Alphabetical Movie – The Hunt for Red October
As movies about a silent submarines go, The Hunt for Red October is a surprisingly effective thriller. I keep meaning to show it to my eldest son as I think he’d enjoy it. Thing is, I’m just not sure how to explain the Cold War to him.
Understanding the cold war is sort of crucial to understanding the film but here’s the thing – I’m not sure I ever really understood the cold war myself. How am I supposed to handle all the questions my son is going to ask me?
He’ll ask “well why was it a war if no-one was fighting?”
Well, I’ll respond, it was a war of ideology more than anything. The Russians thought that our governmental system was twisted and corrupt and we thought the same thing about theirs.
“Who was right?” he’ll ask.
Pretty much both of us, I’ll respond.
Then I’ll try to explain to him that we both had huge military expansions, including the development of insane number of nuclear weapons just to make sure that the other side wouldn’t attack us because we were too dangerous. Then the US would get involved in wars that weren’t directly with Russia but were with other communist nations. If we won those wars, it was like we kicked Russia’s ass!
“Huh?” he would respond.
OK, I’d say, let’s talk about something else.
He’ll then ask me what we planned to do with all those nuclear weapons we built if the last thing we ever wanted to do was use them.
I’d tactfully try to change the subject again.
Were the Russians all that bad, he’d wonder.
Yes, I’d say. And no. I mean, nations were forced to follow a governmental system against their will. They didn’t particularly like their citizens leaving the country. There is a lot of evidence they were a repressive society.
But we are seeing all that through the eyes of a nation that was taught how horrible the Russians were. They weren’t perfect, no, but they probably weren’t as bad as we’d been taught. And goodness knows we weren’t as good as we’d been taught.
At this point, I imagine he’d be getting pretty annoyed that I couldn’t give him a straight answer about any of this. He’d probably back up and ask for some sort of definition of terms.
“Why was it called the Cold War?”
Well, a hot war is when the two sides are actively pounding away at each other with weapons. It’s like the war on terror. We kill a few of their leaders with bullets, they kill a few thousand civilians with bombs. That’s a hot war.
A cold war is like that - except the only people killing each other are spies and that is all in secret so nobody knows about it – they just make movies about what they think it would have been like. Say, like a movie about an analyst for the CIA who is trying to help a Russian Captain defects or something like that…
By this point, I hope my son would throw up his hands and complain that the cold war didn’t make any sense.
And I would smile because he would finally get it.
At which point Ramius would be executing his first Crazy Ivan and I could, probably, get him interested in the movie again.