• Red Dawn

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    This
    review originally appeared in the Libertarian
    Forum
    , July-August 1984.

    Red
    Dawn
    , directed by John Milius.

    It's
    not only the Supreme Court that follows the election returns.
    Hollywood, too, does its bit, and movie theatres have been increasingly
    filled with right-wingy patriotism, like the rest of the media
    this endless summer. I went to see Red Dawn expecting
    a bout of anti-Soviet warmongering, but instead was pleasantly
    surprised. This is hardly a great picture, and is indeed flawed.
    But Red Dawn is an enjoyable teen-age saga, and, apart
    from right-wingy pro-NATO credits at the beginning of the film,
    it is not so much pro-war as it is anti-State. The warfare it
    celebrates is not interstate strife, but guerrilla conflict
    that the great radical libertarian military analyst, General
    Charles Lee, labeled "people's war" two centuries
    before Mao and Che.

    The
    beginning of the picture is exciting, if idiotic. Cuban, Nicaraguan,
    Mexican and other Commie Hispanic troops, headed by Soviet advisors,
    parachute into and successfully conquer the entire prairie Mid West,
    from the Rockies to the Mississippi. In the opening sequence, the
    Red paratroops swiftly invade and, for some reason, annihilate a
    high school in the mythical town of "Culver City," Colorado,
    presumably somewhere in the East Slope foothills of the Rockies.
    In a neat touch, gun control has made it easy for the Commie occupiers
    to round up all the registered guns in the area. But a half-dozen
    high school kids escape and set up a guerrilla camp in the Rockies.
    Jed, the older leader and a former school quarterback, whips the
    other reluctant lads into shape, and soon the tiny guerrilla band,
    using light arms, mobile tactics, and superior knowledge of the
    terrain, strike terror into the Red occupying forces while brandishing
    the rallying name of "Wolverines." There are some revoltingly
    macho touches at the beginning, especially when one of the
    young lads receives his mystical baptism into the guerrilla rites
    by drinking the blood of his first kill — fortunately a deer rather
    than a Commie. These touches subside after a while, although they
    are hardly softened by the appearance of two young lady guerrillas
    who are fierce and androgynous enough to pose for a Viet Cong or
    Algerian guerrilla poster.

    One
    of the best parts of the picture is the graphic portrayal of how
    the Red response to the Wolverines runs the gamut of the U. S. counter-revolutionary
    responses to the Vietnamese. That is, at first the Russian commander
    decides to hole up in the cities and military bases, into the "safe
    zones," whereupon the Wolverines boldly demonstrate that in
    guerrilla war there are no safe zones, and that the "front
    is everywhere." At that point, another crackerjack Russian
    commander takes over, and replicates the "search and destroy"
    counter-guerrilla response of the Green Berets. This is more punishing,
    but still does not succeed.

    One
    big problem with the picture is that there is no sense that successful
    guerrilla war feeds on itself; in real life the ranks of the guerrillas
    would start to swell, and this would defeat the search-and-destroy
    concept. In Red Dawn, on the other hand, there are only the
    same half-dozen teenagers, and the inevitable attrition makes the
    struggle seem hopeless when it need not be.

    Another
    problem is that there is no character development through action,
    so that, except for the leader, all the high school kids seem
    indistinguishable. As a result, there is no impulse to mourn
    as each one falls by the wayside.

    But
    whatever flaws the movie has are redeemed by one glorious — and
    profoundly libertarian — moment. The Nicaraguan-Cuban insurgent
    leader is increasingly unhappy acting as a State occupying force.
    He tells the implacable Russian commander: "Once I was an insurgent.
    Now I'm a policeman" — the last word spoken with profound contempt.
    He writes his wife: "What am I doing in this cold and lonely
    spot, so far away from home?" So that, in the climax of the
    film, as one people's war guerrilla to another, he saves the hero,
    Jed, and allows him to slip out of the Russian net. Ideology, left
    and right, gets swallowed up in hands-across-the-sea of people's
    guerrillas against their respective States.

    In
    all war pictures there is the annoying pacifist nudge,
    griping about "how do we differ from them,"
    since both are shooting and killing. (The LeFevre-Smith motif.)
    Jed's answer is satisfactory enough, even though lacking profound
    argumentation: "Because we live here!"

    Another
    fine touch is that the evil informer who almost does the Wolverines
    in is, naturally, the son of the town Mayor, who is identified
    by friend and foe alike as "the politician." The Mayor,
    who directs the betrayal, cringes fawningly if despairingly
    in carrying out the orders of the occupation force.

    All
    in all worth seeing — exciting as well as libertarian.

    Reprinted
    from Mises.org.

    Murray
    N. Rothbard
    (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School,
    founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of
    the Mises Institute. He was
    also editor — with Lew Rockwell — of The
    Rothbard-Rockwell Report
    , and appointed Lew as his literary
    executor. See
    his books.

    The
    Best of Murray Rothbard

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