A very late film review of ‘War Dogs’
By JP, Contributor
In addition to offering some decent laughs, War Dogs provides a revealing look at a subject that far too few people know about: the increased privatization of warfare since 9/11. The film focusses on two pot-smoking 20-somethings from Miami Beach who manage to land huge contracts with the US Department of Defense to provide weapons and supplies for America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Bush administration oversaw a record increase in military spending, though what a lot of people may not know is that a greater percentage of this money went to private military contractors than ever before. In fact, private military spending soared from $145 billion in 2001 to $390 billion in 2008, as explained by Guy Lawson, author of the Rolling Stones article “Arms and Dudes,” which inspired the film.
Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play the film’s arms-dealing protagonist duo, who are out of their depth in a world of geopolitics and weapons supplying, but who know how to celebrate their dirty profits through drugs, fast cars, and jokes about your mom. In addition to the comedy, the film exposes the post-9/11 world we live in. As a more recent example, a young private military contractor named Edward Snowden had access to millions of files of classified information while doing work for the NSA and he was able to leak them to the public. While the actions of Snowden and the film’s protagonists are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum, their respective accomplishments highlight the problems with private military contractors.
In addition to the security risks and the ethical questions that arise from supply chain management of private military contracts, another important question is one of efficiency. The film’s protagonists joke at one point that, because they lowballed one of their contracts by $53 million, the US taxpayer would get a good deal for once. Sadly, military procurement and military contracting is often woefully inefficient, as a search for news about F-35s will quickly reveal. Whatever you may think of the use of military force, the increasing privatization of the military hurts you as a taxpayer, if nothing else.
In brief, the guy who made the Hangover trilogy surprises with a half-decent comedy that touches on an under-reported issue continuously affecting the world today. Hopefully this retroactive review has convinced you of some of the comedic and informative merits of War Dogs, a decently fun flick that might have slipped under your radar last year.