For the great strategic theorist Carl von Clausewitz, strategy is about the imaginative search for options to achieve objectives and a critical analysis of which one is best.
Sometimes there are no good options and one must select the least bad option.
In his great movies and Schindler’s List (1993) and Lincoln (2012), Steven Spielberg provided a good model for adapting tragic historic drama to celluloid. Instead of taking a sprawling subject like the Holocaust or the Civil War and trying to capture all of it, you narrowcast. Take one relatively small patch of time, such as Lincoln’s attempt to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, or a few years in the life of World War II hero Oskar Schindler, and focus on that. It sharpens the plot and suspense and intensifies the performance of the actors.
On publicity junkets for Trumbo, star Bryan Cranston has repeated the line, “Everyone has the right to be wrong.” Cranston claims this quote came from Dalton Trumbo himself, and shows that the blacklisted screenwriter supported and defended everyone’s right to free speech.
The real Trumbo didn’t. The movie is frank about his membership in the American Communist Party, but its makers (director Jay Roach, screenwriter John McNamara) give us not a hint of what that entailed, or how roundly contradicted is Trumbo-the-free-speech-avatar by Trumbo the actual person.
You might think the greatest literary assault on Soviet communism is Animal Farm, George Orwell’s fast-paced 1945 allegory—and you wouldn’t be far wrong. Although it satirizes the specifics of Stalin’s triumph over Trotsky, Bukharin, and the others in the wake of Lenin’s revolution, the book drives toward the more universal conclusion that the swinish elements of human nature will always snuffle their way toward power. All animals are equal, as Orwell famously put it, but some animals will quickly attempt to prove that they’re more equal than others. For that matter, you might think the most important account of Soviet communism…
It wouldn’t be fair to have called Bolshevism the death of irony. But it did insist on its exile. In the fall of 1922, V.I. Lenin deported intellectuals—putting them on two vessels jocularly called the Philosophers’ Steamers—for exhibiting such suspicious traits as “knows a foreign language” and “uses irony.” Those with opinions at actual variance with the new regime were interned in labor camps on an island near the White Sea. The newly formed State Political Administration (GPU) saw to it that no creeping Socratism would shadow the prospect of radiant tomorrows opened by History’s proletarian vanguard. As distinct from philosophy,…