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“Charlie Wilson’s War” Celebrates Our Destructive Foreign Policy

Having read positive reviews and generally liking everyone involved with the movie, I saw Charlie Wilson’s War over the holiday. It’s extremely entertaining, beautifully produced and well acted (though Hanks never quite got that East Texas accent right). It’s also a love letter to the aggressive imperialism and military interventionism that Very Serious People in both parties endorse as the preferred US foreign policy.

Charlie Wilson was written by the liberal Aaron Sorkin, produced by the liberal Tom Hanks, and comes out of liberal Hollywood. That should mean that the movie is a stinging rebuke of our intervention in Afghanistan, right? Wrong. Despite what a few Reagan administration officials are saying — it celebrates it.

The movie closes with the Hanks character being awarded a medal and applauded by an admiring group of Very Serious People in some top secret military hanger. We are meant to believe that Wilson’s arming of the Mujaheddin single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union and won the Cold War. We are meant to feel Wilson’s covert war was a noble and necessary enterprise. If only the US hadn’t "fucked up the end game," a title card says, it would’ve been all good.

That’s not only historically bogus (the "Reagan won the Cold War" myth, liberal Hollywood style!), it’s disturbing on many levels. That an extremely wealthy and politically-connected right-wing Christian socialite (played by Julia Roberts) and a boozed-up Congressman from a tiny district were able to launch a billion-dollar war in this supposedly representative democracy apparently doesn’t trouble the filmmakers at all. The film’s "it was a great idea, we just didn’t stick the landing" attitude is trite and shallow and the movie doesn’t stop to question the wisdom of the entire enterprise.

James Rocchi at Cinematical gets it right:

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a brutal violation of international law; a grown-up would nonetheless ask if our cure was in fact better than the disease. Charlie Wilson’s War doesn’t.

No, it doesn’t. And unfortunately, I have serious doubts that Hillary, Edwards, and Obama would disagree with the film’s troubling thesis: that it was okay to arm the Mujaheddin, we just screwed up the "end game." If this is what progressives and Hollywood thinks of our foreign policy, what’s the conservative view?

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