The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Everyone’s a Critic


May 9, 2009

There’s been a lot of discussion about the Movies and IR, and I couldn’t resist a list. Plus, there’s a Bond movie on TCM—Goldfinger and now Thunderball—and I think Walt is crazy for leaving out war and spy movies, as that’s as much the stuff of IR as anything else.

I’m not a film critic. A lot of the movies I love aren’t “brilliant” by film critic standards but are nonetheless fun to watch, and are very illustrative of particular concepts or moments that make them tremendous fodder for moments such as in-class discussion.

This is a very incomplete list. Its an off-the top of the head list, overly influenced by what I’ve seen on TV recently or talked to people about. Given all that, here goes…

The Hunt For Red October
Read Schelling, Fierke, and then watch this movie. Its all about understanding the Cold War as an elaborate game with rules that allow for a sophisticated signaling process. The two subs know the game, play it to perfection (flood tubes 1 and 2, but do not open outer doors!), and in doing so, recreate the rules of deterrence and the Cold War.

War Games
I have yet to find a better and easier way to explain deterrence and the madness of MAD. Interesting game. The only way to win is not to play.

Red Dawn
Such an insane movie. And yet, look how many of its cast members would go on to further success! The key to understanding this movie is to realize that it is, explicitly, neoconservative propaganda. Its what they fear—more so from weak kneed, cowardly liberals who would not stand up to communists. Really—the Cubans and Nicaraguans parachuting into Colorado? No grasp of reality. But then again, the fears of Red Dawn drove US policy in Central America for the entirety of the 1980’s.
Rodger had a similar reason for teaching this movie.

From Russia With Love
I love James Bond movies. Possibly the two things I on which I feel most comfortable asserting real, legitimate expertise are the Cleveland Indians major league roster and the James Bond films. I think this is perhaps the best of the Bond films. A fantastic job of exploring Cold War tensions in Europe, but also revolutionary for the introduction of SPECTER. An international terrorist organization playing great powers off one another? Not so far fetched, now is it? I find the parallel amusing…

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
A nice exploration of the difficulties for Cold Warriors in dealing with the end of the Cold War. No wonder we stuck with the “Post-Cold War” era for so long, unable to let go of that which had defined us for so long. No wonder the military is still looking to replace the USSR in its procurement plans….

Top Gun
The myth of invincible American air power really begins here.

The Transformers (2007 version, although the 86 animated version was fun at the time…)
Perhaps better than any contemporary movie, shows how incredibly powerful and deadly the post-Iraq US military has become. The scenes of the special forces team attacking the Decepticon, calling in fire support, are just awesome, as its vastly underappreciated how much devastation the modern combined arms force can unleash.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Some days, I really think that it could happen, with a nod to PW Singer.

I largely agree with the consensus picks of Strangelove, Casablanca, and Wag the Dog and for pretty much the same reasons—I have nothing new to say about that.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.