Some of what the Obama administration told Hollywood about Pakistan

According to a Washington Post report, the U.S. is working to improve relations with Pakistan. Among other things, it hopes that Pakistan will re-open a supply route to Afghanistan. In a post just below, I argue against trying to improve the relationship, particularly in light of Pakistan’s conviction of a Pakistani doctor for treason in connection with the assistance he provided us in the search for bin Laden.

But if the Obama administration really wants to improve the relationship, I wonder whether it was a good idea for it to indulge in information sharing with Hollywood about the taking out of bin Laden.

Pakistan came up in talks between the Hollywood film-makers and a top Defense Department official, Mike Vickers. I’m sure it did in other conversations with government officials and personnel too, but I haven’t seen what was said in those talks.

The transcript of the discussion with Vickers shows that the Hollywood people wanted to discuss what could have gone wrong with the operation against bin Laden. The idea, they said, was to negate the view that this was an easy decision. Stated differently, the idea (at least in part) was to portray Obama as his campaign portrays him in this context – an incredibly courageous president, making an incredibly difficult decision.

Vickers was happy to oblige. He discussed various worst case scenarios, including “a big fight with Pakistani security forces” and having to negotiate the release of members of our forces. Vickers did not adopt the suggestion from one of the Hollywood folks that we could have ended up in a war with Pakistan, but he didn’t stop very short of that scenario.

Personally, I hope this movie portrays the Pakistani police/military as some combination of the Keystone Kops and punk bikers in a bad Clint Eastwood movie. But if Obama wants to improve relations with Pakistan, or even to keep them where they are, is it a good idea for DoD to be talking to film-makers about shoot-em-ups with Pakistani forces? Shouldn’t the official line, however implausible, be that we saw no risk of a confrontation with our good friends the Pakistanis? The film-makers wouldn’t have bought it, but let them be the ones imagining our guys fighting the Pakistanis. Let’s not have government officials do it for them.

And, under any circumstances, is it wise to be telling Hollywood that the U.S. government was prepared to make deals in order to secure the release of our troops, if they couldn’t get out? This too seems like something better left unsaid.

These concerns may pale in relation to the importance of helping Hollywood glorify Barack Obama. But they shouldn’t.

And keep in mind that Hollywood’s talk with Vickers is probably just the tip of iceberg. His primary role — which he was also happy to play — was to put the film-makers in touch with other folks who could tell them more.


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