What blog from Korea on security issues would be complete without some discussion of Homefront, the new video game from THQ on a North Korean invasion of the United States. H/t to Koehler for catching this hysterical vid. Unfortunately THQ has not released the game Korea – why not? South Koreans are stridently anti-communist and terrified of the North. I can imagine this game selling truckloads here… Oh well.
The debate is heating up on this, so here is my contribution, limited albeit by my inability to get the game here.
1. The game is hyped as written by the writer of Red Dawn, John Milius. Milius also co-wrote Apocalypse Now, which he originally intended to end with a massive race war in which Colonel Kurtz (Brando) was to have lines like ‘isn’t it great to be a white man in the jungle with a gun?’. (Don’t believe me? Go watch Hearts of Darkness, the documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now to see Milius and director Francis Ford Coppola discussing this, as well as Milius’ creepy Wehrmacht fetish. Coppola openly [thankfully!] rejects the notion of some macho white fascist ending.)
Milius is exactly the sort of rightie that IR types love loathe in public, but secretly we get a total laugh out of wack-job entertainment like this. This is what world politics looks like in the fetid mind of a cold warrior NRA member who reads too many histories of World War II, Hitler, and Waffen-SS. In Red Dawn, the USSR invades the US on the ground by crossing the Bering Strait (!), because you know how well developed Arctic sea lanes are for moving millions of soldiers and huge amounts of supplies. Further, the intense cold weather of Alaska and the Yukon, plus the heights of the Rocky Mountains, plus the minimal road-network and infrastructure of the Pacific Northwest are clearly no hindrance to a massive armored invasion. Hah! If that is not enough glorious paranoia for you, Cuba and Nicaragua invade the US from Mexico added by Hispanic illegal immigrants who acted as saboteurs. (Yes, it is that ridiculous.) Finally, the US rebels against Soviet occupation include the captain of the football team, whose gets his arms from friends who are NRA members, and the nerdy school president turns out to be a commie traitor. So, yes, that jock who used to bully you in high school was actually a patriot ready to defend America and football, while the dorks who did their homework were wimpy red sell-outs. Ah, the ideology, the wild delusions of right-wing paranoia, and closet admiration for the Wehrmacht. You gotta love it… if it weren’t so d— frightening. The film so completely captures 80s right-wing themes and paranoias, I know lots of IR professors who actually teach it.
2. I can only imagine the even more insane script for Homefront. Here is the official trailer:
This is so thoroughly ridiculous, it hardly bears comment (just read Foster-Carter). I would only add two observations:
a. Movies and games like this tell the world the US is genuinely obsessed with war and militarism. Yes, it is just a game, but US film and videogame producers make lots of this sort of stuff that endlessly celebrates American power and a—kicking; just in the last few years: 24, Transformers 1 & 2, Terminator 4, Call of Duty. You wonder why people think we are a nasty, militaristic empire, well this is a pretty obvious place to start. Even our pop culture is suffused with this sort of military posturing and machismo. Just this year we have a Red Dawn remake coming, the Marine Corps recruiting vid Battle: Los Angeles, and yet another Transformers epic. Yes, the world is dangerous; yes, we have to defend ourselves; I love explosions and aliens as much as any male movie viewer; and I guess this is the sort of entertainment we get after ten years of the war on terror; but Hollywood is practically an adjunct of the military-industrial complex. How about a more nuanced portrait of force?
b. It is very noticeable how so many of these films and games take place on US soil – terrorists infiltrators, foreign invasions, alien landings (don’t miss Chuck Norris’ uber-cheese Invasion USA). The reason should be pretty obvious – if the Americans are defending their home, then all the moral problems of the use of US force disappear and the heroes can be as vicious as they want without worrying about the moral consequences. All the real-world agonizing about how American force sometimes kills the innocent (however unintended) in foreign places where maybe we should not be (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya), falls away.
So the righties like Milius or Michael Bay who come up with this stuff can show Americans as heroes, even though they are mercilessly mowing down the bad guys. Want to execute Geneva Convention-certified POWs (Red Dawn)? Sure, it’s ok, because “we live here.” Want to blow the head-off a defeated, wounded enemy (Transformers 2)? No big deal; they’re ‘evil.’ What to perform a vivisection (!) on a wounded opponent (Battle: Los Angeles)? Sure; this isn’t Abu Ghraib (though did anyone else think that in watching B:LA?); these alien SOBs invaded America, so do whatever you want. There are no namby-pamby liberal college professors and NGO activists around to moan that we kill too many civilians, seek imperial domination, war for oil, blah, blah, blah. Instead the dialogue can recite macho, posturing cliches about never giving up, defending our homes, and a—-kicking victory. This is the no-holds-barred, no-moral-errors-admissable, American-wars-are-always-right image of US force that neo-cons and Fox News so desperately want to legitimate. Placing these events on US soil opens the door for behavior we should find grossly illegitimate – and do when we do it in far away places. But in an invasion, the American defenders occupy the (easy) moral high ground, and therefore we can reveal in militarism and killing without moral anxiety. It’s all so callous and grotesque as to be morally outrageous, and it panders to the worst ‘Jacksonian,’ US-force-as-conflict-resolver instinct in US democracy, but then we live in the Fox News, post-torture era.
