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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
THE WORLD WITHOUT US
"The World Without US" is a fascinating and informative socio-political docu-drama that takes a close look at one of the major issues facing America today -- a potential return to isolationism. The United States currently has a military presence in over 100 foreign countries, and there are more than a few who believe this is a far too costly, intrusive and unjustifiable foreign policy. With US troops spread thinner than an O. J. Simpson alibi, filmmakers Mitch Anderson and Jason J. Tomaric travel to 21 countries over the course of two years to try and determine what the world would be like if all of our overseas military bases were to close and all of our troops were to come home.
Mr. Anderson was born in Romania and learned to love America by listening to his father's short wave radio while being told that some day soon Eisenhauer would return to his part of Europe and free him and his fellow countrymen from brutal Soviet domination. Even though Ike never came, the dream of living free and some day coming to the United States never wavered. After multiple failed attempts and subsequent prison confinements he finally succeeded. It is this historical backdrop that causes Anderson to question why America has a military presence in virtually every country on earth, yet decides to intervene on only certain occasions, leaving other, similar situations alone.
The film opens with a fictitious presidential candidate, William Turner (played by Roy Werner, a veteran of film and television), running on a campaign promise to end our military's "overextended" presence abroad and to use one-half of the significant resources saved to help fix a multitude of domestic problems right here at home. It is also pointed out that even if America's defense spending were to be cut by a full 50%, it would still exceed the military budgets of China, Russia and all members of the "Axis of Evil" combined.
The unique structure of "The World Without US" divides the film into three parts, taking a look at what might happen if Turner were to be elected and his promise to pull all overseas troops were to be realized first in Europe, then the Middle East and, finally, in Asia. Anderson interviews a wide variety of individuals comprised of both ordinary citizens and academic experts. What may be surprising to many is how fully informed the average citizen overseas is when it comes to America's foreign policies. Having been to 37 foreign counties I have often noticed how well educated the average cab driver, as an example, is on the topic of international politics and America's involvement in global affairs. Compare this level of sophistication with the average American Wal-Mart devotee or Alaskan Governor and you'll have an awareness gap wider than Condoleezza Rice's front two teeth. Yes, buckaroos, where most Americans babble incoherently while living complacently and in ignorance even as our sons, daughters, neighbors and fellow countrymen are giving their lives to causes that are often more beneficial to citizens of other countries than to us, you'll find that the average Joe the Plumber in Panama, Taiwan, Egypt, Germany, Kuwait and scores of other countries actually knows what the hell he's talking about.
Among the handful of academic experts interviewed is Dr. Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He makes several interesting points including his analysis that American intervention in what was formally known as Yugoslavia, including the conflict in Kosovo, was both desirable and necessary, calling it "human rights imperialism," while all of Europe either ignored the situation in their own back yard or did not have the backbone to do anything about it. He also claims that without America's significant presence in the Middle East, Israel would soon be destroyed and the entire region would rip itself apart causing global economic, social and political ramifications. It is important to note that in the "Bonus Section" of this DVD there is a segment on America's influences -- good and bad -- in Latin America. Once again, our neighbors to the South, just like those to the East and the West, provide informative insight, especially in regards to Panama.
Special mention should be made concerning the sophisticated and effective musical score by Christopher First, the sharp editing by Jason Blum and the use of powerful and illuminating film clips from around the world. The scenes from a North Korean Communist propaganda film are especially revealing.
Of course, the bottom line for most Americans is why should we police the world when no one else is willing to help (the impotent, insignificant "Coalition of the Willing" is a joke; how many foreign combat soldiers remain by our side -- eleven?). And, just as importantly, why should we bear the cost in both lives and resources when some of the countries who depend on our protection have higher standards of living and more wealth per capita than we do? (Japan being just one example -- it's vulnerability to China and North Korea forms the basis of the final conclusion reached by Anderson and Tomaric; a conclusion I will not give away here. Yes, you will have to get a copy of "The World Without US" to see for yourself -- something I highly recommend.)
A Final Thought -- During WWII America's propaganda machine (and I use that word without prejudice of any kind) produced a series of highly effective films directed by some of Hollywood's finest (Frank Capra being the most notable), which explained why we were at war with Germany and Japan. The seven episodes comprising "Why We Fight" were a tremendously effective series, something which should have been replicated in recent years regarding our invasion of Iraq and our incessant "War on Anxiety." With that said, credit must go to Anderson and Tomaric for at least giving us one installment attempting to explain the reasoning behind "Why We Fight -- Again and Again and Again."
("The World Without US" DVD can be purchased for $9.98 via Singa Home Entertainment's website --- www.singahe.com)