Wednesday, October 01, 2008

WHY WE FIGHT (2004) (A Documentary Film Review)

The basis of this film is Eisenhower’s speech on the military industrial complex (MIC) and that we haven’t heeded his warning as evidenced by our presence in Iraq. The argument here is a supply side one. If we build and make military equipment then we’ll naturally use it in war for economic reasons.

The problem is the MIC is really a chicken or the egg argument. Did we mobilize for war because of foreign powers like the Soviet Union or did we invent power likes the Soviet Union in order to mobilize for war? The current argument is whether the world is dangerous because we have weapons or whether we have weapons because the world is dangerous.

The other problem with the overall argument is that it doesn’t understand and explain enough about Eisenhower to put his warning into context. Eisenhower was a pre-WWII conservative and he was ideologically isolationist. FDR favored unconditional surrender for Germany and Ike favored a brokered peace to save lives. Ike avoided confrontation with the Soviets over their invasion of Hungary to the dismay of many Americans. Fair or unfair, Democrats got us into WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The first Republican war of the 20th Century was the 1991 Gulf War that lasted 6 weeks. Progressives in the 20th Century used war to reshape the world while conservatives looked inward. Eisenhower’s speech was harkening back to the conservatism of his youth.

Isolationism is not a dead idea on the right, but it’s no longer the majority conservative idea. Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, and others were against going into Iraq and Buchanan has even penned books saying that we shouldn’t have fought Germany in the 1940s. Any movie trying for mileage using Eisenhower’s speech should be interviewing Pat Buchanan to understand the ideology. Instead we get neoconservatives like Richard Pearle and William Kristol who favor the war and liberals who oppose it without any explanation of how Eisenhower fits in that picture.

There is some other mischief too. The movie shows Richard Pearle saying that there is no connection between Cheney and Haliburton when he clearly means no relationship since Cheney became VP, so they can immediately contradict Pearle by showing headlines with links out of context. Gore Vidal on the other hand can say that the Japanese were trying to surrender in the summer of 1945 but Truman ignored them so that he could drop the Atomic Bomb. And Vidal gets no one to refute him.

The major point of the film is that the arms industry is so big and so influential that the U.S. enters into war to please the munitions makers. But it ignores the fact that building up arms prevents attack. Why did rogue terrorists attack us in 2001? Because no country would risk getting turned to glass. Why did we go into Iraq, really? We wanted to show nations that supporting terrorists of any kind could be just as costly. The result has been no further attacks at home. A coincidence we should believe.

Like so many ideas on the Left, the world is controlled by money interests and we’re just unknowing pawns. But the problem with conspiracy theories isn’t that a conspiracy can't be true from time to time, but that once you believe any particular conspiracy you are apt to see conspiracy anywhere because all you have to do is find one is chase the money backwards to who profited from something. But life isn’t so easy. Sometimes things have unintended consequences and people or companies make money because of luck or intuition.

In short WHY WE FIGHT puts forward the premise is that we fight because people make money from it. And yet the Left disparages the Right for being simplistic.

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