Sunday, December 11, 2005


Just got back from seeing Narnia with my fifteen year old daughter. Maybe I'm too hard to please, but although I thought it was good, and in some ways excellent, I can't really rave about it. Part of the problem, perhaps, is that we watched the film in a theater full of adolescents of varying chronological ages which was somewhat distracting, at least early on.

The movie gets off to a sluggish start (after the opening sequence of a WW II bombing raid over English city), taking a bit too long to set the stage for the four Pervensie children's introduction to the land of Narnia. Once there, though, the story picks up the pace and remains quite faithful to Lewis' tale.

I was impressed, in fact, by the fidelity of the film to Lewis' Christian imagery. The theme of redemption, substitutionary atonement, and the sacrificial death and resurrection of Aslan, who destroys the wicked witch in the final conflict of good vs. evil are all pretty explicit. So, too, is the centrality of humanity to God's plan to redeem the cosmos.

It's a good family film with generally outstanding cinematography (some scenes appear to be deliberately shot in a retro fashion which reminds the viewer of older filmmaking) and adequate acting on the part of the main characters. The girl who plays Lucy (Georgie Henley)is talented, but Jadis the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) seems a little unconvincing in the role of incarnated evil.

The computer generated images are fantastic. You cannot tell whether the creatures you see in the film are real or products of computer wizardry, and in fact the beavers are among the movie's highlights. The final battle scene, similar in some ways to The Lord of the Rings' visual effects, is amazingly realistic.

I have never seen a movie in which the resurrection of Christ was depicted in a way that does the event dramatic justice. Unfortunately, this one doesn't either. One moment Aslan is dead, then there's an earthquake and he's alive, but the filmmakers don't really capture the awe and incredulity that would accompany such an event. Maybe it's asking too much for any movie to capture something of what that would be like.

Nevertheless, seeing Narnia is a fine way for kids to be exposed to the romance of redemption in the Christian gospel. It'll fire their imaginations, and they'll see a portrayal or aspect of Christ (unintended by the film's creators or not) that is not usually emphasized in films with religious overtones - Christ the Warrior-King.

My daughter gives it five stars (out of five). Her curmudgeonly father gives it four.

The Case For Resolve

Military historian Frederick Kagen has an article on Iraq in the Weekly Standard which is nothing short of excellent. He examines the arguments for pulling out of Iraq now and finds their premises either foolish, mistaken, or if correct, then nevertheless not warranting the conclusion that America should withdraw. Here are a few paragraphs from the piece that might afford a good overview:

The irony is that demands for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces do not spring from any particular recent bad news from Iraq (there has been little) or justified alarm about the Army's ability to sustain itself (high levels of retention continue to make up for problems with recruitment). On the contrary, the most recent news from Iraq is promising. American strategy has improved, and prospects for success are better than they have ever been.

Since early September, coalition efforts along the Syrian border to clear towns of insurgents have not generated anger, violence, and outbursts--on the contrary. The clearing of Tal Afar in mid-September by a combined American and Iraqi force followed a request by the citizens of that town for an American intervention. Operations in villages in the upper Euphrates since then have generated limited and sporadic resistance, mainly from cornered insurgents. The lessons of the October referendum are very clear, moreover: Dramatic and aggressive joint action by U.S. and Iraqi forces to preempt and defeat the insurgents' attempt to derail the election worked spectacularly well. The truth is that calls for a precipitous retreat from Iraq, or for setting arbitrary deadlines or milestones for withdrawal, now threaten to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The urgency of an American withdrawal from Iraq is no greater now than it has been for some time, and those most loudly demanding immediate withdrawal have no convincing evidence to support their demands.

We should interject that that's because the urgency does not stem from any threat to American forces but rather to the fear that the Bush administration is actually going to be vindicated in Iraq and the use of military force as an instrument of foreign policy will be validated. The Left, as they see matters, simply cannot allow this to happen and their only realistic hope at this point is to pressure the United States into quitting the effort before it succeeds.

The situation in Iraq presents a firmer basis for optimism today than it ever has before. The challenges remain great, and failure will continue to be a real possibility for months if not years to come. The greatest danger to success in Iraq now lies on the American home front, in the danger that misrepresentations of Iraqi reality, politically motivated policy demands, and simple fear, exhaustion, and confusion will undermine the commitment necessary to succeed. The other danger is that those who do want to succeed--the Bush administration, CENTCOM--will inadvertently undermine our commitment by continuing mistakenly to emphasize the damage the American presence does to the prospects for success.

The goal of a counterinsurgency is to defeat the insurgents militarily and politically. In the long run, of course, the Iraqis themselves will have to maintain order in their own land. That does not mean that they can defeat this rebellion alone. The U.S. military has capabilities to locate targets, move forces rapidly to their locations, strike them with precision while minimizing collateral damage, and begin reconstruction far beyond anything the Iraqi military will have for a long time. In addition, American soldiers and marines have a much higher level of professionalism and detachment from this struggle. They have been playing a vital role in suppressing the rebellion, and they will have to continue to play that role for the foreseeable future. Continued U.S. military engagement is needed for success in Iraq--success that seems now to be closer than it has ever been--if we hold fast to the sound strategy for victory that has recently emerged, and do not lose our nerve.

Between these selected paragraphs Kagan lays out a series of arguments that everyone interested in what's going on in Iraq will want to read. Somebody at the White House should hire this guy because nobody there seems able to articulate the case this well.