What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The great cinematic depression strikes

Watching Lions for Lambs made me really depressed. I went to the cinema with totally mismanaged expectations. A movie with intelligent dialogues and one that would draw attention to "the forgotten war"? I was wrong.
In L4L, you have hardcore AQI fighters 'hiking' to Afghanistan through Iran. As much as I remember, in L4L's world Pakistan is clearly of less concern when it comes to Afghanistan than Iran. Which is already like, hm. And then it turns out that in response to the trans-Iranian threat the U.S. military is about to execute a super secret strategy, the idea of which occurs to some over-inventive Senator super-close to the President in the movie. And it consists of occupying remote, snowcapped mountain peaks in the middle of the winter... in places like Badakhshan. In the real world that would of course throw guerrillas totally off balance. They sure wouldn't know what to think. In L4L's world, however, it turns out the guerrillas are battle-ready up there in the mountains already, and they wouldn't let those incredibly valuable mountaintop positions fall to CKI ("Christian kafir invaders" - as Taliban terminology refers to Western troops) without a fight.
Robert Redford and the script-writer apparently are very concerned that even occupying remote mountaintops would be a "strategy" that would fail in the first ten minutes (literally), probably because in the script they had a Republican Senator come up with the idea, and such an idea can never be good. I'm sure these guys, I mean Redford and Co., are great at playing chess with themselves. And they conceive of strategies for imaginary opponents, that will make those opponents look totally dumb, very efficiently, as demonstrated in L4L. But to think that OEF or NATO forces couldn't take any mountaintop, one that they really desired for some reason, is a bit too much. Oh, of course in L4L's world NATO "hasn't decided to act yet." So I guess there are no Dutch soldiers in Uruzgan, or Canadians in Kandahar, and so on. (See? I deliberately haven't said "... or Germans in Badakhshan." That's pretty smart from me rhetorically, isn't it?)
Perhaps that is not the greatest let-down to come from the movie, however. It's supposed to be a film that draws attention to the forgotten war. But while it is pointed out in it several times that more soldiers in Afghanistan could be kind of useful, mostly it's done as Pavlov-type conditional reflex stimulated by the surge in Iraq, or by feeling guilt about having moved on to Iraq so fast post-9/11, and thus without any deeper understanding of the exact why and how on the ground in Afghanistan (or even an understanding of the scale of the challenges faced there). And on the one occasion when the question of whether to just pull out from Afghanistan could be fine or not does come up, the "pro-war" Senator's best argument is that "they" (sic!) will then have defeated two superpowers. You mean the Taliban beat the Soviets, guys?
It was at that point that I nearly quit watching. But I had nothing better to do, so I stayed put and watched the internal movie of my life mostly. If I failed to point out something important as a result of that mental absence, feel free to point it out yourselves in a comment.

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