January 25, 2008

Entertaining Policies

As I sit somewhere in the former Soviet Union, I long for a simpler world of mutual destruction where Colin Gray is relevant and congressmen still know how to party.

Longing complete--the Soviet Union is after all a distant element of my childhood—I consider a small hypocrisy in our foreign policy.

Policy is obviously a complicated matter, and it should at times be no surprise that elements are contradictory, e.g., our simultaneous support for democracy and Musharraf. Never should it be taken too seriously as a reflection or predictor of US action in the international arena.
I have not been greeted in this particular Republic with the normal plethora of pirated DVDs and software that have become the hallmark of travel in the third world. Officially, the US government raises hackles over piracy year after year, particularly when upset about the yuan.

US and Coalition soldiers, however, must be among the largest consumers of pirated DVDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have not been to a company-sized or larger forward operating base in either theater where the sale of pirated disks was not condoned. Most bases, (thankfully, otherwise soldiers might read books or learn the local language) including ISAF headquarters in Afghanistan, have command-authorized purveyors of these goods. Pirated movies are likely a revenue stream for insurgent and criminal elements in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We must be entertained, however, and AAFES seems only capable of acquiring the least appealing movies at prices 17 times what we would pay at the local dealers and then, only after the movie’s release to DVD. There is only so much of a crowd for Nativity Story in a war zone. Even if AAFES does acquire something worth watching, it’s not like AAFES is available in the remoter and smaller bases of the theaters.

And so we’ll watch Charlie Wilson’s War (although not the Kite Runner , of course) with its warning that it is “provided for your screening and has an identifiable watermark” and dream again of a day when the bad guys speak their haltering English with Russian accents and our enemies wear uniforms.