“The dead remember our indifference; the dead remember our silence. I came here tonight to be congratulated. But today, when I visited the Red Cross camps, overwhelmed by the flood of refugees fleeing the horror of Kazhakstan, I realize I don’t deserve to be congratulated. None of us do. The truth is we acted too late. Only when our own national security was threatened did we act. Radek’s regime murdered over 200,000 men, women and children and we watched it on TV. We let it happen. People were being slaughtered for over a year and we issued economic sanctions and hid behind the rhetoric of diplomacy. How dare we? The dead remembered: real peace is not just the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice. And tonight I come to you with a pledge to change America’s policy. Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons, and to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It’s your turn to be afraid.”
I will vote for anyone who speaks like this about foreign policy and has the courage to back it up.
This is the American ideal. A country that does what is right not is what is convenient. A nation that stands for principle not rank short-sighted avarice.
Dear god, have we failed to live up to that ideal.
But at least we have the ideal; whereas with most nations the majority considers only saving its own hide…we at least keep that feeling here in the majority (I hope.)
But the movie does point out that there have been times we have not acted in our self interest. The villain smugly remarks, “You who murder a 100,000 Iraqi’s to save a nickel on a gallon of gas are going to lecture me on the rules of war.” This is a typical liberal piece of bull (Blood for oil) because it ignores the basic rules of economics. Economics states that if you want cheap things you deal with dictatorships, as they somehow have much lower production costs (something about slave labor being very cheap). Any idiot who has taken more than a nanosecond to think about it knows that if we really wanted cheap oil and only cheap oil we would have (1) let Saddam have Kuwait instead of driving him out and (2) lifted the embargoes on Iraq rather than invading it. We in fact did the thing guaranteed to raise oil prices; we protected one nation and tried to bring democracy to another. We stood on principle, not greed for cheap goods. (Now if only we could stand on principle AND bother to come up with a plan for rebuilding the nation after we defeat the military, that last part was kind of lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq).
But it is not jus the speech that embodies the best in American ethics that makes this movie great. It is its understanding of patriotism, and the interesting way it goes about showing how American patriotism is actually different than most forms of patriotism.
When justifying his actions of killing a defenseless man to the captured first daughter, the villain, Korshunov (played by the ever chameleon like Gary Oldman) states:
Korshunov: That’s the first time you ever seen a man killed, huh? You think I’m a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody’s son? Somebody’s father? I am somebody’s son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?
Alice: Why did you kill him?
Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I know…how deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself…for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private morality…it dissolves in this moment…for this love.
You may think this is extreme and farcically overblown…but then you realize that good little Nazis, and good little Brownshirts, and followers of Franco and Saddam and Tito, all probably decent people from supposedly Christian nations, did unspeakable things in the name of country. And the in the east, the Chinese crucified Tibetan monks for the glory of China, the Khmer Rouge created the killing fields for the greatness of Cambodia and the list goes on.
And up front, yes we’ve had our insane sons-of-bitches. No doubt, no question, no argument there. But we tend not to hold them up as our great patriots.
Our great patriots don’t “would turn [their] back on God Himself” and don’t put their “private morality” below country. No our patriots tell their nation and their king, ‘Up yours George, we’re leaving the nation we loved with all of our heart and starting our own.’ Our patriots head north, saying, ‘my love of state is nothing compared to my love of what is right, and the Union is what is right.’ Our patriots go to Britain and fight the Kaiser and the Nazis when our country says no it’s not our fight. Our patriots go to China and fight the Japanese when our nation says it’s not our problem. Our patriots understand that when it comes to a choice between country and personal morals, it’s time to tell the country and its leaders something that ends with “…and the horse you rode in on.” Because America isn’t a just a nation of borders and history, it is a nation not founded on where one race or tribe settled or conquered. It is a nation of ideals and if the people that inhabit the land betray those ideals, a patriot’s duty is to the ideals before “king and country.”
Also the movie points out very important part of America:
“The Presidency is bigger than any one man. Didn’t they teach you that at Yale?”
I don’t know about Yale but they clearly don’t teach it at Harvard these days. Yes, the presidency is an important office (not really, it’s supposed to be the weakest of the three branches), but while the office is important, the person who holds is human and very easily disposable (we get rid of them every 4 to 8 years), and even the best of them are replaceable and flawed.