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Salt


On the art of war & politics

Unlike us, this movie is dreadfully serious. It is a spy movie. Presidents’ lives are threatened; good & evil come together; violent death is always at hand, for fear & necessity drive everyone to kill. The story is nevertheless polite about American foreign policy.

The only suggestion that successive, bipartisan administrations insanely let North Korea get nuclear bombs appears when the woman superspy is sent there instead of an invasion. She is unsuccessful & gets captured. The only suggestion American policy in the Middle East is bedraggled by incontinence & fear comes when the Russian renegade tries to start a war between Muslims & America. He implies that America would have trouble in such a war & that it causes America to lose sight of the big picture: Putin’s Russia is the real threat to America.

The first problem we face is the difference between citizen & spy. The fact that we live our lives without constantly killing people & having them threaten our lives allows us to ignore necessity. Murder is constantly somebody else’s problem. Now we have to judge about spies, which are good & which are bad, when all are criminals, according to the laws.

This woman, our heroine, starts as a desk-jockey, some kind of analyst, then turns into an interrogator, then into a traitor, then into a superspy, that is to say, a courageous & military-minded spy. She kills with an efficiency nobody could have supposed. Her enemies necessarily underestimate her, because they ignore the art of war as much as we do.

The second problem is the peculiar inclination of spies to become double agents. The CIA suspects this woman, on Russian accusations, of being a spy. So far as we see, she would rather live a peaceful upper-class life with husband, house, & family. What possibly could the Russians offer her to turn her? – That turns out to be the wrong question.

The right question is: what did America offer her to turn her? She was a Russian spy, but then she changed her mind, & became an American spy. This is, of course, the solution to the first problem. In order to limit the art of war, in order to make it moral, it needs a political direction. So long as spies have families which they love, they are less likely to betray the country that protects them.

The president’s life turns out to depend on this matter of the private life of the family. He has no other assurance that his bodyguards will do their duty, given that their art teaches them both to protect & to kill but does not tell them whom to protect & whom to kill.

Only recommended for fans of Angelina Jolie