The Media And The Military: A Tale Of Modern Love
In today's New York Times, there is an article titled "For Pentagon and News Media, Relations Improve With a Shift in War Coverage," in which we learn that the press and the Pentagon are back in love with one another. Such good news! And really, it's a story that deserves to be captured in a more lofty manner. A story of reconciliation and romance. A story that would fit well as the paper of record's Sunday overshare, the "Modern Love" column. We have thus rewritten it for consideration.
It had been a long hard slog.
That's the best way I can describe the past four years, spent trying to transform any number of furtive trysts with the Pentagon into something sustaining. Something meaningful. Something other than an anguished relationship with a parade of lovers whom I had hoped to welcome as liberators, only to find myself mired within an intractable parade of bedside recriminations and regret.
The story was always the same: the "he" was always fighting the war. I just wanted to cover it. And so, we had always found one another out of convenience, out of need, falling headlong into the heady sweat of the quivering, pulsating now. The things we could do for one another were pre-eminent in our thoughts. He could provide me with the information I needed, I could bravely submit to the larger goal. Our purpose would be a grand one. There were warnings, sure: When Shinseki told me, point blank, that he simply didn't think he'd be provided the right amount of resources to make our relationship successful, I discounted him, dumped him: "You just don't have the guts to seize this moment, to tame the ragged heart of this world and deliver it to me in terms that my readers can easily digest."
Pessimism was not an option. I had a mission to accomplish. And so I took up that mission with abandon, embedding myself with a string of lovers that would always first take where I wanted to go. To see what I wanted to see. Something heroic. Something sublime. We made hasty advances without covering our rear guard. Felled the resisting armies that blocked our hearts' true course with an alacrity that left me punch-drunk. Under the night sky, enmeshed in a desert heat that brought forth our commingled perspiration, they would always reach deep within, plucking out my insecurities from the spiderholes in my psyche where I had buried them.
But as time went on, my individual strengths of observation stayed keen. Too keen, as it turned out. There was a rot that I couldn't ignore. His indifference to the plunder I saw going on around me. The growing sense that sectarian conflict was always at the gates of our green zone of contentment filled me with worry--while he was too blithe about it. And when a colleague of his revealed an outre side to his teeming lusts - something about a pyramid of bound, naked Muslim men - he was quick to condemn his friend, but something beneath the surface told me that he found the idea a little kinky. Maybe a lot kinky.
Time passed. Lovers--Rumsfeld, Sanchez, Pace--came and went. Yet in our bedroom, during the war, a familiar conversational refrain was heard.
"You're just not giving me what I need! You're being corrosive and partisan. Why can't you focus on the good news?" he would ask.
"Show me the good news! Show me something hopeful! I have a duty to the world outside, to tell them what I know!"
"We are making the world outside a better place," he would counter. "Do you want to be a part of that? Do you want to help find a solution? Or just make me look bad?"
"That's unfair! I can only report what I see happening on the ground."
"These problems between us...they are in their last throes, baby! You'll see! In a few more months--maybe a couple of Friedman units, tops--things will be different."
"Can you promise me this?"
"Can I promise you? No. Do I feel that we're doing the right thing? Yes. Do I worry that maybe you aren't doing your part? More and more."
"Why do you always do that?"
"Respond to my concerns with a brainless series of Socratic questions that you answer yourself!"
I had reached a breaking point. Withdrawal, I thought, was the answer. I was going to cut and run. Get the hell out. Bring the troops of my affections home at last, to preserve the world I'd left behind.
But that's when I met...him. Petraeus. He was different. The officials around me spoke of him in hushed tones and with a reverence I had never heard before. He was, to my mind, something of a folk hero. No nonsense, but with a salt-of-the-earth graciousness that surrounded him like a halo of certainty and perfection. "Armo virumque cano," thought I, my head filled to the brim with cascading desires that erupted in epic, dactylic hexameter poetry.
He seemed to seize the world in his muscled fist, and me along with it. "What you need, more than anything else, is security, darling. You need some space. You need the opportunity to find some reconciliation. So you and I are going to surge..."
And surge we did. I had never felt so reinforced, My doubts, so strong a counter-insurgency before, faded away. I began to feel as if I could walk arm in arm with a lover again without feeling like I had to don protective Kevlar, dodge the next roadside bomb. For a long while, there was normalcy, increased safety, and seeming hope for a future. And I gave these things commensurate coverage and a more positive tenor. The thoughts of withdrawal left me, as well as the thought of treating those who still favored it fairly. This was our time. This was our surge. I was going to enjoy it.
But the problem with a full-blown surge of new love and new hope is that eventually, like passion, it starts to fade. And as it did, I began to feel that the solace I had gained might have been an empty, temporary one. Nothing lasts forever, they say. Were the resources Petraeus had brought to bear going to ebb? What if the promise of reconciliation never came. What if the tensions I had previously felt had merely been moved to a new region? Swept under the rug? Had I been blinded to the truth? Worn down by relentless accusations of bias? Had Petraeus...betrayed me? I finally had to confront him.
"This thing between us," I stammered, "It'll end in tears, won't it?"
He drew me into a tight embrace, "No, no. Don't worry about these things. End in tears? Baby, this war will never end."
And in that moment, I knew that I would feel this joy for a hundred years!