Sunday Night was Episode Five of The War, the Ken Burns documentary on WWII: "FUBAR."

If you don't know FUBAR, you can consult this wiki entry.

A couple of themes keep jumping out at me in The War.

1. War is Hell. Innocents die. Good men do bad things. Hearts get broken. Families Grieve. Normal life as we know it stops. War is Hell.

2. FUBAR. SNAFU. TARFU. Things go wrong in war. Communication is dreadful and inevitably a beat or two behind the moment of truth. Very few people seem to know what is really going on, and they are unable to communicate with the ones who need to know the most. Oftentimes, the least confused (rather than the most organized) side prevails. Things go wrong in war.

3. War is especially hard for a democracy. We the people are impatient, often unforgiving, and easily stampeded. FDR understood well that oftentimes military necessity must conform to political reality. He was a great war president in his ability to entreat, inspire, persuade, and balance.

Fighting a War in a Democracy.

An FDR would be nice--but we also need more Ernie Pyles.

Pyle was an embedded reporter, who absorbed the souls of the men about whom he wrote, relaying their lives, everyday heroism and desires to eager consumers of news back home. War correspondents during WWII represented the fighting men and the national cause. Regardless of whether this support for national objectives violated journalistic ethics or compromised objective reporting, newsmen invested in American victory proved beneficial to the Allied cause.

Of course, this sense that we were all on the same side came crashing down during the Vietnam Era when a new generation of reporters, publishers, and editors embraced a much more nuanced sense of the public interest. In the old days, the press often ignored the ugly and emphasized the heroic. The post-Vietnam media covers the myriad mistakes and attrocities of war and mostly ignores the nobility of the cause and the warriors.

An Ernie Pyle archive via the Indiana University School of Journalism here.

Today we have a few Michael Yons and Bill Roggios--but they are by necessity completely outside of the mainstream media. As Katie Couric intimated a few days ago--without much fanfare or reaction--picking sides in a war is just not good reporting.

Is the MSM responsible for our misfortunes in Iraq? Of course not. On the other hand, the mainstream media presents serious obstacles to prosecuting a successful war, which the Bush administration struggles mightily to navigate.

Whose fault is that? Where does the buck stop?

This is a fair question.

Ultimately, it is the President's job to overcome minefields and pitfalls and win wars. Just win baby.

Does democracy present all kinds of extra disadvantages for a war-time leader? Sure. This was true for FDR and his age as well--although we all admit much has changed since then. No matter, it is far too pessimistic to insist that these disadvantages prevent the USA from winning a modern war. Such a pronouncement is akin to assuming an especially brilliant person, likely to be distracted by his curious mind, is at a disadvantage in college. While the preceding statement rings true on its face, the advantage of a brilliant and curious mind is a tremendous plus in higher learning that ought to overwhelm the lesser problem of distraction.

Our freedom of the press is an obstacle (more so now than then, even more so when brandished by cynics happily uninvested in victory). No matter, the power of a free society dwarfs the drawbacks.

One obvious answer: We are desperately in need of leadership adept at marshaling our advantages to overcome our disadvantages.

We could learn a lot from The War in that regard.