Somehow, Mike Nichols and Aaron Sorkin managed to turn George Crile’s grimly fascinating book about Rep. Charlie Wilson and his involvement in the clandestine funding of Afghan mujadedeen into a mildly amusing political satire. On one level, it’s a pretty extraordinary achievement since nothing about the book really screamed out “this would make a good movie” to me.
The really interesting part of the story, at the end of the day, is the totally-unfilmable micro-level detail about how, exactly, a backbench member of congress with a middling level of seniority gets the necessary legislating done. That’s pretty much all telescoped out of the book in a way that’s understandable, but winds up leaving the time frame murky and it’s not really clear what the story’s even about without it. You get some funny moments out of the whole thing, but it gives you no real sense of anything. Mostly, I hop it juices sales of the book, which is must-reading.
The whole saga of this period in US policy toward Afghanistan is worth keeping in mind as we watch the Sunni awakening unfold. I think one can understand why people who happened upon a way to deliver relatively cheap body-blows to the Soviet Union were willing to do so without totally understanding who was getting the guns and what the ramifications of it all might be down the road. The Cold War was serious business and there were no cost-free options available. The current strategy in Iraq, by contrast, seems to have all of the pitfalls of what was done in Afghanistan but nothing even close to the same upside. It’s pretty clear what the CIA and Rep. Wilson and others were trying to do in Afghanistan. They wanted to put weapons in the hands of people who were shooting at the Red Army — a rival superpower. What’s the comparable objective in Iraq?