Monday, May 08, 2006

Movie Review: Why We Fight

Not long ago, I was looking for a movie to go see and saw the trailer for a new documentary entitled, "Why We Fight". It looked interesting.

It starts with a famous quote from President Eisenhower in his farewell address warning against the growth and influence of the military-industrial complex.

It is a foray into that world of government and industry where power politics and business savvy converge resulting in massive military contracts. The movie includes testimonies from President Eisenhower's son, Senator McCain & Bill Kristol, among others, including former government employees and industry professionals.

So, I ventured down to my local independent and liberal-owned movie theater to check it out.

After seeing it, I have to say, it left a bad tase in my mouth. It made an attempt at balance, or an attempt to appear balanced. However, there was an underlying leftist bent that, I thought, mischaracterized American motives and failed to present the entire story.

The underlying theme seemed to be that the casus belli of American warmongering is based upon an affinity for seeing our finely crafted war machines in action. America is an expansionist imperialist power and builds large weapons. America builds the weapons to enrich corporate interests and cronies of the government. And, America is bored with just having the weapons sit around, we like to play with them. So, we might as well use them to invade other countries. Come on.

There was also an understated poke at everyday Americans. The filmmakers threw in a couple scenes from an American air show where war machines screeched overhead and explosions followed across the airfield, simulating a routine bombing mission. The artful way the crowd's reactions were portrayed was intended to leave the impression that Americans are pro-war because we think it is quaint.

The real giveaway of the film's agenda came when they threw in the seemingly obligatory reference to Dick Cheney and Halliburton. This line is getting a bit tired, don't you think?

At no point in the film was there a mention of the evil actions and motives of our enemies that have driven us to take military action over the years. All conflict and escalation apparently lies at the feet of the United States. Such an argument just screams of typical left-wing hackery.

It is true that the United States spends an incredible amount of money on its defense establishment. And yes, I am sure there are a number of areas in which it is excessive. But, I do not think we should follow the European model of reducing forces to the point of general irrelevance should a major conflict arise and then spend the extra money on socialist programs.

When World War II began, we did not have the largest military. We ranked about seventeenth, I think. By the end of the war, we did have the largest. Ramping up production took years. Meanwhile, millions of lives were being lost. Because of this, I believe there are advantages to maintaining a standing army. The DoD is now working on developing a rapid global strike capability and I think that is useful -- not because we want to go around bombing people, but rather to have the ability to quickly respond to threats or diffuse situations that may arise.

Considering all that is going on in the world and the frequency with which other nations look to the United States for help, one must ask, "What is the alternative?" There are real threats out there. No other nation is willing to lead. Are we to willfully diminish our status as the world's superpower? That can hardly be expected. Is a multi-polar world advantageous in our interests? Not when you consider the belligerant nature of a wounded Russia and a rising Communist China.

Conclusion: The military establishment does suffer from an overinflated bureaucracy, but they are not the enemy. There should be checks and balances. At the same time, there is still a nobility in the defense of freedom and in the spirit of the American Fighting Man. We do not seek out war for war's sake. Why We Fight gets this wrong.

ADDENDUM: Looks like I wasn't the only one to perceive the imbalance in this film. Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's review - here.

[Thanks to Pajamas Media for the link!]


NYTimes - "...his political agenda in this film is as clear as Michael Moore's in Fahrenheit 9/11....Using a former president to shore up an argument is very canny; using a former Republican president as ammunition against another Republican president is doubly so....even those of radical political persuasion might find it hard to accept Mr. Jarecki's argument that American militarism is, underneath the talk about freedom and democracy, a simple question of dollars."

NYPost - "It's 'Fahrenheit: Room Temperature'...Arguing that America is now and has been for decades an imperialist power in the grip of the defense industry...Disgraced former journalist Dan Rather: 'What you have here is a miniature version of what they have in totalitarion states.' Got the documents to prove it, Dan?"

The film was produced in cooperation with the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Here's a link to BBC FOUR's page about the documentary.

WATCH THE MOVIE HERE (as broadcast on the BBC, via Google Video)


Chip said...

American "imperialism" began and ended with our conquest of the Spanish colonies: Phillipines, Cuba, Guam, ?is that it? Since then we've been dragged into three European wars: WWI, WWII, Cold War. Each time we tried to gain a "peace dividend" by spending less on our military when they "ended." Wars seem to smoulder and flare up again.

Now the world is so functionally small, and the risks so great, we can't afford to be in the position we were pre-WWII.

Americans defy simple leftist analysis. If we really had imperial ambitions in modern times I think Mexico and Canada would be concerned. Cuba and Venezuela trump up threats from America to keep the masses worried about an external "threat."

Fact is, anti-Americanism is a disease of the mind. During Clinton's administration I debated leftists who assured me that a McDonalds on a street corner in Europe was imperialism. Logic won't cut it with these people.

Buffy said...

IF the US was truly imperialistic: Iran would be a parking lot, Cuba would be a US possession, Venezuela would host US Naval and Air Force bases, and US special forces bases for wiping out FARC.
North Vietnam would be a radioactive life-free zone for the next 50,000 years as would Moscow, Beijing, and any other national capital stupid enough to stand against a truly imperialistic US.

The US had nukes before anyone. No national government antagonistic to US interests could have existed for longer than a few hours had the US been imperialistic.

"Americans defy simple leftist analysis." You're right chip, but there's really no other kind of leftist analysis, and "simplistic" is a better descriptor of the standard leftist analysis. Relentless simplistic analysis that will not rest until the western world in all its enlightenment is trampled under tyranny.

That's what they want. What matters is what we want, and why we fight.