Perhaps what we'll most remember about this era of progressive politics is how many crises there seemed to be tasked to us to fix at once. Has any other era of American history had potential catastrophes which were quite so, well, catastrophic? Global warming, the pending energy crisis, the war in Iraq - none seems particularly amiable to the holding patterns of detente or deterrence, all calling for immediate attention like a sort of long-protracted Cuban missile crisis. With so many balls being juggled at once, it's no surprise that we occasionally lose sight of how we ended up juggling those balls in the first place, drowning in details instead of seeing the big picture.
It is due to this phenomenon that No End In Sight, a thoroughly compelling yet novice-friendly look at the errors made by Paul Bremer & Co. in the occupation of Iraq, is such a painfully necessary film - it calmly cuts through that morass of chronology and reminds us that the major mistakes made were in fact finite, and therefore retraceable. There is no one who would not benefit from seeing this film - those citizens who've tuned out of the news of the war for interest in Lindsay and Paris will understand why other folks are so angry; those who've been following the news in great detail will find it not just a refresher, but an invaluable clarifier; and those of us who deal in politics for a living will find an amazing teaching moment.
After all, the need for a film like No End In Sight (or for Mother Jones, four years in, to release an 'Iraq For Dummies' issue) is testament to the sort of urgency-crazed state in which we find our national politics engulfed. In other years, a film which simply skims the surface of, say, the disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi military, would hardly be so necessary. But in an age where trivia is the most well-known fact of politics (ask the friend or relative who follows news the least which Presidential candidate has been pilloried for a haircut), the simple just-the-facts-ma'am approach is shockingly necessary.
There are some, such as Meteor Blades, who have been justifiably worried that by beginning the story of Iraq's downfall after the invasion began, No End In Sight risks playing into the frame that the only problem with the Iraq war was incompetence in its handling, that there was never anything intrinsically wrong with the idea of invading Iraq, that it could've been a success under good or even just non-awful handling. This is a real concern, but one that ultimately shouldn't blind one to the service being done by No End In Sight. Watching the film, one doesn't get the impression that the orchestrators of the war were incompetent so much as borderline-sinister - over and over again we see decisions made which do not merely betray an incompetence, but betray a lack of any consideration for the Iraqi people that poisons any sympathy we may have had for the very notion of invading a sovereign nation.
In truth, No End In Sight is in some ways about how much we really still don't know. Interviews are held with two partners in a planning altercation, the two reports entirely contradictory; we repeatedly see straightforward questions entirely sidestepped; we're told over and over again that a critical figure has refused to be taped for the documentary. By the end of the film, we have more questions than we started with.
This is perhaps the biggest service the film provides. It reignites our passion to examine, to probe, to raise hell about the calamities enacted in our name.