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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Glory of War

I was a little surprised that it was the women in Southwest Writers that were praising 300 Spartans. Mostly about Gerard Butler. Since it was based on a graphic novel you would think it would appeal mostly to overcharged testosterone guys. The fact that at the box office it has taken off is not due to men, but women are getting the word out and it's turning into a date movie -- who would have thunk it.
As a cartoon based on a graphic novel it works well. It is not bloody, there is plenty of stabbings, beheadings, etc which would be expected in battle scenes, but there's no spraying or dripping blood.
Some of the bloggers are trying to make this movie into some type of analogy to what's going on in Iraq. The only analogy that I can see is not the this is like that. The Spartans are the brave American Soldiers, the Persians are the Iraqi insurgents. Doesn't wash. Spartans were defending their territory against a larger empire. The analogy works more the other way around. The other charge is that it's racist. Well the Spartans were white men, but who are they really fighting in this movie? Nigeria? Sorry if anyone should be upset it's the Persians being depicted as coming from Africa instead of West Asia. Much different racial group.
Yes it's a cartoon, but if your going to be so realistic in showing the power and ability of the Greek Phalanx why bring out a drooling giant more reminiscent of a Troll in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter? The idiot masks on the Imperials -- for some reason they play that part up in the advertsing, but it's a battle not a fancy dance. Still it was good entertainment -- but I would be wary of making it go any further than that. It is not intended to have a deep message like Arthur Miller's The Crucible, or Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World.
What both the novel and the movie present is that war is glorious. That is what the movie is selling. That there is much to admire in the Spartans who became immortal by staying and dying when the cause was lost. Very much like Brad Pitt's Achilles in Troy. He has the choice of staying and living a long life, but no one would ever remember him or go to war and die, but be remembered forever. Leonidas could have retreated when the Persians found a way around them and lived to fight another day, or stay and die, but be remembered forever.
There seems to be great glory in dying for nothing. The Spartans at Thermopolae, the idiots who wouldn't listen to Sam Houston and get out of the Alamo, Custer getting all his men killed because he wouldn't wait one day for the other troops to arrive.
There are always those that get caught up in the glory of war, but by and large that has not been the American way. As the British Military Historian John Keegan says in his book Field of Battle: The Wars for North America that is what has set America apart from Europe and Asia. The way we look at war. They have built empires and fought countless wars for glory. We look at war as just another job to do. We get it done and go back to the real pursuit of America -- Trade.
His analogy holds up until Korea. From that war on we seem to have forgotten how to get the job done. In order to get a job done you have to use the right tool. A conventional military is not the right tool to fight an idea like Communism, or criminals like terrorists.
World War I produced heros like Eddie Rickenbacker and Black Jack Pershsing. WWII had Audie Murphy, Patton, Eisenhower, McArthur. Korea sees McArthur fired in disgrace and a stalemate. Vietnam left on the impression of Westmorland totally out of touch with reality trying to win a conventional war of attrition in Asia. Then 4 years of carnage before Nixon signed a peace agreement that he could have signed his first day in office.
To a certain extent though Korea and Vietnam are understandable. The cost over the years of keeping South Korea out of the nightmare of Communism very few Americans regret. In Vietnam there was the Domino theory which was only debunked until we left and low and behold the Communists didn't expand like a virus until we were the only country that was still Capitalist.
But the debacle in Iraq right now breaks the mold for why we wage wars. This isn't a land grab like the Mexican American War or even the Spanish American War (we grabbed the Phillipines). We weren't responding to an attack like WWI (unrestricted submarine warfare), WWII (Pearl Habor), or even our incursion into Afghanistan which most Americans still support and wish we could focus on, or to defend another country that has been invaded like Korea and Desert Storm. Iraq is war fought for the glorification and financial gain of a few megalomaniac politicians and greedy corporations.
What a dream if all the chickenhawks that manipulated us into this war had the guts to stand in a narrow pass surrounded like Leonidas and be willing to die for their immortal glory instead of sending everyone else's child to die so they can strut around on an Aircraft Carrier or hide behind legal slight of hand agreeing to testify, but not under oath.


Walker said...

This was a very good post and I agree with much of it.
People try to see things that are not there looking for justicication to something they can't justify.
Like it or not the Americans are an invading force in Iraq.

I have to disagree with you where it comes to the Spartans and the defenders of the Alamo.
I know I may be bias there.
If you go back to my blog and scroll down 4 posts you will see one called 300 that I wrote before going to the movie and you will see my thoughts on the historic event rather than the movie.
I am bias because I am a Spartan by birth and am a direct decendant from people of that time.

If two events ever mirrored each other in was the Spartans stand and Thermopylae and the Alamo.
They were hopeless battles but they slowed down the enemy so that a main force can be gathered to fight off the invaders.
It's not like they had a standing army back then, most were farmers who learned how to fight.
Dieing just for the sake of glory is a waste of life and stupid but dieing gloriously with honor at the face of impending death so that your people, family and country to survive is a selfless act of rare courage.

If bear jumped out at you and there was a child infront of you, would you run and leave the child to fend for itself because you know you would be torn from limb to limb if you braced the bear or would you attack defending the child giving it time to get away safely.

Custer was an egostistical idiot who murdered his men due to his over zeolous search for the limelight and fame.

Audie Murphy wen into the army to help feed his family when his mother died and he lied about his age to get in.
His paychecks were forwarded to his sister to help feed his other siblings while he was in Europe fighting germans.

I think when we look back in time we have to look at what they world was like back then and what it took to survive.
It was a time of conquest for thousands of years by so many invaders and fighting and dieing was a way of life.
Today it is business.
War creates jobs and profits for companies.
At the start of the Iraqi war Haliberton( I think thats the name of the company) stock was $10 dollars now its $35
They supply food to the troops and other supplies.
No glory here just profits and casualties for money.

I will stop here and avoid writing a book in your comments.

Thank you for your comment.

Have a nice weekend :)

Irina Tsukerman said...

I don't think the war in Iraq is about a glory at all. Perhaps, it's about tragic mistakes and misconceptions, about failures of intelligence and incompetence of organization; it's about many goals and poor ability to articulate them. It's not, however, just about a matter of showing off and driving American soldiers to a suicidal mission. We've had these accusations of profiteering from the war since World War I. First isolationism and lack of desire to meddle in outside affairs, and with Vietnam, a different form of anti-war sentiment... these social views on war in general often cloud judment of the merits of the argument and lead to put up rash generalizations about motives instead of specific and necessary criticism of the war itself. I'm afraid many people brought the very same sentiments when they went to see "300".