3 Key Moments of "War Machine" by 3x Afghan War Veteran

Photo Credit: Netflix

Damn.  That was a good movie.  So good that I watched it twice in 24 hours. Took notes the second go-around in order to share my thoughts with you.  

Bottom line up front: This may be the most covert anti-war movie ever made.  Not because it represented our military leadership as incompetent.  Because in making them look comically incompetent, it got viewers to understand who’s really responsible for the debacle: our political and military leadership.

A few key moments in the film offer a peek into the strength of the message. These lines unravel a great deal of truth we should all take notice to:

“Counterinsurgency is a popularity contest.  Are the locals better off with you or with the insurgents?”  After 17 years of bombing a developing nation with no sustainable improvement, this is a question we should honestly ask ourselves.

“You can’t win the trust of a country by invading it.  You can’t build a nation at gunpoint.”

“Only in war are generals relevant.”  Now, ask yourself, “If I served and wasn’t a general, what does that make me?”

To my military brethren that are upset about the portrayal of General McChrystal:  If they hadn’t portrayed the General and his staff as egotistic, incoherent asses--nobody would watch the movie and the points would have been lost upon the 99% of the population that didn’t serve post 9/11.  Hang with me here.

Most American’s don’t really give a fuck about Afghanistan or it’s people.  Be honest.  We go to work, pay taxes, bitch about the news, and generally do what it takes to put food on the table and a roof over your head.  The war in Afghanistan is an occasional 30 second thought in between Tiger’s DUI or the latest political debacle.  We lost 2,371 lives and spent over a Trillion (With a capital “T”) on a country that we really don’t care about.  If this last paragraph upset you, it’s probably because you know it’s true.

So, the movie.  It’s an entertaining two hours and two minutes of Brad Pitt looking like an ass in Afghanistan.  Who wouldn’t watch that?  Exactly.  And tons of people did.  And reviewers wrote about it. Driving more views.  Getting people to hear the salient points conveyed in between moments of stupidity portrayed by the cast.

"Counterinsurgency is a popularity contest.  Are they better off with you or with the insurgents?"

Combat Flip Flops War Machine Review Marine platoonPhoto Credit: Netflix

There’s a scene where a struggling young Marine goes toe to toe with General McChrystal during a brief.  He conveys the struggle regarding the difference between the enemy and the locals.

SPOILER: In a later scene, he reacts to contact by shooting at a local running away from  from the fight.  A few minutes later, he enters and compound and dispatches the previously engaged “runner” and two insurgents.  During the compound clearance, he finds a dead child as a result of the exchange of gunfire.  

To me, this scene was the point of the movie.

Combat Flip Flops War Machine Review Collateral Damage

Photo Credit: Netflix

Politicians send flag officers who send our young services members into an unwinnable fight, knowing there is a high likelihood of civilian casualties.  And get this: the insurgents know it too.  Insurgents are willing to fight and die knowing that U.S. Servicemembers will ultimately take the blame for the civilian deaths, winning the local population to their side.  And in this cycle, the U.S. becomes ever less popular and winning the war becomes more unattainable than it ever was.  

So, as citizens and servicemembers funding and fighting a counterinsurgency, we should really ask ourselves if we’re going to win this popularity contest. If we know we can't, why do we continue to fight?

[Side Note]  Following this exchange of gunfire and collateral damage reconciliation, the general’s helicopter takes off, blows over everything in the compound dealing from the loss of a child, and dusts the young Marines left to clean up the mess.  Typical.

“You can’t win the trust of a country by invading it.  You can’t build a nation at gunpoint.”

Combat Flip Flops War Machine Review Helmand Invasion

Photo Credit: Netflix

This narration sounded as General McChrystal watches the sun set over the Helmand Province.  We later find out that this was his moment of resolution to occupy the province.  When you watch the movie a second time, the timing is spectacular.

So, please reread point 2.  If you don’t get it.  Reread it again.  As a nation, we’ve been fucking this up for the past few decades.  Maybe this movie will get some people to truly pay attention and understand it.  

Only in war are generals relevant.

Combat Flip Flops War Machine Review Photo Op

Photo Credit: Netflix

This line comes in after Obama ditches McChrystal plane-side.  From my understanding, this relationship was depicted accurately.  

Political leadership doesn’t truly care about our military leaders outside of the photo-op.  

For my military brothers and sisters that have been away from their families, losing comrades, and dealing with the poor care after service, ask youself the question, “If generals are only relevant in war, and I wasn’t a general, what does that make me?”

If you don’t believe this is the most covert anti-war movie ever, watch the movie again.  At 12:18, the narrator drops the truth bomb after McChrystal’s first meeting with the politicians in country, “There are two types of General in the American military.  There are those that believe they can win in the face of all evidence to the contrary.  And there are those who know they can’t.  Unfortunately for the world, it’s the believers that climb to the top of the ladder.  

It’s guys like Stan that are given the keys to the castle.” 

Combat Flip Flops War Machine Review Keys to the Castle

And that's how you make a War Machine.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published