Table of contents

Iron man

The liberal as patriot

Tony Stark is a weapon-maker for the US army. When he visits Afghanistan to show off his latest missile, he witnesses the strange predicament of American war. On the one hand, extraordinary weaponry, which he professes he is inclined to use, like his father before him. (The fantasy of a weapon you only use once is the fantasy of the end of war or the end of the world.) On the other, a logistical nightmare. (True, but strange: American arms have always boasted great logistics, but until recently Americans have fought from a position of inferiority.) The roadside bombing shows things are the opposite of what they should be. Successful wars are fought by those who worry more about execution & less about weaponry.

Surviving his brief spell in the army, Stark turns pacifist. Weapons can be used by enemies, not just by friends, & they bring hell when they are used. The experience of men dying by his side & the need to kill to survive depress Stark. – Then again, Stark always lived the playboy life…

The honor of his father’s name calls him back to our harsh world. He cannot bear the thought that America’s enemies use Stark weaponry. It would make him unjust by association. So he uses his newest weapon & then we see him kill the evil & defend the weak in some faraway place. To prevent war injuries from killing him, an electromagnet is lodged into his chest. Startlingly, the power that keeps him alive is also the power for his weapon, which in turn bears the shape of man. The Iron Man is a man of war.

Stark loves to fly, he finds. His suit of armor is also a jet engine. Then he learns that his engines can be used as weapons as well. It is strange to see a soft man learn what risks he is willing to take & what pleasure he finds in war. Stark becomes serious not when he builds this greatest war-machine, but when he insists that he is the best man to use it. His willingness to risk death reveals itself as patriotism. Fortunately, the enemy who wants to steal his company & his weapon has also betrayed America. In the end, Stark cannot accept anonymity: He declares he is Iron man & thus makes his ability to wage war a public issue.

Surviving his first major battle, Stark is convinced he ought to wage war on behalf of America. He seems to have learnt that self-defense is impossible without the willingness to learn who one’s true enemies are. This knowledge is moral in nature & convinces Stark to kill them.

For fans of superheroes & Robert Downey Jr.

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