Dr. Strangelove is one of the funniest films ever made. Produced in 1964 at the height of the Cold War, the story concerns a rogue right-wing Air Force general who orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union and the frantic efforts by the president and his advisers to recall the bombers before it’s too late.
Convinced that the fluoridation of the water supply is a “commie” plot to sap “our precious bodily fluids,” the cigar-chewing General Jack D. Ripper (masterfully played by Sterling Hayden) became the template for a long line of Hollywood generals who, because of their paranoid view of the world, posed a threat to peace and security. The message of Strangelove and a dozen other military thrillers is that war is too important to be left in the hands of gung-ho conservatives.
But times change, and the Army has changed with the times. It’s not your father’s (or grandfather’s) army any more. It’s more like your Marxist, transgendered kid sister’s army. Well, that might be an exaggeration. There are still plenty of unconfused, level-headed, patriotic, and highly competent soldiers in the military. But there does seem to be a problem at the top, and it doesn’t have anything to do with square-jawed, commie-hunting maverick generals. Consequently, it may be time for Hollywood to come up with a new angle on the old story of conspiracy-obsessed officers with itchy trigger fingers.
Here’s an idea. What if, instead of a rogue right-wing general, it was liberal PC types that endangered national security? In short, what if liberals ran the Army?
It’s not really a hypothetical question. They already do. Let’s start with the Commander-in-Chief. Is he liberal? Is he radically cutting back on troop levels and defense spending? Does he look upon the military as our first line of defense or as the proving ground for every daffy social experiment that left-liberals can devise? (These are rhetorical questions and there is no penalty for incorrect answers—except maybe life in prison.)
In Dr. Strangelove, much is made of our supposedly insane Cold War policies. But has no one noticed that there’s something more than a little odd with current policies? Take the “Taliban trade” that’s currently in the spotlight. The president swapped five high-ranking Taliban commanders for one low-ranking sergeant of questionable patriotism. That’s like trading Reich Marshal Goering, Field Marshal Rommel, and Admiral Doenitz (supposing we had captured them) for the cook from Charley Company who got drunk one night, wandered over enemy lines, and fell into the hands of the Germans.
Even if the Bergdahl affair were an isolated incident, it would still have “rogue action” written all over it. The president doesn’t seem to have any more patience for advice and consent than General Ripper did. Unfortunately, the swap is only one in a long line of military misadventures that, were they in a movie, could only be treated as tragedy or high satire.
Here are some examples:
The largest leak of classified intelligence in history (WikiLeaks) was traced to a cross-dressing, twenty-two-year old private in Army intelligence. At his court martial, Private Bradley Manning’s attorneys argued that the court should be lenient on the grounds that their client suffered from “gender identity confusion.” Private Manning, who prefers to be called “Chelsea,” is now in Fort Leavenworth Prison, awaiting sex reassignment therapy. In compliance with his wishes, most news outlets now dutifully refer to “Miss” Manning as Chelsea or Chelsea Elizabeth. This, however, is probably not a blanket change in editorial policy. If George W. Bush were to reassign himself as a Democrat and ask to be called Franklin Delano Bush, it is unlikely that the media would comply so readily.
Gender confusion? How about plain old conventional confusion? Valerie Jarrett, one of the president’s top advisers, once attended a reception where she mistook a four-star general for a waiter. But that’s nothing. James Clapper, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, mistook the Muslim Brotherhood for “a largely secular organization.” The Brotherhood’s creed is: “God is our objective; the Koran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.” Luckily, the code-breakers at National Intelligence were able to determine the hidden message in all this—namely, “We are largely secular.” Meanwhile, John Brennan, the head of the CIA, has on at least a couple of occasions described jihad as a “holy struggle … to purify oneself or one’s community.” This is roughly equivalent to the World War II head of intelligence thinking that blitzkrieg was German for “cherry blintz.”
In an era when diversity and sensitivity trump security, such intelligence failures are to be expected. After Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan murdered fourteen people at Fort Hood, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey opined that although the massacre was a tragedy, “it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.” That’s the kind of talk one might expect from the gung-ho General Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove. But in its own way the Fort Hood story is as strange as anything in Strangelove. When the film was produced, the idea of having the commander of a nuclear bomber wing go bonkers was considered daring. We’ve been on our guard against zealous right-wing generals ever since. But how about zealous Muslim psychiatrists? That sort of threat wasn’t even on the radar when Stanley Kubrick directed and produced the film.
Kubrick could hardly have imagined that, half a century on, our troops would have to worry about a gun-wielding Muslim psychiatrist and the politically correct protocols that enabled him. After all, the plot of Dr. Strangelove hinges on the fact that no one realizes General Ripper is unhinged until it’s too late. The crazy thing about the Fort Hood massacre is that many people knew that there was something radically wrong with Hasan long before the shooting, but they also knew that they might get sentenced to six months sensitivity training or worse if they said anything about it. As the Associated Press reported, “a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim [medical] student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.” So they held their tongues, and instead of being handed his walking papers, Hasan was given the Pentagon’s Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and various glowing recommendations. Even after the shooting, political correctness held sway. After conducting a lengthy investigation, the Department of Defense concluded that the jihad massacre was just a typical case of “workplace violence.”
What if liberals with their PC ways ran the Army? We’re beginning to find out. It’s not just that political correctness allows misfits like Bradley Manning and Nidal Hasan to fly under the radar, in effect it turns off the radar. In 2011 and 2012, at the behest of Muslim lobby groups, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and other national security agencies were ordered to purge their counterterror training materials of any references to Islam that the activist groups found offensive. In effect, Islamists now decide what America’s defenders will learn about Islam. (Hint: it’s all about peace.)
Meanwhile, as the military becomes more non-offensive in the PC sense, it’s also becoming more non-offensive in the sense of not having enough men and materials to defend our country’s interests. The Pentagon recently announced plans to scale back the U.S. Army by more than an eighth. That will bring it back to the lowest level since before World War II. This comes at a time when Russia is eyeing Ukraine, China is eyeing various Pacific islands, and Islamists are eyeing the whole planet. However, it’s not as though our own military is unconcerned with the planet. The Army has been switching to environmentally friendly lead-free “green” bullets. Reportedly they don’t have as much stopping power as the old bullets. But what the heck—they’re good for the eco-system, just like the bio-friendly jet fuel the military bought for $150 per gallon.
Although the PCing of the military is extremely serious and possibly catastrophic in its consequences, it also has its comic side. The situation cries out for the Dr. Strangelove treatment. Will Hollywood move to exploit the comic potential inherent in an army that’s forced to play by liberal rules?
Don’t hold your breath. The same people who now run the government and military also run the media and entertainment industries. And they don’t like to be laughed at.
Editor’s note: This essay first appeared June 11, 2014 on Aleteia website and is reprinted with permission of the author. The image above pictures Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove in the 1964 film of the same name, directed by Stanley Kubrick.