[guest post by JVW]
Burying the lede is a common journalistic pitfall in which the most interesting aspect of a story is put in a subordinate role to a less-important aspect. It can be done as a result of ignorance on the part of the reporter and editor, but it can also be a sneaky way to insert an agenda or bias into the reporting of what are otherwise supposed to be straightforward news accounts. Running a lede paragraph stating that The Titanic set steam from Southampton six days ago as the largest, most expensive, and must luxurious cruise ship ever built and then mentioning in paragraph six that it hit an iceberg and sank would be a classic example of this sort of reporting.
Arthur Herman over at National Review Online points out today a great example in which the reader is left to wonder how much agenda and bias might have come in to play in a recent New York Times article that clearly buries the lede. Ostensibly about how the advanced weaponry and updated tactics Russia has brought to the battle against opposition groups in Syria has impressed military observers in the west, the real interesting part of the Times article comes in paragraph three:
Russia’s jets have struck in support of Syrian ground troops advancing from areas under the control of the Syrian government, and might soon back an Iranian-led offensive that appeared to be forming in the northern province of Aleppo on Wednesday. That coordination reflects what American officials described as months of meticulous planning behind Russia’s first military campaign outside former Soviet borders since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Here is what Herman of NRO notices about that paragraph:
This confirms what many of us have suspected: Moscow and Tehran were only waiting for Obama to commit himself to a nuclear deal with Iran and then present it to the Senate and the UN Security Council, before they made their joint move on Syria. “The broad outlines were decided months ago,” said Lieutenant General Richard Zahner the Army’s former top intelligence officer in Moscow. Those plans were developed in late July, to be exact, when Iranian Quds Force commander Qassim Suleimani traveled to Moscow—in other words, at the same time that Iran was negotiating the details of its nuclear deal with Obama and Kerry.
The next question is: Did the president and his foreign policy team know? The story at the time was that the White House was caught flat-footed when Putin began setting up his new military base at Latakia in Syria. This story strongly suggests otherwise, that letting the Russians and Iranians intervene to save Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and letting Putin become the new power broker in the Middle East with Russian boots on the ground and Russian fighters in the air, was part of the price Obama was willing to pay to get a deal, any deal, with the mullahs on their nuclear program. [author’s original emphasis]
By now it is clear to everyone except the most ridiculous die-hard that Obama’s Middle East policy has been disastrous, and will have a harmful effect on efforts at peace and tranquility in that region for years to come. Barack Obama didn’t invent the idea of cutting deals with adversaries to wind-down ongoing conflict, but no one has pursued it with less moral seriousness and more unearned self-regard than this President. We walk away from the battle, tail tucked between our legs, with no true allies left and no sense that our presence there ever accomplished much of anything. Yet hardly anyone in our faculty lounges or editorial conference rooms seems to notice or care. It would be one thing if Obama truly intended to wash our hands of the entire Middle East, yet key allies of the administration are pushing for the U.S. to open our doors to refugees from the same country which we have just left to be sorted out by Russia, Iran, and ISIS. It would be low comedy were it not high tragedy.