One of my favorite television series of all time is Stargate SG-1® starring Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks. I have been watching through the series on Netflix® for the third or forth time and got to thinking. This show perfectly illustrates the conundrum that is foreign policy.
The show is about a secret military organization that costs the tax payers of the United States billions of dollars annually, but they know nothing about it because it is a black budget expense and a top secret operation. The main characters travel literally around the galaxy “exploring” and fighting a war against aliens. It is quintessential interventionism.
Starting with the 1994 movie, Stargate®, (Kurt Russell, James Spader ) the United States Air Force gets involved in an interplanetary incident and end up toppling a dictator who rules hundreds of planets across the galaxy. Then the television series picks up, continuing the war against the alien dictators, freeing various alien cultures and planets of humans across the galaxy. Along the way the characters interfere with the internal politics of many cultures, cause natural disasters, destroy planetary defense systems belonging to alien races, topple numerous dictators only to see others spring up in their place, and so on and so forth. However, they also meet some great allies, do many great humanitarian works including assist entire populations in relocating to different planets, cure plagues, free planets from chemical dependencies, save aliens stranded on planets far from home, etc.
One of the reasons that I like this series so much is that they don’t appear to have an agenda other than to provide entertainment, and to represent the men and women of the US military forces as what they generally are, idealistic, honorable heroes, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. They depict both the good and bad side of decisions made by the characters, and the governments behind them. It is truly a good vs. evil story. Stargate Command (SGC) is battling through the galaxy fighting a race of egomaniacal alien parasites that need both human hosts to survive and humanoid incubators for their young. It also shows their struggle against corrupt politicians, greedy businessmen devoid of conscience, and organized crime including drug trafficking reminiscent of the Opium Wars.
I most recently watched the 2 part episode Heroes, which I believe to be one of, if not the best episode in any television series, ever. In it a documentary producer is sent to The SGC to tell the story of the men and women of the SGC. Because of their history with reporters, and outsiders in general he is met with hostility, but he persists. He endures despite being shut out of all but the most mundane of daily activities and being almost completely ignored by the men and women he is sent to document. In the end, he writes a truly inspiring story about the heroic things the SGC is doing on behalf of humans everywhere, especially those on Earth. General Hammond, commander of the SGC describes the fictitious documentary in this way: “I’ve written a lot of letters to the next of kin. Nothing ever seems like it’s enough. They deserved more. This is something more.”
I believe that this episode itself, though it does not try to be a tribute to our men and women is “something more.”It describes the sacrifice they go through for us, for each other, and for others. It shows their loyalty to one another, and their anguish when a comrade falls. It honors them not because they die for their country, but because through their sacrifice, we don’t have to. When we condemn the decisions of our President, the Pentagon and their orders to the military, though we don’t mean it, it is only natural for our troops to hear us condemning them for following those orders. Yes, we need public discourse about foreign affairs. Yes, we need military and governmental transparency because our leaders serve We the People. But many times we scrutinize and criticize without understanding. “It’s easy to predict the score when the game is over,”(1) but are we really qualified to judge the decisions made by those in the heat of the moment?
Foreign policy and military action are very complex things, with many motivations, considerations and justifications. We should elect our leaders carefully, and pick representatives with character and integrity. We should conduct ourselves fairly in our dealings with others, and we should expect the same from our government. But we should really be careful when making quality judgments or comparisons, because despite all of its faults we do “live in the greatest nation on God’s green earth.”(2)
(1) Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) in Stargate SG-1: Heroes Part 2, MGM Studios and Sony Productions, 2004
(2) Michael Medved, The Michael Medved Show, michaelmedved.com
*Stargate®, Stargate SG-1®, it’s stories, plots and it’s characters are the property of MGM Studios and their subsidiaries. I make no claim to them, and only reference them in fair use commentary on publicly broadcast media.