Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Slanted News Gimmick (von der Leyen)

Last night, I sat through a news update by Channel One (German state-run network, ARD).

The emphasis of the piece was that the German Defense Minster (Ursula von der Leyen, CDU) was in serious trouble because of the recent revelations of how bad off the logistical side of the Bundeswehr (the German military) was in.

Cracks on helicopters, fighter jets of a fifty-odd percent operational rate, Ebola help mission delayed because of plane issues, etc.  What journalists will say....wide flurry of talk now....is that the German military has stretched itself out, and the current problems are the results of bad management.

ARD went full-turbo....bringing in SPD 'experts', Green Party members, and even a Linke Party member talking up the dismal problems here.  They end the piece with this shot of von der Leyen from six months ago while at a German post in Afghanistan.....showing her in composure against a dark sky.  When the picture months ago....it was one of those things that you knew someone would revisit and use it for maximum propaganda value in the opposite direction.  It begs for abuse.

The chief target?  Merkel is in her last four years, and they all believe that Ursula von der Leyen is the one who will take up the Chancellor post in 2017.  So they need to knock her a bit.

Blame on von der Leyen?  Well...she basically took up the post around a year ago, after the election results.  The issues over bad management?  It's the same strategy in place by the Bundestag itself (doesn't matter on which party says what) that has been in place for years and years.

Here's the crux of the entire issue.  After the Berlin Wall came down and the Warsaw Pact dissolved in the late 1980s....the German government decided to go for the "peace dividend".  It's a bogus statement to such a dividend, but it's nice on paper.  So you take advantage of the situation, and let things ride out.

1998 arrives with Gerhard Schroder, the SPD Party and the Green Party.  For roughly eight years.....the dividend is continued to pay out.  Less funding for the Bundeswehr....less requirements....less troops....less expectations.  NATO can suggest otherwise, but you just set a strategy in place that shows a marginal logistical approach to military strength.

2005 ends with Chancellor Merkel and the CDU in strength.  They press with some additional funding, but they also open up the front door and start to commit to Afghanistan deployments.  Hardware gets utilized, and the lines of logistical support are stretched.  The peace dividend still works to some degree.  Why pay into a military structure, if peace is "at hand".....would be the typical German bureaucrat response when a journalist asks about funding.  The SPD guy says this....the CDU guys says this......the Green guy says this.

Toss in a dozen-odd German missions today, and some peace dividend factor, and you've got various troops and hardware that have reached some maximum operational rate with issues.

The odd thing here?  For SPD, Green and Linke Party folks to appear on camera and blast on von der Leyen.....they basically have to counter this with tax increases and the funding has to go up substantially for the German military.  They have to also be agreeable to a larger quantity of troops....which is now all-volunteer....which means recruitment needs go up.  None of the three parties can say much with a straight face because it defies their various comments of the past four decades.

The issue is that you can slant the news and tell some story with passion.....but if you throw facts into the mix.....the slant makes you look foolish.  If you don't want fifty percent of your transport aircraft sitting and waiting for maintenance or parts....then you need to spend appropriate funding.  If peace dividend talk is higher priority, fine....then learn to live with delays and excuses to the news media. It's that simple.  

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