Cool Gus: War Machine. A General Who Found A War But Didn’t Know What To Do With It

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Unless I’m missing something, this movie has been flying under the radar. Especially given the cast. I didn’t recognize Brad Pitt in the starring role for a while, which is a good thing. Meg Tilley makes a late appearance but is perfect in the role as his wife. I remember her from the Maui Writers Conference years ago. And, of course, The Big Chill. Classic!

It’s based on a Rolling Stone article that cost the real General his job. It’s pretty much factual, although the voice-over by the ‘reporter’ is more opinionated.

I tweeted about this movie and got extreme reactions both ways: some loved it (but it depressed them) while others thought it was pure BS.

One can make their own mind up, but I do suggest researching the story behind the movie and what really happened. At least read the article it’s based on. At least understand this tidbit which might make you think twice before dismissing this movie: General Patreaus, as a Battalion Commander in the 101stAirborne, during peacetime, was ‘accidentally’ shot on a rifle range by one of his own soldiers. Any Infantryman worth his salt will tell you a 2ndLT’s career wouldn’t survive such an event, yet Patreaus, who had conveniently married the Superintendent’s daughter after graduation, rose to four star general in our current Army. How? And he didn’t go to prison for passing classified information to his lover. Why?

The general in question in this movie is roughly my contemporary in the Army, a few years before me actually. He’s clearly a narcissist. Although not a malignant narcissist. But even a plain narcissist can be dangerous, especially when other people’s lives are in his hands.

The point about not being able to defeat an insurgency are spot on. I spent years of my life studying, training, and deploying in the field of insurgency and counter-insurgency. Even the General points out a flaw in fighting that type of war, while being oblivious of the bigger picture of “why are we even fighting this war?”.

I’ve searched in vain for clearly laid out strategic goals for our current military combat involvement in six countries (at least that we know of) and found nothing that comes close to meeting the definitions I was taught were required at West Point. I’m also lacking exactly what legal justification there is for all our forces deployed in harm’s way overseas.

While the German reporter scene (always love Tilda Swinton, perfect in Michael Clayton!) might seem too much, she actually asks on target questions. We know the Iraq invasion was built on lies. And we did ‘win’ as much as we’re ever going to win in Afghanistan by the end of 2002 thanks to our Special Forces. Why are we still there pouring our soldiers’ lives and a fortune into that hellhole in 2017? What is the end game other than pouring money into the military-industrial complex?

I do wonder where the brave military leaders are who will state the obvious: we’re fighting wars with no strategic goals, no possibility of ‘victory’, and not in our national interest? That would take more courage than sitting in a FOB issuing orders.

The tone of the movie was a bit inconsistent. And the diversion to the on the ground combat, while I understand the reason, was a bit distracting.

However, I do think the voice-over made several gut-wrenching, spot-on, observations. Not just about the military, but about life. I know some deep narcissists and the scene where he salutes the statue and the commentary is spot on. I also wonder if in real life he accepted what happened so easily once the article came out? An interesting side note, and just an opinion, the story is Obama offered the General several other jobs before firing him. And was turned down. I think the firing was, in hindsight, a mistake. Because it turned a large group against that President and that has echoes into our present.

Cool Gus is going to a five paw system (because four paws up either means he wants his belly rubbed, or, well, we don’t want to discuss the other). He gives this four of five paws up.

Your thoughts?

Originally published at on June 13, 2017.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to

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