There is an inherent tension between the press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment and a global interventionist foreign policy that places a premium on secrecy, rapid execution, and lack of public dissent, writes Ted Galen Carpenter in The Captive Press: Foreign Policy Crises and the First Amendment.
Carpenter contends that a high priority of the national security bureaucracy is to manipulate or obstruct the news media, thereby thwarting critical coverage of military and foreign policy initiatives. The government's restrictions on the press during the Persian Gulf War, and the outright exclusion of journalists during the most important stages of the Grenada and Panama invasions, represent especially flagrant examples of the government's "iron fist" tactics. Concerted campaigns to impugn the patriotism and integrity of journalists who file stories critical of Washington's foreign policy have also been waged with disturbing frequency.
Most insidious and corrosive of all, Carpenter contends, is the attempt by officials to entice journalists to be members of the foreign policy team rather than play their proper role as skeptical monitors of government conduct. All too often, members of the media have succumbed to such appeals and have become little more than cheerleaders for dubious foreign policy initiatives. That was clearly the case during the Gulf war and, until disaster struck and produced sober second thoughts, the intervention in Somalia.
Carpenter argues that while freedom of the press has not been killed in action during the many international crises of the 20th century, it has been seriously wounded. One of most important tasks of the post-Cold War era is to restore it to health.