You may have seen a movie called "Acts of Valor" that is currently showing in some theaters. I saw it yesterday. It was a good movie. Suspenseful, with riveting action virtually throughout. Many of the actors were real Navy Seals, so you overlook the slightly less professional acting of the non-actors. As I sat watching the movie, it occurred to me that defense spending is set to be a huge issue in the next six months, as the legally mandatory budget sequestration process begins. It also occurred to me that the 1,000 or so people who benefit most from defense spending are paying less for it now than ever before. We need to make sure this movie doesn't unduly upset the political playing field for the political war to come later this election year.
I recommend the movie. It was made, ostensibly or sincerely, in memory of Naval Special Forces members who have given their lives to protect America since 9-11. We are emphatically reminded that "Damn Few" sign up to "go downrange" and risk their lives in operations conducted every day around the world to stop terrorists who try to attack America and Americans. The plot resembles a theatrical version of the hit television show "24", made more substantial by the undoubted claim that the movie is based on real scenarios and operations conducted by the Seals.
Of course, the Seals themselves are portrayed in the best possible light. There are no innocent people killed. Nobody misbehaves in any way. The Seals in the movie are like brothers, ready to give their lives without thinking in order to save the other members of the platoon. They are devoted family men, bonded by a code of brotherhood that even the closest siblings do not share, and a love for country that not even Abraham Lincoln could have felt.
I believe that most of our armed forces are more like the soldiers portrayed in this movie than like the soldiers we hear about most in the news. Mostly, we only hear about soldiers that misbehave in some way, killing innocent people or doing other reprehensible things. We do not hear about the daily courage and existential commitment most of our armed forces freely give, and we probably take their sacrifice, unduly, somewhat for granted. I am happy to see a movie that tells the good story about our armed forces, especially this movie that claims to portray realistic situations our soldiers must manage every day. I think such stories need more voice, so that we remember what the world is really like.
So, I appreciated seeing this movie. But as I watched, verisimilitude firmly suspended, hoping/expecting that everything would turn out theatrically optimized, I couldn't help thinking this movie had an ulterior purpose. It occurred to me that this is the "Please Don't Cut Defense Spending" movie, timed for release just as the debate on massive defense spending cuts is set to begin in Washington. With real Navy Seals as actors, the Defense Department must have had a hand in making it, and Leon Panetta has been vocal about the harm that will be done to our defense posture should those cuts be implemented. In the last twelve hours, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has reportedly proposed suspending the defense sequestration enacted last year.
If we are to avoid the massive cuts enacted into law by this Congress and this President, those who benefit most from the sacrifice of such heroes must pay the most to redeem that sacrifice. We cannot let this movie upset the perspective in which defense must be viewed. It is not the poor and struggling who benefit most. It is not the middle-class, increasingly having to choose between food and heat, that benefit most. It is the 1% that benefit most, and who have been given a free pass from paying for the blood of others, blood shed to preserve the system engineered by the 1% and for the 1%. The 1% should pay far more than they are now paying for the blood of heroes.
While this movie is a needed part of the debate, the sacrifices portrayed must be viewed in the broader context of "who should pay". We must remember, and remind others, that "who should pay" is the group that benefits the most. And they are not paying today.