The bombing of Belgrade seen as an exploitation movie 2

Great lies of our time: "the cheque's in the post"; "of course I won't come in your mouth"; and "I hate to say I told you so...". For NO-ONE hates to say they told you so -- it affords an easy opportunity to remind people of your superior intellect, and so it's perfectly natural. I am no different. Thus:

I told you so.

One week into the NATO assault on whatever-bit-of-former-Yugoslavia, and it's become patently obvious that it's all a horrendous screw-up. "A war with no plausible resolution or viable outcome" was how I described it, and a mere seven days later, even the majority of the tabloid press are beginning to wonder if this was really a good idea. When they turn on St.Tony of Blair, you know that something somewhere is well short of right.

A little further thought on this (which I can probably claim as "historical research" for tax purposes) has revealed a fair degree of precedent, and enabled me to formalise my theory of conflict thus: "don't get involved in a land war unless it plays like a GOOD B-movie". Thus we have World War II, which with some mild shoehorning, fits elegantly into the classical three-act story structure, and builds up to the biggest pyrotechnic display ever, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the other hand, we have 'Nam, which reads like something Joe Eszterhas would use to line his cat's litter tray.

Naturally, this depends on perspective. From the North Vietnamese point of view, it's quite possible that it was A Good Idea, but a) one suspects they weren't shouting "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" at a superpower, and b) they don't exactly have a major B-movie industry, so this probably invalidates the comparison a little. Though "David takes on Goliath and wins" is certainly more interesting a story than "Goliath gets his ass kicked by small dude with a sling".

The problem with this theory is that, in general, it only works with the benefit of hindsight. The Napoleonic War, for example, was pretty good (from a British standpoint), but it could all have gone pear-shaped at Waterloo and ended up as the historical version of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". [I watched this last night; the ending is absolutely amazing, though I think it probably helps explain its relative box-office failure. I just can't imagine Hollywood countenancing anything like that these days] However, while you can do almost anything to your audience in exploitation cinema, the one cardinal sin is to BORE them. Once you lose their interest, that's pretty much all she wrote. Even if Bill Clinton and Tony Blair personally fight their way into Belgrade with a devastating display of martial arts, accompanied by a bevy of scantily-clad beauties, most people would stifle a yawn. Though it would make 'Newsnight' a good deal more interesting.

And so it is in war; it's pretty tricky to win without the support of the people on whose behalf the conflict is being waged. "Hearts and minds" is, I believe, the term, though it's usually applied to the people IN whose land you are fighting. Here, however, while the Kosovans may or may not be keen on the idea (it may be pertinent that I don't recall anyone ever ASKING them what they thought), it's pretty obvious that no-one here gives a damn. Put it this way; if they introduced conscription, can you put your hand on your heart and say you wouldn't be on the first flight out?

The problem now is how does everyone get out of this with an acceptable degree of face. Milosevic {since last week, I have made an active effort to try and learn how to spell his name} ain't going to resign; Clinton isn't going to pack up and go home. The great thing about B-movies is that, even if they're crap, they are rarely longer than ninety minutes. Unfortunately, this one has all the making of a Jim Cameron director's cut. Where's the remote control?


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