Debating War, Corporate Media Style

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As the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has expanded control over territory in Iraq and Syria, a growing chorus of politicians and pundits are demanding the Obama administration take more forceful military action. ISIS’s gruesome beheadings of two American journalists have only increased those calls, leading some to compare the media frenzy to the run-up to the Iraq War.

Prominent pro-Iraq pundits continue showing up as experts–for example, discredited war booster William Kristol recently appeared on CNN (9/3/14)–demonstrating once again that advocating for the invasions that contributed to the present chaos does not seem to affect one’s standing in corporate media.

Indeed, the discussions about what Obama should do lean heavily towards former military and national security insiders, which inevitably produces a “debate” not over the wisdom of military strikes, but over how big a war the United States should be waging.

On ABC‘s This Week (8/31/14), anchor Martha Raddatz first convened a discussion between Dick Clarke–who “directed counterterrorism efforts at the highest levels for several administrations”–and former deputy secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute.

The next panel was former military officials:

Col. Steven Ganyard is a former Marine Corps fighter pilot and State Department official. And Adm. Robert Harwood is a former deputy commander of US Central Command that covers all these areas.

CBS‘s Face the Nation, unsurprisingly, led with an interview with hawkish Sen. John McCain. On NBC‘s Meet the Press (8/31/14), Andrea Mitchell introduced her panel:

For more on the military options for taking on ISIS, I’m joined by Michael Leiter, NBC national security analyst, who served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center; Michele Flournoy, who served as under secretary of Defense for policy in President Obama’s first term, and she’s now executive director at the Center for New American Security, and Gen. Anthony Zinni, our former commander-in-chief of US Central Command, and special envoy to the Middle East.

Elsewhere on the show, NBC correspondent Richard Engel was asked about the White House’s reluctance to bomb Syria:

Well, I speak to military commanders. I speak to former officials. And they are apoplectic. They think that this is a clear and present danger. They think something needs to be done.

When the range of discussion consists primarily of current and former military officials, along with boosters of the Iraq War, it’s impossible to have an actual debate.