The experience of the US (in civil wars) has been unhappy, exemplified by its ignominious retreat from Somalia in 1992 after an unprecedented media circus at the first beach landings by Special Forces some months earlier: "The eagerness for intervention in civil wars is slowly receding to the same degree that the role of the media in reporting such conflicts is coming under close scrutiny" , claims Burns. One could argue that perhaps such statement is slightly exaggerated: there may be a direct, inversely proportional relationship between media scrutiny and the 'push' for intervention, but this is not what ultimately leads governments to initiate or change a certain policy path.
The CNN alone is not responsible for the failure of institutions to deal successfully with major conflicts around the world. It could be argued that the institutions are no less successful now than they ever were, it is simply that public expectations have been raised far above the practical realities of implementation and such expectations are not always necessarily compatible with realpolitik.
No president could now go to war without a strategy for managing the news to his advantage and keeping the press from unravelling his policies and successes. According to Cheney, then Secretary of Defence, two broad principles guided the planning: first, military needs should outweigh the media 'rights' to cover the war. This meant that ensuring operational security and military convenience would be placed above ensuring press access to the battlefield and information. Second, the government must at all costs maintain its credibility with the public, which meant that, in Cheney's words, "...don't get out there making claims you can't back up" . Or, in Colin Powell's words, "[if a commander] in Desert Shield sat around in his tent and mused with a few CNN guys and pool guys and other guys, it's in 105 capitals a minute later" . The preservation of operational security appears of paramount concern here, but it is not the only concern. Political needs were placed above journalists' rights. Public support and opinion, especially in those countries more prominent in the coalition against Iraq, had to be mobilized in the desired direction by conveying a unified message through a media system that was managed so as not to allow journalists running free in the desert and reporting in a patchwork of different styles and contents. National interest seems, in the end, to be a concern which is placed above public opinion's perceptions and power to influence strategies.
Iraq's propaganda attempts backfired almost completely. Instead of turning the American public against the war, if anything they stiffened America's resolve to deal harshly with Saddam Hussein and by default contributed to America's winning the war - a war which the American administration, through the military and the media, claimed pretty much successfully from the beginning was winnable.
As for Bosnia, the public, at least to begin with, did not need to be 'mobilised' into supporting particular policies as they were non-existent. The media, it could be argued, had much more of a pro-active effect in spurring initiatives that were bound to fail as long-term, effective policies but certainly helped to raise international awareness of the Yugoslav conflicts. However, if one goes back at the late 1980s, as this paper has tried to show, the nationalistic tone of Milosevic's gatherings should have warned of the troubles ahead; when they materialised, it was perhaps 'wrong timing'. The disastrous US intervention in Somalia also put a brake on the 'superpower''s willigness to intervene in a situation where there is no clear policy to follow, and, perhaps even more importantly, where an exit strategy is missing. The Croat's successful 1995 campaign to retake Serb-held Krajina, in the end, provided the favourable circumstances for intervention; the campaign allowed for a new balance of power to emerge, which provided with new opportunities for peace and the US quickly took advantage of them, especially as Milosevic did not seem to provide any support or protection to the Krajina Serbs.
Yugoslavia, as mentioned before, did not have any strategic interests for the US after the end of the Cold War; but the processes of dissolution of states following that, in the early 1990s, may have led the US to conclude that: "Western acquiescence to Yugoslavia's disintegration into ethnically based states might serve as a precedent for ethnic groups in Russia to raise up against Moscow, risking widespread chaos in a region rich in nuclear weapons" . Intervening in Bosnia saw strategic elements, such this, being taken into consideration in the final instance: issues of national interest and international security seem of paramount are the key issues here. But it seems that only when these are threatened, in a way or another, for the long-term that military intervention, or any fundamental change in international policy during conflict, will take place.
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Newspaper articles and magazines retrieved between April and May 2002 were retrieved from a number of sources:
Media Channel at www.mediachannel.org
Media Foundation at www.adbusters.org
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom at www.cpbf.org.uk
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters at www.amarc.org
Next 5 Minutes at www.n5m.org
The maps were retrieved from www.un.org and www.fas.org