“If there were foreign forces in New Jersey, Tony Soprano would be an insurgent leader.” – The Iraq Study Group ReportI beg to differ. If there were foreign forces in Colorado, Patrick Swayze would be an insurgent leader. The premiere right-wing paranoid fantasy of the 80s (and I call it that with the greatest respect) was the movie Red Dawn which described the guerilla war waged by a group of red-neck high school kids. In the film, a Soviet-Cuban alliance has moved up Central America domino style and finally invaded a gun-controlled United States.
Patrick Swayze leads a rag-tag group of Brat-Pack also-rans including Charlie Sheen, C.Thomas Howell, and Lea Thompson. They run to the hills and wage an escalating insurgency while the occupying army futilely tries to pacify the civilian sympathizers. I’m not the first to recognize the ironic parallels, but I am stunned more people don’t realize the tragic role reversal we have placed ourselves in.
As popular as Red Dawn was among Young Republicans in the 80s, you would think that a few of the neocons predicting rose-strewn parades through Baghdad would have remembered the moral of Red Dawn: Nobody makes movies with the jackboots as the heroes.
I don’t want to make any moral equivalencies. I subscribe completely to the benefits of Western Civilization and the entire post-Enlightenment philosophy from Hume and Locke on. We need to work for a world where individual liberty and democracy are the norm.
Unfortunately, we are not serving our cause well in the Middle East. Our behavior in Iraq from the well-documented incompetence of the CPA to the repugnant atrocities of Abu Ghraib to our continuing status as the monkey-in-the-middle target in an increasingly ugly tribal civil war has not put the ideals of our nation in the best light.
Nobody ever professes nostalgia for the stability of Vichy France and every Iraqi that cooperates with us, no matter how patriotic or farsighting, will be eventually branded a collaborator. Instead, the country will fall sooner or later (and my money is on sooner) into the hands of groups that will hate us for generations. And we will bear some of the responsibility.
Reagan described America as a lighted city on the top of a hill. We need to lead by example and use our soft power to spread our values. We also need to remember what they are and apply them globally regardless of how much oil the inhabitants are sitting on.
Some enterprising Farsi John Milius wannabe will someday plagiarize the Red Dawn script and make an uplifting film about brave students that killed evil Americans to liberate his country. That movie will make me sick to my stomach. In my movies, the Americans are the heroes. We need to act like heroes.
Blatant LinkBacking™: E. J. Dionne defends democracy in his column today.