Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The disasters that don’t happen

I was on a panel last night in Manhattan with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the bane of the New York media, and Alex de Waal. McCaffrey was his usual interesting self. Darfur expert De Waal made a comment that struck me: When catastrophe is averted — famine, civil war, genocide — the media tends to ...

587857_090311_85254869_res2.jpg
587857_090311_85254869_res2.jpg

I was on a panel last night in Manhattan with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the bane of the New York media, and Alex de Waal. McCaffrey was his usual interesting self. Darfur expert De Waal made a comment that struck me: When catastrophe is averted -- famine, civil war, genocide -- the media tends to shrug and ignore the good outcome. The implication, I think, is that successes tend to be neglected while failures are overemphasized, and bureaucrats and diplomats wind up looking more incompetent than they are. I think he is right. As of this morning I don't have any good ideas about how the media might do better in this area, but I'd be interested in suggestions.

De Waal also was quite critical of the International Criminal Court's issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Nothing good will come of it, he said, if I am summarizing his views correctly.

I was on a panel last night in Manhattan with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the bane of the New York media, and Alex de Waal. McCaffrey was his usual interesting self. Darfur expert De Waal made a comment that struck me: When catastrophe is averted — famine, civil war, genocide — the media tends to shrug and ignore the good outcome. The implication, I think, is that successes tend to be neglected while failures are overemphasized, and bureaucrats and diplomats wind up looking more incompetent than they are. I think he is right. As of this morning I don’t have any good ideas about how the media might do better in this area, but I’d be interested in suggestions.

De Waal also was quite critical of the International Criminal Court’s issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Nothing good will come of it, he said, if I am summarizing his views correctly.

ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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