I adore Christopher Hitchens (just finished his autobiography btw) but when I read his justifications for supporting Iraq 2, I never see him consider the cost to American liberal secular values. Young people today broadly support torture in a wide variety of circumstances beyond the elusive “ticking time bomb” of right wing wet dreamers. The cost to the country is massive, literally incalculable but massive. I know Hitchens is a humane and liberal and thoroughly decent man but he doesn’t recognize that cost. If he did it would be hard to imagine him fighting for liberalism (in the ecumenical sense) abroad at the expense of openness and liberalism and decency at home.
The military is a good and necessary thing but wars corrode the souls of the nations who prosecute them. Iraq is a much better place now, but America is a much worse one.
ARMB I like Hitchens as well. There some aspect that I disagree with him, but I still respect many of his writings. Have you read any of Bernard Henry Levy’s writings? He is very interesting. He is an avowed French Socialist with a different take. In fact last I read, the French Socialist establishment and Levy are at odds. Levy actually had the courage to disavow Stalin and the Soviet Union. Even though I am not of his persuasion, I still find him very interesting.
I think that you need to put into context time when Red Dawn created. You can’t apply today’s thinking to the 1980’s. I remember my classmates and I from the International School of Geneva viewing it in Geneva when it was first released. I am talking kids from different parts of the world. We loved it. The movie was a smash hit in Switzerland, France as well as in West Germany and we/they were not NRA types. It was due that being so near Iron Curtain divide, the issue was real. It wasn’t abstract. Those living in the US, as I have come to expect, have a different perspective, (which is natural). Back then, the Soviets were always crashing their submarines in Swedish waters doing whatever spying they were doing. I remember watching the Swedish Navy intercepting the Soviet subs. I also remember the episode when the Soviets attempted to unload their diplomatic pouch destined for their embassy in Geneva. The only problem was that their pouch was several trucks loads long and the Swiss refused to let it enter their border. Another classic Soviet trick that I remember was listening to the BBC on my family’s Grundig Radio in Geneva during the 1980’s with while they (the Soviets) were jamming the signal.
I assume that you must feel the same frustration when experts in the US advocate for the drawing down or removal US troops from South Korea.
I really believe that historical context is very important. Also as we know you can’t take a lot of what Hollywood does as functionally accurate. What is it called, “creative license”?
Sorry, I made a slight mistake in my old age, my memory is fading, I found this about the Soviet Diplomatic pouch debacle:
Bulky Soviet ‘Pouch’ Is Waylaid by Swiss
This was very interesting because my family and I lived about 7 minutes drive from the Soviet Embassy. I might have even seen the truck, I don’t recall anymore. Anyway, the Soviet Union was very real to us back then.
This is from Wikipedia. I don’t like referencing Wikipedia, but I this runs along the lines of my recollections.
Reports of new submarine sightings and television imagery of Swedish Navy helicopters firing depth charges into coastal waters against suspected intruders became commonplace in the mid-to-late 1980s.
I wouldn’t get my panties in a twist about this one, as it deserves to be ignored and suffer the judgment of the market place. A friend of mine downloaded a cracked copy of it and he played it end to end. I played it long enough to realize what he said about it was true, as FPS games go this is a bottom feeder, much like that horrendous movie “Red Dawn” was back in the day. (Anyone remember its inbred, TV series cousin “Amerika”?) Home Front will soon be in the bargain section of your Amazon store, exactly where it belongs, and we can all look forward to the day when the Call of Duty franchise decides the Norks are worthy enough adversaries for their considerable talents. Don’t buy it.
I haven’t played it yet. I can’t get it here. But I will be in the US over the summer, and my brother-in-law has a game box. I will try it out of sheer curiousity.
I did see some of “Amerika”! Hah! I remember when that was on TV actually. If I remember it was basically a soap opera with B-movie TV actors moaning about America’s loss of faith in itself or some such throw-away nonsense – very little interesting political dialogue or fun action sequences. And I do remember seeing Red Dawn in theaters and LOVING it when I was about 14. Hah!
Thanks for reading.
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