Monday, January 26, 2009

Latest Episode of 24

The new season of 24 has some interesting ideas, but overall is losing my interest fast.

Part of the problem is that the themes are getting repetitive:
  • The government is corrupted at high levels
  • The President has no loyal people in his/her own cabinet (why the hell were these people appointed to their positions--you're telling me most cabinets aren't half-filled with yes men and women)
  • A new flavor of terrorism (cyberterrorism) is being used, but I'm pretty sure they've done variations on this before
But my biggest complaint is that there's a huge hole in the logic of the response to the terrorist threat this time.

The terrorists have identified themselves ahead of time, quite clearly. And they aren't some amorphous collection of terrorist cells spread around the globe. They're the leadership of a sovereign nation.

And AFTER they launch an attack on American soil against American citizens that kills hundreds, the government (aside from the President) wants to pull back a US military force that is ALREADY IN POSITION to invade the country in question and overthrow its government, giving in to the demands of the terrorists.

The President reacts to this with an appeal to the moral values of America. If we don't overthrow this terrible government, many innocent African people will die.

This is what is known as a "straw man argument." It's the weakest possible case the President could make.

Let's review: the leaders of another country have attacked the United States and killed U.S. citizens. There's a bona fide smoking gun. They have the power to kill more of us at their discretion. And the response of a majority of the policy makers is to give in?

That's idiotic and completely unrealistic. Let's go over the stupid assumptions:
  1. The American people will be more upset that a President allowed a terrorist attack to occur by not giving in to terrorist demands than they will be outraged when they find out that WE KNEW WHO THE PERPETRATORS WERE AND DID NOT RETALIATE. That's as bad a misreading of the American psyche as I can imagine, and no American politician would fall for it in the short term. Remember, this show takes place in 24 hours. We may not have the stomach for sustained conflict, but we are also far from likely to turn the other cheek when under attack. And remember, THE TROOPS ARE ALREADY IN PLACE. We would retaliate immediately. Only after repeated successful terrorist attacks would we think about backing down. Anything else would be political suicide.
  2. The proposed invasion is pointless because without the support of a certain African leader now held by the terrorists, no stable regime could be put into place to replace the deposed evil dictator. WHO GIVES A CRAP?! Remember, the leadership of this nation has attacked the US, killed Americans, and threatens to do it again. US leaders would not give a damn who replaced the current dictator, as long as those who did understood very clearly that they would never, ever, attack the United States again.
  3. Somehow we would let someone walk around with this secret cyberweapon to use against us and assume that if we met this one particular demand, they'd be totally satisfied. Really? Our assumption wouldn't be that they'd use this power against us again? Or to get more leverage on other political decisions? Because obviously we'd be rushing as fast as possible to plug the loophole making us vulnerable. Either we can't do that in a timely fashion, in which case we are vulnerable for possible a year or more, just trusting that we won't be threatened again. OR we can fix it in a timely fashion, in which case what are the conceivable odds that we wouldn't retaliate against the dictator's government once we thought our Achilles heel was fixed?
But let's not leave out the stupidity of the entire terrorist plot against the United States:
  • The ridiculousness of the secret cyberweapon that somehow penetrates all government firewalls and grants access to all of our infrastructure. As if everything, all the power plants, air traffic control systems, all of it were somehow magically unified by the fact that it all runs on computers.
  • The goal of the terrorists makes no sense. They don't want the United States to overthrow their government. To prevent an invasion, they threaten an attack at a weak point. Okay, that gives them some leverage until they launch the actual attack. At which point we're at war. It's not like this is a major enemy power with a big military we're talking about. It's an African country. That we don't care about that much. Remember how we actually had a lot of international support for blowing the shit out of the Taliban in Afghanistan, before we got sidetracked? It would be the same thing among the developed nations. It's clear that this dictator is seen as a genocidal war criminal. So if this dictator wants to prevent US action, attacking the United States is the stupidest possible tactic to take, the one most likely to galvanize US and global public opinion toward action and intervention. The smart tactic is to blackmail influential US leaders. Al-Qaeda launched the Sept. 11 attacks because they wanted to punish us. They had no particular expressed, realistic goal of getting us to leave any particular regime alone. The kind of attack being launched works only if the US doesn't know who did it or has no way of striking back. As shown, we might not be able to stop their attacks, but we surely can launch our own.
  • We're supposed to believe that enough high-ranking politicians are in the tank to an African nation that smuggles diamonds that they're willing to betray the United States even after it is attacked. Before we're attacked, okay, I can almost stretch my credulity far enough. But once Americans are being killed? Really? The huge American diamond conglomerates have that much influence? Big oil I could believe. Diamonds are a stretch.

I'm really not sure if I can sit through the rest of the series.


Aaron DaMommio said...

This is better than watching the show.

You should rant more, it suits you. Also I want to learn from your dissection technique.

I often come away from shows disgruntled, but am rarely able to articulate the flaws clearly. So it's a pleasure to watch you do it.

Doug said...


It backfired on me last night, because Lisa was really tired (Mondays and Wednesdays are very long workdays for her)and just wanted to watch the show without hearing my complaints about the plot.

So I started blogging before the end of the show, sitting on the couch next to her, and I think that annoyed her more.

Then I compounded the error by READING part of the post out loud before I finally got the hint that she didn't care and just wanted to enjoy the escapist tension.

Really misjudged that one.

Doug said...

Perhaps I was channeling my inner House, the tortured genius who is misunderstood by his peers.

Or I could have just been self-absorbed and oblivious.