To understand the War on Terror see Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow”

Summary: Every war brings forth a film that captures its special nature. For the American war in Vietnam that was Apocalypse Now, showing the violent purposeless madness that it became. For our post-9/11 interventions (weirdly named the “War on Terror”) that film is Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. It perfectly captures the repetitive nature of the WOT, with one vital exception.


“Apocalypse Now”: The Do Lung Bridge
The 8 minute summary of the Vietnam War

“Did you find a C.O. captain?”
“There is no commanding officer.”
… “Like this bridge. We build it every night. Charlie blows it right back up again. Just so the generals can say the road’s open.”

Live, Die, Repeat
A fairy-tale version of the War on Terror

Edge of Tomorrow is a Tom Cruise film, so the plot moves from disorder and defeat to order and victory. His character repeats his experiences in battle, but unlike America he learns from them. We live in a dystopian version of this film, repetition without learning.

Instead of Tom Cruise as our heroic leader we have DoD courtier General David Petraeus, whose first role in occupied Iraq was as “King David” of Mosul. As Wikipedia glowingly reports, in 2003 he “employed classic counterinsurgency methods to build security and stability, including conducting targeted kinetic operations and using force judiciously, jump-starting the economy, building local security forces…” — and departed before all of this quickly collapsed when the insurgents moved in (details here).

In June 2004 Petraeus, now lieutenant general, became commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq, responsible for training Iraq’s army, police, and other security forces. The next 12 years demonstrated the near-zero value of his training, as Iraq’s uniformed forces proved at best ineffective — and its fighting power came from the Shiite militia (perhaps because he hadn’t trained them).

Petraeus then led America to equally delusional adventures in Afghanistan, with applause before each project crashed to ruin.

After our ignominious ejection from Iraq at the end of 2011 (by the SOFA negotiated by President Bush Jr.), we “reset” to the beginning, just like in the movie, and sent trainers to Iraq and Syria. Unlike Edge of Tomorrow, we repeat our actions while learning nothing — and so their training proved almost useless.

Now we move (again) to phase two: sending in small numbers of combat troops with vague goals.

“In consultation with the Government of Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) has assigned a detachment of U.S. Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the support of Iraqi Security Force and Coalition ground operations. The detachment from the 26th MEU will add to the Marines and Sailors currently in Iraq in support of the CJTF-OIR campaign to defeat Da’esh.”

What will they be doing in Iraq? Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, explained that at Monday’s DoD Press conference.

Several weeks ago, thousands of Iraqi troops began occupying a tactical assembly area in Makhmur. This is part of the force generation associated with the liberation of Mosul. These Iraqi forces, along with their coalition advisers, require force protection. So we constructed a small fire base to do just that.

About two weeks ago, a small contingent of Marines from the 26th MEU began moving into position at the newly constructed fire base. This unit is providing force protection for coalition advisers and Iraqi forces.

This is escalation as we saw it in Vietnam. Send trainers, the trainers take casualties — such as Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, California (Staff Sergeant, USMC, deceased) — combat troops are sent to protect them and the Iraq Army (?) — then they take casualties — and a new cycle begins. Live, die, repeat.


Our military is America’s sword. But even the sharpest sword grows dull if owned by a dullard who bangs it on a rock. If this ends badly we’ll need another movie to epitomize the War on Terror — a horror movie like Apocalypse Now.

Remember this when watching the candidates debate during the next seven months. Our wars should be a major issue. Elections are our approval to the actions our representatives take in our name.

For More Information

Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. For more information see all Book and Film Reviews, about learning, and about our wars since 9/11 — and especially these…

Apocalypse Now
Available at Amazon.
Edge of Tomorrow
Available at Amazon.

3 thoughts on “To understand the War on Terror see Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow””

  1. The War on Terror ™ is surprisingly similar to the current stock market.

    Hedge fund managers are primarily looking for opportunities to appear that they add value when anybody who does basic research quickly learns that the best long term returns are gained by using extremely low cost indexed ETFs and Mutual Funds. The appearance of success brings increased funding.

    Generals KNOW they cannot win the war given the current conditions, so they seek the appearance of success and are rewarded with promotions and increased funding.

    These are individual adaptations to a combination of overwhelming ambition on the part of the Hedge Fund managers and Generals and the insane circumstances that surround them.

    You quite logically predict horrible consequences for failure from this mode of operation and you will eventually be proven right. But the dancing on the Titantic will be quite impressive until then and you can bet the deck chairs will be thoroughly reorganized before the ship goes down.

  2. You make some excellent points- as always- but the SOFA assertion does not help your essay’s point. You sort of skip over who was actually negotiating the SOFA in 2011. Perhaps the lesson lost, if one considers the success of supporting S Korea and W. Europe with adequate troop levels for adequate lengths of time is that we forgot, and failed to relearn, how well it works.

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