Sunday, February 21, 2010

On 'Why We Fight'

At the continued urging of a close friend, I watched the documentary film "Why We Fight" on DVD last night.

The film over, I wondered idly why my friend was so anxious to have me view it. After all, it hadn't really told me much of anything I didn't already (think I) know.

There was that whole "military industrial complex" thing (which, from what I can tell, the mere mention of which can cause many on both sides of the political spectrum to see red and rant and rave on either how evil it is or what a pile a crap the whole concept is, take your pick). Although apparently more correctly-titled, from the man who first coined the phrase, the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Warnings about letting "the tail wag the dog", how the system takes on a life on its own; not so much that it goes "looking for a war" but how quick can it can be to respond and push policy in that direction if the chance presents itself.

Warnings about a congressional system in which the members have to bring home the pork the bacon, making what should be a decision about military spending essentially one about jobs for constituents. How it is often (always?) just about the big money involved. And warnings about behind-the-scenes think tanks pushing policy ... in the direction that they think it should go, I suppose.

I must say that I did find the story of Eisenhower's life quite interesting. Confessing that knowing that there was both a General Eisenhower and a President Eisenhower at some time in the United States' history being roughly the extent of my knowledge on that subject. He sounds life a very interesting man, the kind I would love to sit down and chat with over a cup of tea.

The US invasion of Iraq was pretty much pillaged in the film. But since I never was in favour of that move, never felt that the intelligence on whether or not there were actually weapons of mass destruction present was strong enough to justify that action, there wasn't much of anything new for me there either.

Although I must admit that good points were made as to how the public (and the politicians, too, to an extent, I imagine) have been duped into thinking that so-called smart weapons are so much smarter, so much more accurate than they actually are.

Making the idea of waging a particular war perhaps a little more palatable, a little more acceptable with the thinking that we can strike with supposed precision and leave the innocent civilians unscathed. On which point, one might want to check with the citizens of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what I found most interesting about the film was buried in the "Special Features" section. Two interviews given by the film's producer, Eugene Jarkecki; one with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show and one on Charlie Rose.

I appreciated Jarecki's even-handedness, how he gently corrected the erroneous thinking of both interviewers, explicitly stating he was not about conspiracy theories and explaining that the point of the film was not about any particular party or any particular President. In fact, it wasn't even about the neo-cons (gasp). [My apologies - but it has now become my signature to add the appropriate gasp following every use of the dreaded word ... neo-cons.]

That the "enemy within the gates", so to speak (my terminology, not his) is a necessary system that has taken on a life of it's own. And how each and every one of us (he was, of course, speaking of and to the United States but it is unarguable that the point applies to every industrialized, developed country in today's world) has the responsibility and the duty to be aware and on guard.

To be on guard to ensure that the tail is not wagging the dog. To ensure that we hold our politicians accountable and that policy decisions are made by those that are accountable (as is so often, unfortunately, not the case in the world today). And to ensure that America, a country built on the principles of a republic, does not become an empire. Which is what President Eisenhower was warning against.

Good stuff. Valid points. So true.

As, unlike the Olympics are for the vast majority of us and contrary to what often appears to be public opinion, democracy?

Most definitely. Not. A. Spectator. Sport.

On another note, I found it interesting that an interview with Senator John McCain featured prominently in the film. Interesting because 90% of what Senator McCain had to say sounded to be in basic agreement with the words of President Eisenhower.

He spoke of the military/industrialist complex taking on a life of its own, of (if not actual corruption) a congressional system which allowed decisions to be made in very questionable ways and for very questionable reasons. How insidious it is. How we had to be aware of and on guard against it.

Which I thought was interesting considering that he was the Republican candidate in the recent 2008 election; the one whom (if you believed some a lot of the hype) candidate Obama had to save the country from. Well, from him and Sarah Palin, of course. But that's a story best for another day.

All in all, I'm glad I watched the film. Both for the (Eisenhower) history I learned and for the musings of Jarecki. Two interesting men with very valid points to make.

And in exchange for my watching "Why We Fight", my friend has agreed to read Palin's book, "Going Rogue".

Who knows, perhaps, he too will write a review for us?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michelle - you get a gold start for today. Thank you for putting into words what I was too angry to write on Kris's blog.