The crises of 2011 have underlined how media time stretches real time. The duration of an event in the public mind is a function of the total length of all broadcasts about that event. The relentless focus of cameras and commentators can make rapidly evolving circumstances appear to move at a glacial pace. Consider this: it took nearly half a year after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, for the first bombs to rain down on Iraqi troops. Kuwait was overrun on August 2, 1990, and the American-led response, Operation Desert Storm, commenced only on January 17, 1991. Few people accused President George Bush of reacting too slowly, but then the twenty-four hour news cycle was in its infancy, and real time matched media time fairly closely.
When the US itself was targetted on September 11, 2001, its response was, naturally, quicker. The assault on the Taliban regime commenced 27 days after the World Trade Centres were destroyed. The reaction to the current Libyan crisis unfolded at much the same pace. The first major protests in Tripoli took place in mid-February, and Operation Freedom Falcon began on 19 March. In that time, both the Arab League and the United Nations, organisations not celebrated for decisiveness or alacrity, passed resolutions authorising military intervention. I cannot think of any purely internal disturbance or civil strife that has elicited a concerted international armed response in a comparable span of time. Yet, President Obama was censured for ‘dithering’ and ‘dilly-dallying’ by critics on the Left, Right and Centre (Sarah Palin, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Eliot Spitzer and Christopher Hitchens among them). By the end of March, pundits were mourning the failure of air strikes to dislodge Colonel Gaddafi, and either urging stronger action or questioning the entire operation. In real time, they came across like petulant children in the backseat of a car asking, five minutes after leaving home, “Are we there yet?”
Read the full thing. I also loved this sentence:
It might seem the Indian government acted quickly to defuse the Anna Hazare threat, but that was only because the solution involved appointing a committee.