US Media Loves War 'Experts' Who Always Get It Wrong

On Jonathan Schell: Who almost always gets it right

In a recent post, I pointed out that, when it comes to America's wars, you can't afford to be right. I suggested that those who had foreseen disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan should logically be celebrated in this country and "should be in the Rolodexes of every journalist reporting on American foreign policy, the Iran crisis, or our wars." But, I asked, "When was the last time you heard from one of them or saw one spotlighted?"

The interviewee in today's TomDispatch post is a case in point. When it comes to being right, there may be no journalist, analyst, or writer who has been more on target than Jonathan Schell, whether on Vietnam, the Nixon White House (and its early cult of executive power), nuclear weapons, the Afghan War, or the invasion of Iraq. His is a remarkable and remarkably unblemished record. If you want to know what to expect from the latest in American war, who better to go to than the man who was never wrong?

Now that a possible war with Iran is regularly in the news, every week reporters are scrambling to check in with "experts" who couldn't have been more mistaken when it came to the invasion of Iraq. Who else should you ask in Washington, where "wrong" is the ticket to media success, a guarantee that your opinion will have value?

As for right? Well, just how many calls a week do you imagine Jonathan Schell gets from reporters wanting his opinion on the latest in American war.


Of course, give the media credit. Schell's record does have a blemish. He wrote a book called The Unconquerable World (and in a world of full disclosure and with great pride let me add that, in my other life as a book editor, I edited it). As TomDispatch Associate Editor Andy Kroll points out in an interview with Schell ("How Empires Fall, Including the American One"), in that volume Schell essentially foresaw the path that would lead to both Tahrir Square and Zuccotti Park, but -- and here's the blemish -- he didn't know that. So when those events unfolded, he was as startled as the rest of us. Still, we at TomDispatch thought it our duty to step out of line, do the unpopular thing, and ask someone who has a record for being right, not wrong, about the present moment and how we got to it.

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