I question how it is possible to disillusion these individuals that are forcibly pushing forward this unjust war since they are oblivious to the fact that being in a position of power requires a far greater need for ethical judgment and reasoning. Simply relegating the onerous responsibility of deciding the fate of generations has been widdled away to rationalizing what decisions are best for their own career growth. What I personally understand to be the origin of the dichotomy that I am witnessing is the stark difference between the commonly repeated jargon that politicians use throughout the media and the truth behind the original motives and current “war” that our country is fighting. This cognitive dissonance that has been on display has only revealed a discrepancy between the beliefs that we are inculcated to stand for as Americans and the behavior of those that are supposed to act as leaders. This self-serving attributional bias, which claims that our successes in this fight are squarely due to personal dispositions of our national leaders and our failures are solely due to the nature of the situation we are faced with, has only humiliated our country and exposed those who falsely claim to be sending our troops to fight for a just cause.
The nebulous new military plan that was introduced in Lions for Lambs almost perfectly mirrored the implementation of new strategies that are taken without any considerations of the human and financial costs in the actual combat by decision makers that never “bled in a fight”. The need for success is not for ending the violence, but for public support of increased violence. This is more important than the need for the ethical acknowledgment of utterly abject failures and attempts of rectification with not only the American people, not only the innocent “collateral damage” in Afghanistan and Iraq, not only the petrified global community, but with our leaders responsible for this crisis first and foremost. In the movie it was stated that what is clearly happening is that the enemy is bent on establishing themselves as a legitimate fighting force for the people. Is that not what our “leaders” persuaded us that our military was doing as well, and are still attempting to do? The fear and the resulting mistakes were not simply a result of the emotional response to the attacks on our own country. They were because of the forced outward support of the majority opinion, with threats of “unpatriotic” labels, instead of support for the thought out ethical opinion.
The most troubling aspect to deal with is how the film described how both politicians and the media bank on the public’s apathy and willful ignorance. The lurid neglect of providing factual evidence and concern for revealing the truth that typified both the politicians’ and media’s disposition towards the general public was clearly shown in the movie. When trying to relate the book How Good People Make Tough Choices to the politicians in the White House, I feel that it would be much easier for me if the book was instead titled How Bad People Make Terrible Choices. Politicians, such as the Senator in the move, that are supporting this unjust war are completely under the guise of what I would describe as a handicapped version of utilitarianism. The so-called ends justify the means, but the problem with that thought process is that there is, as the title of a previous film described, no end in sight. Nor do we as the public know what the constantly changing “end” is defined as. Why did we go in the first place? Why are we still there? As the Senator vaguely stated in the movie, “We are launching this new strategy using the military as the opening punch. Taking the high ground is key. Whoever takes it has the ability to observe, the prerogative to attack, and the opportunity to preside. That’s why the Romans built forts. You establish constant presence or you will have constant violence.” I don’t want to sound cynical, but wonder at times if there would be less opposition if instead of the vague claims and obvious lies, there was a clear and honest description of attempting to establish a permanent domicile for political, social, and military dominance in the region. It might actually be easier for those pushing this war forward to admit to the foolhardy truth that has been hidden and then continue with their ways.
Although, not all blame should be placed on the shoulders of the policymakers and media. As a nation, we have loved to put ourselves in a sort of self-induced euphoria about the intentions of our military dominance, colonialism, and intimidation. I am pleased to see that now there is a growing questioning of our foreign policies, which Lions for Lambs was an obvious example of, but doubt that any of these ethical questions would have been raised if we had “won” this shameful war. We are blameworthy of egocentrism because it’s hard for us to put ourselves in the shoes of others in order to reasonably and logically understand why there exists conflict to begin with. If those in other parts of the world don’t agree with our current, and rapidly changing, societal norms they are presumed to be in need of “democratization”. We as a people need to be cognizant of the fact that although some of our country’s leaders are beyond any sort of redeemable recompense for the damage they have inspired, we too are not completely innocuous and free of any blame.
Although I personally have never categorically defined my ethical choices based on anything other than my religious beliefs, I would argue that I am closest to the rules-based principles. However, this is not in a complete sense because I don’t want to be blinded from having the sagacious wisdom to understand the overall consequences and repercussions my actions will have on the long term well being of others. Having said that, I feel the most crucial statement in the movie was, “Don’t you think it might be critical to examine how we got to this point?” How and why we are here are the quintessential questions, not the answer to whether we are willing to blindly do whatever it takes to win this war. Otherwise we will only repeat the exact same mistakes made in the past and put future generations in more danger.
The quote by Theodoore Roosevelt in the office of the Senator stated, “If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness”. This is a very powerful quote, and I somewhat agree with it, but feel it can easily be taken out of context and misused. What bothers me are empty lines like, “You are either with us or against us”, as if there is no middle path. It seems to me as if they don’t want us to think on our own and use our intelligence to find a peaceful solution. Stating that you don’t agree with someone’s opinion doesn’t automatically imply you are criticizing that person for speaking his/her mind. It was Aristotle that said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. I can only hope that our future leaders and fellow citizens will attempt to use educated minds to bring an end to this global onslaught, and not have to choose between either but rather promote both righteousness and peace.
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