News Media as Political Booster


From time to time, I’ll recommend a news article for English teachers to use in their classrooms as an example of how language can be used to advance some impression or other.  An AP article by Lynne O’Donnell appearing in yesterday’s Providence Journal is a fine one.  Consider (emphasis added):

After two years of heavy casualties, the Afghan military is trying to retake the initiative in the war against militants with a new offensive next week against Islamic State group loyalists, an assault that will see American troops back on the battlefield working more closely with Afghan soldiers. …

The inexperienced Afghan forces have largely stalled in the fight against Islamic militants ever since most international combat troops withdrew in 2014. American forces that remained shifted to a supporting role and U.S. airstrikes diminished, letting the Afghan military take the lead in carrying out the war. …

In an acknowledgment of the deteriorating security situation, President Barack Obama last month gave a green light to a more assertive role for U.S. troops, though still short of direct combat. With that boost, Afghans are shifting back on the offensive. …

Obama’s directives, issued in June, enable the U.S. military to work alongside Afghan forces in the field on offensive missions against insurgents, though still in a non-combat role. Since 2014, their role was confined to battles in which the Taliban directly threatened U.S. and NATO forces. They also allow U.S. involvement when Afghan forces face “strategic defeat,” …

In between those quotations are details designed to justify the increased activities, such as the nature of terrorist attacks and the critical importance of the objective.  The language betrays the article as boosterism.  After President Obama led the “international combat troops” in allowing the Afghan military to “take the lead,” the situation deteriorated, so now he’s given the “green light” for a “boost” that will “retake the initiative” and shift the good guys “back on the offensive.”

It’s baloney.  Obama announced a time line to the enemy for political reasons and made the disastrous decision to remove troops prematurely, saddling an under-prepared local force with the responsibility of the complex war against dug-in zealots.  Since then 5,000 to 6,000 of those under-prepared soldiers have been killed each year, and the situation is reaching the point that even Obama can’t ignore it.

But the news media is on Obama’s side, as well as that of his chosen successor, so Americans will just have to read between the lines.

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