“I never saw the Eckert Brothers again. In time, this war – like every other war – ended. But I never forgot. And I come to this place often, when no one else does. … In the early days of World War 3, guerillas – mostly children – placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so that this nation should not perish from the earth.”
Let me start off by saying I’m not going to be defending the exceedingly high production standards or the Oscar quality performances seen in this film. To do so would just be dishonest. This is a B flick that became a cult classic. (And I’m just going to ignore all the logistics and tactical issues). (It will be interesting to see if the remake can maintain the same pro-American theme which is so unpopular in modern Hollywood). But this is a beloved film of my youth and you know how those films always stay with you.
But it does show that America (more embodied in our teenage protagonists than the townspeople who behave in a strangely un-American fashion) does not roll over in the face of greater odds (or at least that was the intent, I really do have a problem with how the town seems to be rather passive…but I get that wasn’t the point of the film).
It’s either really bad writing or a very high opinion of America (or both), but you have to admit this small band is not only extremely good at laying traps and taking out superior forces…but they are truly spectacular at scavenging. Military camouflage for different season, fully automatic weapons, RPG’s—the very thing that turned the tide against the Soviets in Afghanistan and which has to be provided by us—the heroes of this film really know how to raid the good caravans and for great military equipment.
And while I’m on the topic keep in mind that this movie was made at the same time the very same thing was going on in Afghanistan, but not with such spectacular results. The only reason the Afghani insurgents did well was American support, and I think writers were trying to show that Americans don’t necessarily need foreign support to defend their own nation. (Oh, before someone chides me by saying backing the Afghan forces was a bad idea, it wasn’t. What was a bad idea was not going in after the Soviets left and helping them to rebuild their nation, rather preferring to let butchers and psychopaths take control of the nation. What was Wilson’s quote “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world…and then we fucked up the end game.”* Thank Bush Senior for turning a nation that could have become a first world nation and ally into a complete clusterfuck. It must be a genetic thing that the Bush’s have no ability to see the long game.)
But back to Red Dawn.
One of my favorite lines in the film is when they are about to execute the Soviet solider whom they had captured calls out, “This violates the Geneva convention.” It’s laughable. From a man who had participated in the killing of civilians as reprisals for the acts of others. From a man from a nation that has killed more innocent people than any nation in history, begging for following the rules of civilized society (also, it’s not a violation of the convention, guerillas aren’t covered by the convention and thus they don’t have to abide by it…but Communists aren’t real big on a actual understanding of law and natural rights). Quite frankly, given what heartless genocidal lunatics the Soviets were (and it looks like they’re hoping for a comeback with strongman Putin) it only reminds me of a line from another film from my childhood, “You who are without mercy, now beg for it?” (Kudos, if you know the film).
Of course Red Dawn also points out that there are certain difference between America and most of Europe. When getting news from their downed Air Force Colonel, they ask
“What about Europe?”
…and get the response…
“I guess they figured twice in one century was enough. They’re sitting this one out. All except England, and they won’t last very long.”
And it’s sad how so true this is. Most of Europe were cowards in helping us take down a dictator (except for a lot of Eastern Europe, I wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that Eastern Europe understands why dictators MUST be opposed) and for all their high handed morality in not helping with wars, they were also strangely silent in helping to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the entire Greek population, most of Europe is motivated by short-sighted grasping and looking out for their own ends without any consideration of morality, a hallmark of their beloved socialist systems (as opposed to Capitalism which is self-interest tempered by foresight, reason and ethics).
Of course I do need to bring up a couple points about what bothers me more over the years…
Now there are a couple of problems that do need to be dealt with. The first, which I assume was simply the nature of needing to have a movie in the first place. Do you know how many privately owned guns there are in America, and especially in the Midwest which is where they claimed the Soviets were able to take a foot-hold. I’d like to see someone try an invasion like this. In a nation as well armed as the United States it would probably not go nearly as well as this movie suggested it would.
More than anything however, my biggest problem is the rather anti-American idea that it was just these kids. Yes, I know it looked like they rounded up or killed half the town initially, and yes I know they had a throwaway line that from when Jed (Swayze) said he didn’t want to take on any more people…but the fact of the matter is that if you provide a rallying point, I would assume that you would see a good portion of Americans rise up should something like this ever happen. History and the news tells us it’s damn near impossible to put down a guerilla revolt when the guerillas are fighting for oppression and tyranny…it should be damn impossible to do it if you actually have something to fight for, especially for a populace that didn’t grow up under tyranny. I get that they were trying to show the character drama of what it was doing to these kids, but it does a disservice to the majority of the American populace whom I believe would never sit back and prefer to live on their knees than die on their feet.
*Before you ask Charlie Wilson’s War while a great story is about the man not the nation which is why it will not be officially on this list. But I must ask, what happened to Democrats like Wilson who actually loved their nation and freedom?