It is one of life’s great pleasures to say “I told you so”, which is why there’s such a happy anticipation of being able to feel contempt. There’s a mild buzz from the everyday occurrence of having your worldview confirmed, which happens to everyone regardless of what their view happens to be, but these are larger things. Hope needs to be invested in order to be dashed (or the reverse, but I’m not sure how that should be described). I’m experiencing something to that effect with this Foreign Affairs article on Libya by Alan Kuperman. I suppose the downside is that I’ve ensconced myself into enough of a bubble that I wasn’t really engaged with anyone who supported the intervention. The Republican party has been cartoonishly hawkish and the American people stubbornly foolish in their inevitably dashed expectations*, but even they didn’t support it. I must admit that even I didn’t expect it to result in the fall of the Mali government or that something on the scale of ISIS would emerge to take advantage of the fragility of regional states (I should also acknowledge I was against invading Iraq on general isolationist principle rather than because I thought it would make the situation that much worse). Since Eric Posner frequently annoys me I was hoping I’d find an article from him supporting it, but unfortunately he distinguishes between his view of what’s “legal” (anything the executive does, because Congress won’t act forcefully enough to stop it) and what’s prudent. And since my home city just had an election, let’s pour out a 40 for a political opposition that declined to make hay out of Obama ruining one of the few foreign policy successes of the Bush administration, and instead shouted “Benghazi” a lot.
*I was hoping to find that blog post on all wars declining in popularity over time, which should not be the case for ideal Bayesians, but I can’t.
It was chance that I happened to read that article the day after watching the episode of Witness focused on just that subject. The narrator of that segment, Michael Christopher Brown, struck me as a grade-A doofus (even his voice, at least in comparison to Eros Hoagland or Veronique de Viguerie) who nevertheless produced a very worthwhile episode. He was with the rebels when the war was raging and once experienced a sense of comradery with them that he misses in the present (at the time this was filmed a few years ago). He serves as the naive greenhorn I can feel condescending to for having been invested in the rebel cause. He can feel bad about how things have gone and try to highlight the plight of people losing out in the new status quo, but noble-intentioned people like him helped cause the mess in the first place. One could argue his sympathies help people to open up with him and share their stories, but the more realistic and jaded Hoagland still manages to get access (more than he actually wanted once in Rio). It’s been a while since I had anything good to say about Mencius Moldbug, so it behooves me to say this is an incident which makes him look sensible. Fans of Restrepo may want to check it out for the material on the late Tim Hetherington, whose recounted version of journalistic truth seems all the more desirable in light of how things turned out.
Finally, now that I’m on the topic of war photographers, I declare Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Powder Keg” episode of BMW’s “The Hire” series to be the worst of the bunch. If the opening titles state that Stellan Skarsgård’s character is a war photographer, you don’t need to have him say “The worst thing about being a war photographer[…]”. That kind of didactism is completely out of place in car promos, and the lack of specificity undermines any justification for the didactic approach. Frankenheimer-esque car chase action is the ideal, although to be fair Frankenheimer didn’t write his episode. Alejandro was one of the three authors of his segment, so he still takes the blame. I haven’t seen any of the recent Oscar-winning films and thus can’t state whether the “Birdman” screenplay he contributed to merited its award (or how Nightcrawler’s cynical take on photojournalism compares to Witness), but it does make me skeptical (though I recall liking 21 Grams and Babel).