I've written on this topic a couple -- oops! -- a FEW times before here and here and here and here.
You'd be correct to guess that this is a topic near and dear to my heart.
Whether it's because I want to have an informed opinion on proposed new strategies in Iraq or Afghanistan or Lebanon, or because I want to know how things are going where my "adopted" troops are deployed, or because I want more than a sound-byte about US casualties in Afghanistan, I turn to - without fail - milblogs.
So why post about this again?
Just a few days ago, I saw the sensationalist headline from the AP (Associated Press) reporting that a US base in Afghanistan had been overrun and nine US troops killed. I went immediately to The Long War Journal website. Why? Because a US base being "overrun" sounded extraordinary. If nine US troops had been killed, something significant had happened. Why would I think that? Because our guys are really good at what they do. We do not lose nine in one day very often any more. So, I knew there was more to this story than a notable death toll.
The first clarification I found was that the Taliban attacked a remote combat outpost - one that was still under construction. And while there was a heartbreaking loss of nine of our own, the US and Afghan forces, numbering just 70, repelled a "complex attack" by 200+ Taliban fighters (some estimates put the attacking Taliban force as large as 500).
That's news. The success of the out-numbered good guys wasn't the AP headline, but it was discussed in detail at the Long War Journal and it was the emphasis of another milblog report here. Hat Tip on that second write-up goes to Mrs G's Dawn Patrol (I now have a link at the top of my blog to the Dawn Patrol so that you'll be reminded to peruse her latest round-up of milblog-type reporting on the web on a regular basis).
The thing I've learned is that you can't rely on the major news outlets (print, web or TV) for good war reporting because their coverage is inconsistent at best. But that's okay, because we're fortunate to have a lot of volunteers and a bunch of new professionals dedicating their time to consistent reporting. That consistency is crucial to providing adequate context for the latest blaring headline or sound byte on the evening news.
If you're as appreciative as I am of these alternate news sources, considering donating to keep these folks up and running:
The Long War Journal and Public Multimedia, Inc (donations are tax-deductible!)
The Mudville Gazette [home of Greyhawk and Mrs. G]
The daily and ultimate sacrifices made by our troops and their families are not for nothing. Our troops are accomplishing terrific things around the world, and we wouldn't be nearly as well informed about their endeavors without the efforts of milbloggers and independent journalists covering the wars.
My thanks to them all. Again.