Wittingly or unwittingly, at least two major U.S. news networks are conducting a major information operation in support of the Israel-Lebanon War.
All morning, MSNBC and CNN have been broadcasting footage of Israeli tanks and troops forming up on Lebanon's southern border. (I haven't been watching Fox, for all I know they're doing the same thing.) On scene reporters and analysts are describing how engineering units are moving up, ostensibly to clear away any mine fields or other obstructions prior to the launch of an assault, raid or full scale invasion.
A number of things could be going on here, none of which bode well for the post conflict analysis of the news networks' ethical behavior.
It may be that the network is broadcasting these images and information without Israel's knowledge or permission. If that's the case, they are providing real time tactical intelligence on Israel's movements and intentions to Hezbollah. But I think it highly unlikely that Israel hasn't given the networks to make footage of its troop movements, or that the networks would know anything about deployment of engineers and other details that the Israeli's haven't told them.
I find it even less likely that the Israelis are dumb enough not to realize that their enemy is seeing and hearing everything broadcast on U.S. network television.
A more probable scenario is that the Israelis are using the networks as part of an overall psychological and/or deception operation. In that case, the networks have in effect made themselves a part of the Israeli Defense Force. And make no mistake, there's a huge difference between reporting on operations that have already taken place and operations that are about to. The former is journalism. The latter is an essential element of modern war fighting.
It could be that the cable news giants are simply trying to report news, and don't realize what they're doing. But I find that a little hard to accept as well. I'm not familiar with CNN's stable of military experts, but it is inconceivable to me that MSNBC's Jack Jacobs, Rick Francona and the rest of them don't understand the implications of what's going on. Is anybody going to the senior producers and network executives and asking, "Hey, what are we doing here?"
I hope so, because at the end of the day, a whole lot of people will look back on this and notice that major U.S. media outlets picked a side in a war that America, in theory, is not a party to.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.