United States Army General Stanley McChrystal became infamous for resigning in shame after a report on Rolling Stone depicted him and his staff as highly critical of President Barack Obama. In the Netflix movie War Machine, McChrystal’s story becomes a tale of government folly abroad, where military men with views of grandeur attempt to mess with the lives of Afghans who want them out — no matter what.
In a post on his Facebook page, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) says the movie should be “mandatory for Congress to watch, particularly legislators hell bent on continuing/restarting the war in Afghanistan.” Without providing any spoilers, Paul touched on the very core subject of the movie.
Hiding behind a satirical rendition of McChrystal, the two-hour long flick is able to demonstrate, with visceral accuracy, just how utterly unproductive and destructive U.S. government’s interventions abroad can quickly become. By showing the viewer the demoralizing effect of a war against “common people” who don’t look or act like “insurgents,” the movie helps the public to have a better idea of what their tax dollars have been paying for since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
As many estimates claim both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars cost $4 trillion and $6 trillion, it’s difficult to watch War Machine and not ask ourselves why we were there in the first place.
As U.S. Marine Aaron O’Connell, the editor of Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, once stated, Americans spent a great deal of money “rebuilding” Afghanistan, only to have these efforts wasted in a short period of time.
During an interview with NPR, O’Connell gave a simple example of this phenomena:
“So we’ve spent billions building roads in Afghanistan, but we then turned the roads over to the Afghans in 2013. We trained up a maintenance unit so that it could provide for road maintenance, and nothing has happened since then. Now, today, more than half of the roads are deemed unfit for heavy traffic. And as one taxi driver put it in 2014 – things have gotten so much worse, now if we drive too fast, everyone in the car dies.”
When it comes to foreign policy, government intervention is very similar to intervention in domestic policies.
Government bureaucrats sit and think up a plan to “change” something or “make something better.” Then they pass legislation or simply pull some strings to get their views implemented. Unfortunately, their plan often backfires, simply because not one nor 100 bureaucrats have the knowledge that people on the ground, living those problems daily, have. As a result, the intervention turns into a mess that ends up harming more than it helps — no matter how well-intentioned.
As Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek once elaborated, “allocating scarce resources requires knowledge dispersed among many people.” Because access to this knowledge is impossible to any government body, interventions of any kind are bound to be disastrous.
In Afghanistan, we learned that much, except bureaucrats, are at it again, trying to revive the war sentiment even in Afghanistan.
As Paul stated, it might serve them well to watch War Machine, but not for the comedy alone. Instead of seeing the movie as satire, they must remember that what is depicted in the Brad Pitt-produced film is as far away from fiction as they can possibly imagine.