New Michael Moore Film Indicts US Military Waste, Foreign Policy

A preview of Michael Moore's new documentary, Where To Invade Next. Will America get its act together and take care of its domestic issues instead of waging global war? Time will tell

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Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has always been more of a provocateur than a serious social critic. His muckraking documentaries have focused on varying crises in the United States: Roger & Me addressed Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan’s loss of General Motors and the city’s ensuing economic depression; Bowling for Columbine decries gun violence; and Sicko is an eye-opening expose of Americans’ lack of health care coverage.  

Lately, Moore has turned his attention to calling for the arrest and prosecution of Rick Snyder, the unfailingly awful governor of Michigan. (Long story short: Flint faces a public health crisis because of a series of the decisions made at the state level that caused lead and other toxins to leach into the city’s water supply. Oopsie.)

Whether one agrees with Moore’s politics or his methods, it is true that he is not shy about questioning the status quo. While one might be tempted to dismiss him as Just Another Russophobic American, unlike most left-wing commenters, Moore has not displayed a pathological hatred of Russia. He has remained more or less mum on Russia’s involvement in Syria.  A 2014 Facebook post on Moore’s page featured a Ray McGovern article on the coup in Ukraine (the link to the article on his site is no longer valid, however). Moore asked his followers to sign a RootsAction.Org petition condemning Obama’s hypocrisy over the situation in Crimea. Moore has also spoken out about the revolving door between the State Department and Human Rights Watch. Moore dropped by a protest against the Trans-Pacific trade deal. His other recent antics have included standing outside Trump Tower and yelling about being a Muslim.

Moore has now taken his mission of social policy critique and applied it to America’s foreign policy, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. When a large metropolitan area in a state with 16 electoral votes can’t provide its citizens with clean water, we definitely have a case of the shoemaker’s children going without shoes.

Moore’s latest documentary, Where To Invade Next, opens nationwide on Feb. 12. In the film, Moore ponders the query: Since other countries seem to have solid things like thriving educational systems, healthy school lunches, and zero student debt, which one of these countries should we invade and whose policies should we steal? Because all of these interventions overseas and military spending aren’t improving the lives of average Americans.
I’ve got a blank space, baby. And I’ll write your name.
Here at Foreign Policy Without Pity, most of our readers are already aware that the worker bees at the State Department have more the instincts of feral cats than they have interest in international peace and security. Moore’s film acknowledges that the American empire exists to invade other countries and take their goodies for our own uses. Where To Invade Next’s central thesis is that it is beyond time that the exceptional nation acknowledged that the American Dream™ is still alive and well, albeit overseas. Moore’s travelogue proposes that we “invade” countries like Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, and Tunisia because they are providing services to their citizens, and bring home these effective policies. It’s a cute idea, and sorely needed, but it doesn’t go far enough.

While Moore’s points are valid, a lot of what is being written in the mainstream press about this film is that it is an indictment of America’s “exceptionalism,” but it may become an exercise in preaching to the proverbial choir. The film appeals to upper middle-class white Americans and confirms their belief in utopian Europe. Bourgeois America’s love affair with Scandinavia is well-documented. The visit to Tunisia could be viewed as tokenism, but it’s a good reminder to Americans that primarily Islamic countries do not, in fact, require freedom bombs.

Despite this, overall, the film may come across as another tale of romanticized Western Europe.

The closest Moore gets to touching on the lives of Eastern Europeans is his visit to Slovenia. Critics could argue that none of the countries he documents in his travelogue are currently targets for U.S. regime change operations, although Tunisia experienced a change of power during the"Arab Spring" but is not presently on our national liste de merde. It would have been more challenging to the American psyche had Moore visited places such as Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and our big buddy Russia. Russia has its fair share of #FirstWorldProblems, but there are a lot of positives to their demographics (the literacy rate in Russia is 99%, and more than half of Russians have a post-secondary degree).

Four-year college tuition in Belarus costs about the same as a community college in the United States.  

Kyrgyzstan's unemployment rate hovers around 2.3%. Higher education in the former Soviet republic is even less expensive than in Belarus -- between $425 and $1,700 per year. A year at the University of Michigan, Moore’s home state’s flagship school, will set a student back about $27,000.

Azerbaijan plans to introduce universal health care in the near future. Crime rates in Baku are considered low.

Kazakhstan introduced a national moratorium on capital punishment in 2007, and later abolished the practice except in cases of terrorism and war crimes.

With all that said, Where to Invade Next is definitely on our watch list.  Any reminder Americans can get that their “help” is not necessary is always useful. Will the film reach the right ears? That remains to be seen. Average citizens need to put away the war paint and understand that supporting endless wars and the military-industrial complex is only benefiting but a few insanely wealthy people. If this documentary serves as a kick in the pants for Americans to take their democracy back, then Moore's work will have been well worth the effort.

For my part, I hope Moore's work in this area is only just beginning. Americans are led to idealize some countries and look down their noses at others, and it is generally for reasons that only benefit elites. A broader perspective of the world at large is sorely lacking. The truth is, no country is wholly “bad,” and a lot of places outside of the USA are succeeding at providing a decent quality of life for their citizens.

Except Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is still awful.


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