Thursday, December 22, 2005

'Syriana' proposes bold changes for US foreign policy

The mechanisms of terrorism are complex and interwoven but capturing that interplay is what Steven Gaghan attempts with his latest film Syriana. It starts out in modern day Iran showing a beautiful and scantily-clad young Persian woman preparing to leave a Western-style party by covering up in the heavy dress required by that country's religious leaders. This stark contrast between appearance and reality sets the tone for the rest of the film.

The opening scene is not the only one where a hijab and abaya are present. Much of the movie takes place in the Middle East and concerns the plans of Prince Nasir Al-Subaai, played by the very talented Alexander Siddig of DS9 fame. Throw in a CIA agent who has outlived his usefulness, a genius economist, a no-holds barred lawyer and some greedy oil executives and you get a full-blown Parallax View-like movie revolving around our ever-increasing need for oil.

Now this movie is not for those looking for cheap thrills or a sultry love story. It requires intelligence and quickness to keep up with the tempo. The scenes come at you at a fairly brisk pace and the large number of seemingly extraneous characters can be confusing. But the payoff at the end of the film is well worth any resultant head-scratching for with this movie comes a powerful and very real message: the US substitutes short-term gain for long-term prosperity and in the process creates its own enemies.

The worst part of it is that there are well-meaning people working against our best interests without even knowing it. A lawyer fighting to put corrupt oil executives behind bars can't possibly be expected to know that their actions are helping to create suicide bombers on the other side of the globe. And thus it is with this powerful imagery that we are shown how a contradictory foreign policy works against our long-term interests.

If we are to survive the next century, what with being sandwiched between China's growing need for oil and the Middle East's increasingly turbulent atmosphere, then we will need to have a unified approach to foreign policy. The doctrine that gave the mujahideen arms to defeat the Soviets but not the means to rule themselves democratically once the Soviets left will not pass muster in this new century. We must stop seeing only the short-term gains. Our long-term survival depends on it.

No comments: