Sunday, August 26, 2012

Debating US Foreign Policy With A Talking Captain America Doll

Like many of our fellow countrymen, my son's talking Captain America doll seems to be well-meaning and extremely patriotic. However I believe his ideas about the uses and limits of military force are dangerously simplistic and naive. I asked him to engage me in a discussion about our differences, and he graciously agreed. Below is the result:

Captain America:
Goblinbooks: I'm glad you brought this up, Captain. This is exactly what's wrong with your way of thinking. Military combat is your first response to a conflict, and it should be the last. I'm not critiquing you as some kind of pacifist, mind you. I know that war is a sometimes necessary evil. But it is deadly, costly, and it creates long-term problems that no policymaker can foresee. A friend recently recommended Errol Morris's excellent documentary, The Fog of War. I think you should see it.

Capt. America:

Goblinbooks: This just makes the problem worse. Your cavalier attitude toward violence alienates potential allies and helps our enemies recruit others who view the United States as a country which does not value foreign lives. No, Capt. America, it wasn't a nice takedown. There's no such thing. As Camus observed, "To the bereaved mother, there is no armistice."

Capt. America:

Goblinbooks: And after Hulk smashes, what then? We leave the occupied country with its infrastructure destroyed and its people enraged, only to have them retaliate at a time and place of their choosing? Or do we engage in a protracted effort to help them rebuild, fighting a lethal counterinsurgency until our force is exhausted? Hulk may have won us a tactical victory, but he inflicted on us a terrible strategic defeat.

Capt. America:

Goblinbooks: Okay, now you sound like a Weekly Standard editorial. Defend the world? Really? Don't you even realize that this is a logical absurdity? That if we are in fact defending the whole world, there is nothing to defend it from except itself? Of course, the fact that this objective is foolish and hopeless, the fact that it can mean nothing for us but death and heartbreak, does not stop people from attempting to attain it. I wish you were alone in your delusional interventionism, Captain. But you are not.

Capt. America:

Goblinbooks: At last, something we can agree on. This nation faces a variety of threats, and it needs all her citizens to help defend against them. But I would argue that some of the most dangerous threats are not hostile armies. They come from within. What about the threat to Constitutional liberties from an unchecked intelligence apparatus? And certainly there is the huge economic threat we face, because we have a massive military and a community of defense contractors with enormous political power. As we continue to occupy bases around the world, we will face the threat from resentful populations who will form terrorist groups and continue to attack us. And finally, we will face the greatest threat of all: The threat that Americans will grow so cynical at a foreign policy that violates our principles and exists beyond democratic control that they will simply give up on this noble experiment. And then it will quietly and irrevocably collapse in a thousand ways, all around us. Are you going to fling a shield at that and make it go away?

Capt. America:

I didn't think so.

1 comment:

  1. I think both Capt. America and Mr. Goblin make valid points, and I was pleased that this was a mature debate where neither discussant resorted to teeth-baring and feces-slinging.

    Although Goblin, clearly playing to his limp-wristed hippie base, laid out a strong argument for a moral, yet pragmatic, foreign policy, it just didn't fire me up. Capt. America's certitude, on the other hand, gave me a patriotic boner.

    Advantage: Captain America.


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