Going back to Silverstein’s August rant on the roundtable, there is one very key paragraph that should move readers away from sharing Silverstein’s angst and move them into the real world:
Axe said that he values being put in touch with deployed military officers, who are almost impossible to reach otherwise. Furthermore, there are no restrictions put on what questions can be asked during the calls.
We’ve done this dance before, Ken (and here). As much as David is frustrated at personal requests being unfulfilled, and I can sympathize because I have several requests in the hopper as well, the fact is Dave hit the nail on the head, and to your credit Ken, you reported it.
For example, while I have had the opportunity to meet then-Brigadier General Doug Stone in person before, talking to now-Major General Stone twice in the last six weeks on topics very important to my research, publications, and, oh right, blog, would not have happened otherwise or without significant challenge. He and others have been very, well there have been exceptions, forthcoming with information. You’d be surprised with how open they are. Walter Pincus seemed to like the results of Roundtable. One of my questions for Stone, for example, was on robots, which rolled into my blog, my research, and to a colleague also doing research on warbots.
As I noted before, even State’s people and State-related projects (such as this one, transcript (pdf), a call I participated in but did not blog about for lack of time on my part) appear on the Roundtable. Why? Because there’s no where else for them to go. The Roundtable gives us direct access to ask our questions of the horses’ mouths, so to speak. As time allows, we can ask two or three questions as we go "round the table".
Going to alternatives, consider State. Their outreach program is aimed overseas and is about telling the story like Silverstein seems to think is happening here. Perhaps Silverstein would prefer that the Roundtable was less interrogative and more like State’s DipNote narration? Either way, multilateral conversations aren’t available elsewhere. The call allows us to build on each others questions or take right turns. Have I missed something or are there other options? This one seems pretty good, if you ask me.
And let me say another thing about the group running the roundtable. I asked the New Media Directorate if they could swing some local (Iraqi) media reactions to the Sept 16 Blackwater debacle from their MNF-I contacts. Not only are the local news stories they provided in my research, but I passed them along to my friend who incorporated them into a little report he wrote on mercenaries. Don’t tell me they are filtering data to hedge some party line.
Silverstein can dig and swing, but show me a better resource to get the information I need to make an informed analysis and I’ll make a move. There isn’t enough time with my master’s degree winding down, a wife, two kids, two dogs, two book chapters going to press, a book my publisher wants me to finish, two conference panels I’m organizing, laying the groundwork for another whole conference, papers for two conference presentations, working an unrelated to anything I’ll be doing in the future but paying job, and hunting for a job in my field to waste time on useless information, which might be why I rarely click the headlines on the Harper’s RSS in my inbox.