RAND Corp. on the Propaganda Value of ‘Captain Phillips’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’


In a commentary that appeared in USA Today, RAND Corporation senior adviser Brian Michael Jenkins praises President Obama’s increased reliance on Joint Special Operations Command raids in place of drone strikes.

“The two U.S. commando raids in Libya and Somalia this month,” Jenkins argues, represent “a significant shift” that “has the potential to both reduce public hostility to the drones…and to improve intelligence by capturing rather than killing terrorist leaders.”

Mind you, Jenkins doesn’t express concern over the unlawfulness of the U.S. drone war or that it consistently kills civilians, as the two recent reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document. Rather, raids are better because they reduce public anger and provide the opportunity to obtain intelligence by putting detainees in a legal limbo on a ship somewhere in the ocean.

There is a lot of “psychological utility” in the use of raids over drones, Jenkins explains. “Now, America can turn things around,” he writes. “Terrorists want us to live in fear. We will make them live in fear.”

I know what you’re thinking: with a comment like that, this Jenkins guy belongs in a Hollywood movie!

Interesting you should say that, because Jenkins cites another advantage to special operations raids over drone strikes: it feeds Americans’ appetite for warrior praise. If Americans can glorify and exalt the bravery and sacrifice of U.S. Marines, it will go a long way towards regaining the public support for U.S. militarism that drone warfare has diminished.

War is not to be celebrated or romanticized, but movies such as Zero Dark Thirty and Captain Phillips provide images and narratives that sustain morale in a protracted conflict. These special operations raids contrast the courage and prowess of American warriors with the calculated savagery displayed by murderers of unarmed civilians, so dramatically demonstrated in the terrorist attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi.

Among the many honors these two Hollywood jingo flicks have received, I’m sure it warms the hearts of the actors, producers, and directors that there is profound propaganda value in their work.

See here for some history on how Hollywood served a similar role for war propaganda back in WWII.

3 thoughts on “RAND Corp. on the Propaganda Value of ‘Captain Phillips’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’”

  1. Before anything USG needs to prove that this or that man terrorized this or that building or killed this or that person, that's according to the laws before they can capture or murder the man.

    But the present argument conducted by RAND corp or USG, the terrorists that are helped by USG in Syria are the result of the politics as "enemies of my enemies" conducted by Bush regime, so, they get all the help they can get via USG allies as Saudis or Turkish or UAE or Jordanian government and etc fighting the Syrian people doing what is USG interests of Syrian regime change. In the other hand, those terrorists in Liberia or in Afghanistan needs to be helped or negotiated with, those terrorists in Iraq are other kind of terrorists because they operate in Iraq, although they are feed by the same source of a state sponsored terrorists as Saudi Arabia and UAE whereas these regimes are the allies of USG.

    Glorifying a militarism operations, shows how weak USA has become where the politics of a non functional democratic system has to deal with terrorists, negotiate with them, use them for regime change and etc.

    All that shows that: USG is no longer operates as a fair partner to the world, although after the idea by Bush Sr. Presenting "the new world order" USG foreign politics intentionally become militarized which since then forcing its will on the world. The political and social economic structure of the system been forcing USG to value himself as low as a terrorist sponsored government-organization and therefore operates the way it dose, flip flopping ideas one day, forgetting the source of the problem the other day, coming up with another manipulative ideas and etc. RAND corp obligation is to provide ideas worth amount of money they get paid for that idea, that is to say, if rand corp have a idea to sale, beside glorifying a militarism regime as a last resort to capture or kill a "terrorist/s" while other ones are helped, bribed and even trained by sources outside and within the USG.

  2. The article compares commando raids to the use of drones. If I had to choose between the two, I'd take the raids. In addition to being illegal under international law, drone usage is a cowardly act that only creates more enemies.

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