Thursday, December 07, 2006


“If there were foreign forces in New Jersey, Tony Soprano would be an insurgent leader.” – The Iraq Study Group Report
I 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.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes soft power isn't enough.

And Americans will always be hated by some group because of the freedoms we enjoy. Freedoms we want others to have, as well.

If I were smarter, I would comment further because despite my inability to make a cogent argument as eloquently as you have, I feel strongly about the goodness of America. Instead, I'll leave it at that.

yellojkt said...

I appreciate your opinion. I feel very strongly about the goodness of America too. The United States is the greatest country in the world and I don't say that out of nationalism, but out of a belief that the values in the Declaration of Independence are profound universal truths.

But even very good people do stupid things either out of ignorance or misplaced trust. When you make a mistake, you say "I'm sorry" and you fix the problem. These are things we teach two-year olds.

Anonymous said...

Well said. There are a number of reasons that the neocons failed to remember the moral of this film. Dor most of them, as for the country-club Republicans that preceded him, Reagan and Reagan Republicanism are nothing more than an embarrasing aberration. Add to that the fact that they are the sort of people who don't want to hear any information that criticizes or contradicts their Jacobin beliefs. Plus, many that were of the right age to be Young Republicans were Trotskyites atthe time. Jerry Pournelle and David Brin both have a number of less than pleasant things to say about them.

Nobody makes movies with the jackboots as the heroes. And a time-tested way of establishing someone as a thug in movies is to have them stuff somebody's head in a toilet. Can you say "waterboarding"? I knew you could.

On a lighter note, you either did some research or your memory is a lot better than mine. I'd have sworn that was David Keith, not Patrick Swayze. This was the beginning of the end for Mr. Keith's stardom. And I thought they were Nicaraguans, not Cubans, but you are correct.

yellojkt said...

There are references to Nicaraguans in the movie, but the Cubans were clearly the goons in charge.

Anonymous said...

Sure, it's a great country that supports freedom. Keep telling yourselves that, just after Congress voted and the President signed a Military Commissions Act that eliminated 800 years of executive power review. This is a country that refuses to admit that it conducts torture and terrorism of its own--not just occasionally, but every day. This is a country that lets a pusilanimous little peacock stampede us into an unnecessary and disasterous war--an aristocratic peacock at that. This is a country in which 13,000 votes in one congressional district are made to mysteriously disappear--and the congressional delegate is "elected" by less than 300 votes Historically, this is a country whose executive branch sold weapons to our enemies in order to circumvent the exact instructions of the elected Congress; and before that the party out of power made a separate deal with kidnappers in order to help insure that the party in power was voted out. We live in 1984--the book, not the year--and we have apologists to make sure we stay there. That makes us a great democracy, doesn't it? Keep your heads in the sand--maybe no one will call you an illegal enemy combatant and stick you in a Guantanamo cell for the rest of your life (unless someone can make a profit by selling you to the CIA).

yellojkt said...


The fact that you can tell me all that (and none of it is new to me) is part of what does make this country great. At least no one is running around killing dissidents with radioactive isotopes.

Anonymous said...

Ha. yello, nicely done.
I remember all too well the rightwing paranoid fantasies of the 80's; heck, Tom Clancy's still obscenely rich from it.

Not surprisingly, I got some blog mileage out of the ISG report too:


trusty getto said...

Though one hasn't been seen here in decades, did you know that the Wolverine is Michigan's state animal?