Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rules of Engagement Review

This last week I took advantage of my Netflix account and ordered Rules of Engagement, a movie written by my retiring Senator Jim Webb. In this film Sen. Webb draws on his experience as a Marine and engages the tension we face of having a system that places the ultimate authority over the military in civilian hands.

Rules of Engagement is the story of a Marine Colonel (Samuel L. Jackson) who is faced with a battlefield decision. He makes a hard call including ordering his solders to engage in a bloody urban battle and women and children die. Back home the headlines are all focused on the innocent who are dead and the government bureaucrats are clamoring to shift blame and the finger gets pointed directly at the commanding officer.

Divergent goals, blame shifting, and the fog of war twist the viewer back and forth as the Colonel is brought forward in a court marshal. An old friend (Tommy Lee Jones) represents the accused and a young lawyer (Guy Pearce) represents the government's case.

The movie is half a war-story and half a courtroom-drama. But there is nothing halfway about the violence of war or the violence of internal conflict that free counties face when engaged in war.

Robert E. Lee solemnly said, "It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it." This concept is difficult for people to acknowledge. We don't want to deal with the guilt of dead civilians in war. We feel that we can expunge ourselves of all guilt by arm-chair quarterbacking and condemning the hard choices made by people in the hot seat.

Take the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War Two. Two cities filled with people were nuked. I know well meaning people who take one side or another on this controversial decision in history. Some will say that it was flat wrong. Others point out all the justifications. When you are in battle and things rely on you, choices have to be made. I cannot say what I would have done in Truman's position with the chance to end that bloody war. We, however, should take these reminders as incentive to fight to make sure that good people with strong character are in leadership.

We need them there, to make the hard decisions. I am thankful for people who rise to the occasion and make the hard choices. Everyone is a critic, but history will be the judge.

This movie puts a face to both sides of the issue and will make you think long and hard about the cost of war and the need for honorable people.

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