There is an old story that goes as follows. A woman was relaxing one weekend around her house while her husband was watching the football on the tellie. All sorts of abominations were being bellowed from the living room, before they abruptly stopped. A little later, thinking it was safe, the wife entered the living room to find her husband watching a war movie. When she asked him why he had switched over from the football, he replied that he “wanted to watch something I knew we would win.”
There was a time when “winning” used to matter in a war movie. When victory was important, both strategically, existentially and morally. With a few admirable exceptions, (Sniper,) war movies made in the last decade or so tend to be morally relativistic at best. Even the subject of World War Two has been turned from the greatest victory of democracy and freedom over totalitarianism, into a condemnation of the West as a whole for the fact that we had such a war in the first place, and a convenient morality play by which to quash any hint of nationalism among Europeans. As I have suggested before, Europe is in danger of being Godwin’s Lawed out of existence.
In short, war movies have been turned from something in which we cheer and commemorate, into something with which to condemn ourselves.
The popularity of Star Wars, and the enthusiasm with which it has been anticipated and received, shows that we are still eager for heroic stories, and depictions of war itself as something heroic, noble and just. This is not the same as glorification of war. Far from it. War is hell, and any vet will tell you that. War movies of the past were very much a way to collectively remember the shared experience, and the epoch defining tragedy, but also victory, which shaped the previous generations.
The left has attempted to socially engineer away pride in our own nation and pride in our military achievements, and replace it with guilt, guilt and more guilt. But they haven’t managed to engineer out of us the eagerness to cheer for a war effort we believe to be right. The success of a franchise which depicts war on a galactic scale proves this.
I think that this shows that the passions which arise when a collective identity is under threat – whether it is an ethnic group, a nation, or an idea, are innate. They are not a product of brainwashing by a militaristic, capitalist, racist system. These passions, although they can lead to much conflict and suffering, are also a key to human survival and the reason why an identity survives.
You would think that if these passions weren’t an innate key to survival, the idea of Star “Wars” would be run out of town. Instead, Star Wars is just about the only “war” we are still allowed to be passionate about. It is just about the only “Just War” left, the only “war movie” in which good and evil are clearly and unselfconsciously articulated. Thus, the tremendous outlet it provides.
In practical terms, what this means is that we need to defend the narrative of the World Wars, to reassert why they were just and why they were necessary. We need to do the same for the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, too. Both were wars which the right won, but the left then lost the peace. The belief that we would not be just in executing war to its fullest extent in the Middle East, and the belief that we could not win if we tried, are key to why we face the threats we face today.