depth coverage, and many who are put on the foreign affairs beat have been distracted with issues in North Korea, Israel, Gaza, Iran, Greece and the war in Iraq.
Covering a war, especially a long war, is also a tough job. Members of the media would rather write about Bill Clinton, bailouts or Blago. When it comes to covering McChrystal, it was easy to write the “he resigned” piece. It was also fascinating to reporters that one of their own in the press took him down.
As for Steele, the left leaning mainstream media is always looking for ways to exacerbate GOP party infighting or capitalize on a Republican misstep for as many media cycles as they can. So covering the controversy, even on a holiday weekend, was welcomed.
Now that both news cycles have passed, take a look at the papers. They’re back to chasing Lindsay Lohan, the saga of LeBron James and Russian spy swaps. But for short snapshot in our chaotic, cluttered news cycle, the media and opinion pages were focused on Afghanistan – what I call "the new Forgotten War."
Thanks to McChrystal and Steele, we were finally asking legitimate questions about our goals in the country, how we define winning and whether or not Obama is committed to his timeline for troop withdrawl. The debate shifted from whether Obama should keep the General to a more important question: was McChrystal right?
At long last, the suffocating levels of micro-management, also known as "Rules of Engagement," that are making our troops the most unsafe on the battlefield had finally been exposed, as were the troublesome rifts between the diplomats on the ground and our military leaders.
While both men caused many to shake their head in disbelief, agreement, or disdain, I don't think that Steele or General McChrystal is a "stay-at-home" traitor, nor do I think either one was trying obstruct the war effort.
While their method of message delivery was side-swiped clumsily into our consciousness with a figurative wrecking ball than nicely placed into our laps wrapped in a Tiffany box, they moved the national conversation to the war, where it needs to go with regularity.
This cannot be a half-hearted measure nor should it devolve into a fight with ill-defined goals. It’s up to the government to focus on this war, up to the media to follow this war, and it’s up to us as citizens of this great nation to hold them to it. Our most precious treasure, our military, deserves our full attention. It shouldn't take a scandal to give it to them.