Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Charlie Wilson's War" a rare holiday treat

Take a break from the ham and cranberry sauce to see "Charlie Wilson's War," in theaters nationwide. The movie details the real-life story of how a playboy Texas congressman (played by Tom Hanks) was moved and persuaded by a Houston socialite (Julia Roberts) to use his position in the foreign operations and appropriations committees to increase the budget and funnel millions of dollars to buy weapons to help the Afghans in their defense against the invading Soviets. Wilson's passion for helping the Afghan people became a major impetus for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, since the Soviets suffered their first major setback when they were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The movie exaggerates Wilson's contribution (even leading the viewer to believe that Wilson provided THE catalyst for the fall of the Soviet Union--apparently, containment, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and other key figures and events such as the Solidarity movement in Poland had little or no effect).

However, the movie is solid and presents a glowing example of America minus the political slant of the slew of anti-Iraq war movies that have been featured recently (Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Redacted). No one doubts that this congressman made a huge contribution to the Soviet defeat while demonstrating America's commitment to self-determination, justice, and human rights. An argument can also be made that this interference had a direct effect on 9/11, Osama bin Ladin was one of those Mujahideen who was supplied with high-powered weaponry by the CIA through this covert action. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and the motives of all the key players in this movie were pure: back then, the perceived threat was the Soviet Union, not radical Islam.

Also to watch for: Wilson faces a crucial test when he is investigated for doing cocaine with a group of exotic dancers. The "little-known" (according to Wilson) federal prosecutor from Reagan's Justice Dept. investigating Charlie? Noneother than Rudy Giuliani.

The best line in the movie, which also serves as a parallel to the current conflict in Iraq: Wilson says "we go in there with our ideals, then we leave. But the ball keeps rolling." How true--winning the war can be easy sometimes--but providing stability, creating infrastructure and democratic institutions--these test our patience and committment to the cause. Americans can learn how the failure to stay engaged in Afghanistan and negotiate a stable transition for a new government after the Soviet withdrawal had consquences--the same type of consequences that we cannot afford if we were to yield Iraq to the dangers of a premature withdrawal.

1 comment:

Bryan J. Brown said...

Good movie review, Brandon. Thanks, I will go see it.