Table of contents

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Some possibilities of the executive power after the Cold War

Nuclear warfare is not the sort of thing that goes away. Mission impossible stories took their time to get to this old Cold War favorite–spy stories are strangely inclined to returned to their Cold War origins, it seems…–but they have come around to the revolutionary potential of the atom bomb. Somewhere someone is hoping to wipe out democracy by returning men to the grip of necessity–the necessity to survive. Hell is supposed to be the home of man–this kind of evolutionary future would produce a warrior race.

Destroying the Kremlin seems the image of American military victory. But Russia is something you learn to live with-– there are people far less sane, whose self-interest means nothing to them. Democracy has to face a yearning it cannot understand in these people who cannot be bought but have to be destroyed. The executive surprisingly is unable to use intelligence–they seem to serve as scapegoats more than anything else–they seem unprepared for strange enemies.

The ghost protocol means the government is abandoning this spy shop. Their assets are forfeit. The bodies are suddenly abandoned. Now they do or die. The essential lawlessness of spying is now official. The question then is, what does prudence mean anymore? How can you help your enemy to destroy him? How can anyone be trusted in such a situation?

The new spy, Brandt, lies to master-spy Ethan Hunt, who had been lying to his team with much greater poise & purpose. So much for a band of brothers. The master-spy first lied to save his wife. Necessity forced him to mislead his team. Then he lied to his team in order to get the Russians to help him. Comically, both were trying to protect a woman whom one had to believe he failed for the other to believe he succeeded!

Hunt’s manliness & wisdom are at odds here. If he knows what he thinks he knows, the risk is much less than it seems; but if he does not, he is insane. In the urgency of events, his manliness seems to win. His manliness seems more persuasive than his wisdom even to spies. It offers an alternative to chaos.

In the end, the contradiction looks like this: Being willing to die for what you believe blinds you to the possibility that others succeed by dying. Who can fight an enemy who wins dead or alive? But being that you cannot predict events or achieve this kind of control, manliness may be more reasonable than wisdom: It gives you the help of friends. Splendor seems to be connected with having friends who can help. This love of reputation announces executive power: Spies are the prophetic arm of government.

This seems to be the most successful of the MI stories–maybe the only one that spends not time at all in America. The focus seems to be one what the wreck of the old world & the wealth of Asia might make possible.