Monday, March 20, 2006

Peace with honor

Asked my best source in the newspaper biz to estimate the average age of editorial page editors for the major newspapers and syndicates. My souce puts it at about 50, probably a bit higher.


Depressing to think about the fact that the world is now run by the Baby Boomers with a bunch of Gen Xers as their right hand men and women. The Boomers are the big bosses and the Gen Xers are the next level of management below but rising fast.

The Worst Generation Ever, having spent its 10 or so years at the top of the ladder attempting to undo everything accomplished by the Greatest Generation, is about to be succeeded by the Most Useless Generation Ever.

But to pull back from the brink of despair to the newspaper business (on the brink of disaster as Nancy Nall can tell you).

The biggest newspapers' editorial boards are run by and are full of Boomers. People who could have voted for McGovern. People who but for the grace of college deferments, fortunate lottery numbers, obliging doctors, or, in some cases, a missing chromosome, would have spent the end of their teenage years wet up to the knees in rice paddies in Southeast Asia.

Some of them did spend the end of their teenage years wet up to their knees in rice paddies.

You would think then that anybody from that demographic or who had a big brother from that demographic and watched that brother anxiously watching the mail for a letter that began Greetings would be looking at what's happening in Iraq, listening to the President say Stay the Course, and be wondering if they were having another long-delayed acid flashback.

You would think that anyone who'd had a real draft card would have their arms fall off before they'd type something like this (emphasis added by me):

Bush has painted himself and this country into a dangerous corner from which no exit is in sight, save more years of bloodshed and misery in Iraq on the one hand or, on the other, a hasty U.S. departure that would dishonor America and leave Iraqis to cope with the tragedy visited upon them.

I suppose that could have been written by a precocious Gen Y wizkid for whom Henry Kissinger might as well be Don Kessinger who might as well be Adrian Messenger, and whoever that is was probably a secondary character in a mediocre episode of the Simpsons. Which is only an excuse if you believe that a knowledge of history isn't essential to an editorial writer for a major newspaper chain. That's from an editorial from the McClatchy newspaper chain, by the way.

As Greg Mitchell reports in Editor and Publisher, the editorial writers of the bigger and more important papers and chains have come around to admitting the War in Iraq is a disaster. But that doesn't mean they have concluded that it's time to get out. In fact, as Mitchell says, they haven't been able to bring themselves to conclude anything. He writes:

...the editorial boards of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Knight Ridder collective and others appear to be as clueless about what to do as are Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mitchell says these editors are aware that we need to get out but they can't bring themselves to say it. So their only hope is that there will soon come a "turning point"---something will happen that will allow us to declare a victory and go home.

And it looks to me that that something is the creation of an Iraqi goverment we can hand things over to and then leave in the lurch.

An editor for Knight-Ridder wrote:

We helped make this mess; we have a moral obligation to try to leave Iraq in one piece.

And the New York Times says:

For the present, our goal must be to minimize the damage, through the urgent diplomacy of the current ambassador and forceful reminders that American forces are not prepared to remain for one day in a country whose leaders prefer civil war to peaceful compromise.

It's easy. We hand them the keys to the country, give them a good stern talking to about the proper running of a democracy, remind them that the owner's manual's in the glove compartment, and buzz off. And then when what we can now admit is a Civil War, because we're not holding the pink slip on it anymore so what do we care, tears the new goverment to pieces, we can tut tut and shake our heads and say, Well, we warned them.

After that, we can all go about the business of forgetting the names of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and George Bush so that thirty years from now graying Gen Y editorial writers can tut tut about how we can't just pull out of the war on Mars.

Peace with honor.

Mitchell quotes one Boomer who did spend some time in the rice paddies of Vietnam. He doesn't work for any newspapers though. He's a United State Senator from Nebraska. Chuck Hagel.

And this mindless kind of banter about, well, if we leave, the whole place falls apart; we can’t leave; we can’t even think about leaving. Wait a minute: You just showed on your screen the cost to the American people of the last three years. It’s helping bankrupt this country, by the way. We didn’t think about any of that and not just the high cost of lives and the continuation of that but our standing in the world.

Thanks to Susie Madrak for the link.


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