Dr Strangelove is a speculative masterpiece, an eiree depiction of what might happen within the council of the President of the United States should some lone cowboy suddenly order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It is probably the most incisive satirical portrayal of the absurdity of fear, one that pervades the institutional decision making process.
It’s a worrying parody of how our international institutions deal with the unforeseeable and the unknown. In the film, individuals become merely products of the institutions they represent, whose procedures exclude the individual – which ultimately – can be interpreted as Kubrick’s underlying message that when the individual is lost, we’re all lost.
Now, fifty years of the films release, fear once again has seeped into our national and international institutions and those individuals involved in the decision making process. In reality, fear has probably never gone away, maybe for a brief period at the end of the Cold War, where a brief ideological vacuum led to cries of, The End Of History.
Then there’s Tony Blair, who seems to share the same idealogical rigour of a disabled fascist
How premature a claim this would prove to be, following the war in Afghanistan well after Osama bin Laden had fled, destroyed Iraq under false pretences, invented a “nuclear rogue” in Iran, bombed Libya into civil war, and has given birth to Frankenstein’s monster in ISIS. On top of all that, the US and Nato look to be engineering a new cold war to supplement their worldwide campaign of fear and terror by drone. According to the European Leadership Network, there were 40 serious military incidents between Russia and western powers in 2014.
Domestically, nation states everywhere espouse their own fear list, with the UK government striking the first blow against sexual imperialism by banning face sitting and female ejaculation. The fear of women squirting all over our faces aside, a more prolonged assault on civil liberties is on the horizon as the continued securitisation of the internet increases. This politics of fear is being gradually normalised, where the lone cowboy is no longer a pilot blindly obeying orders, but radicalised home grown individuals who want to murder their fellow citizens. As a threat, it is a classic unknowable like the actions of General Jack Ripper, but it is likely.
Then there’s Tony Blair, who seems to share the same ideological rigour of a disabled fascist, proffering to strike first in the polarising eschatological rhetoric of wars between good and evil. Only this week, the doomsday clock was set to two minutes closer to midnight: “Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a news release. “These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth.”
Thus, fear is not a Dr Strangelove fantasy. Only last year, Obama’s defence secretary, Charles “Chuck” Hagel, was in Beijing to deliver a warning that China, like Russia, could face isolation and war if it did not bow to US demands. Comparing the annexation of Crimea to China’s complex territorial dispute with Japan. He said, with a straight face: “You cannot go around the world and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation.”
In Dr Strangelove the states and organisations that make up our international system are beset by fear, and it’s located almost entirely in the mind.