Sylvester Stallone proposes to remind America of the Cold War, as once he reminded her of Vietnam. Setting the story in China & Russia not only points to their common Communist past, but to the facts of tyranny, which are older than Bolshevism. The work camps, the merciless extermination of people who only sought to live their lives in their usual misery, & the military industry built at the expense of untold millions of corpses – these things are mere facts in our story.
Nevertheless, could any slap in the face of liberalism sting more than showing mankind the consequences of liberals’ love of communism? We are surprised to see that the pre-modern people who suffer this tyranny may be better aware of politics than their tyrants. They are wary of strangers, they want to protect themselves from their enemies, & they take counsel with the mercenaries in church. One does not see among them the reckless destruction of all political organization that left in its wake human beings who no longer want to live.
Stallone would have fought the Cold War in the way wars used to be fought, it would seem. The sophisticated concern over the global consequences of any given conflict typical of liberalism does not seem to enter his calculations. Then again, the Soviets thought the same way, whence the provocation, the wars, the conquests…
It would not be enough to say he fights fire with fire: He is convinced of the necessity of this fight. Had it not been the Soviets, it would have been someone else. The fight for an empire of freedom is never-ending. To protect the weak & to destroy the proud is the law of such an empire, the dream of which is as old as Rome, as new as Kipling. Our story suggests such law is based on political calculations that ignore any concerns voiced in the international community.
Our mercenaries engage in the preliminary work of nation building on behalf of America. Why not celebrate them? Why must they be hidden in the belly of the CIA? Perhaps the political establishment has isolated the spontaneous claims to justice that lead to warfare from the people. Poets alone can reconnect them. ‘America the beautiful’ is really ‘America the just,’ draped in manly glory as it wages war against obnoxious tyrants.
It would not be enough to say there is a darkness hanging over man’s fitful dreams of eternal peace: The poet resembles the man of war in his somber knowledge that there never will be peace but in death. Both look upon death without fear, knowing that the rest of mankind does fear, as they must in order to live.