Table of contents

Rambo 4


A time comes for serious men to get God or get a tragedy. Tragedy is consummated with Rambo’s death. His attack on the city is the moment of reversal. The moment of recognition follows closely, when he refuses to kill the sheriff. The warrior who made Rambo a warrior appears to him, to reconcile him with the city. Evoking the bitterness in all of us, this military commander ponders the irony of having a national hero in Arlington cemetery, next to millions of others, only to read on his tombstone that the police killed him because he was a vagabond.

What might seem like barbarism in Rambo’s attack on the city – now he is the predator & the city is his wilderness, the sheriff his prey – is really the need for justice. But to purge the city of evil would mean to kill everyone, or at least get rid of all the people except the kids…

The presumption of the men of peace turns on their use of science. In the wilderness, without scientific gadgets, they would soon die a miserable death. The militia is called out, contemptible weekend warriors who seem to think they are going to a picnic. Even the sheriff despises them. They play with rocket launchers with the insanity of children. They cannot even think about risking their lives, much less fighting to the death.

When he returns to the city, Rambo destroys the gas stations, cuts power lines, & raids the ammo depot. American cities have no gates, for there is nothing against which to defend. All this he accomplishes without significant resistance: nobody saw it coming & nobody is going to do anything about it. Given the skill & desire, a man could bring a city down to its pre-scientific limits: no artificial light, power or heat. Quickly, he has come to outmaneuver & outgun his enemies.

His scientific weaponry confirms that the city is responsible for its own destruction, but also that Rambo needs some things the city makes, even if to destroy the city. He has brought wilderness into the city. The men of peace are as defenseless in their homes as they were in the wild. But men of war themselves learn the art of war & many craftsmen serve by their products the needs of the armies. This destruction affirms the power of science even as it questions its goodness. Science denies the distinctions between great warriors & common warriors, because the power of destruction does not depend on manliness. But it asserts emphatically the difference between men of war & men of peace, because war now requires specialized knowledge. How can the tyranny of the warriors be avoided?