Brad Pitt is a military man in his new movie War Machine. The actor, who also produced the new Netflix film, plays Gen. Glenn McMahon, a headstrong leader with a lot of bravado and a bevy of die-hard loyalists. The character — who is based on the real-life Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal — is called into the war in Afghanistan, which by then had been raging for eight years. Tasked to “assess” the ongoing conflict, McMahon soon promises to do what no one else could do in that country: win the war.
The movie, set in 2009, plays out after the White House gives Gen. McMahon more than 30,000 US and NATO troops, a number he claims can end the war. Skepticism abounds, and the surge only ends up serving to highlight the hubris fueling the war.
War Machine is proving to be prescient.
Post-surge in real life, Taliban emerged stronger, ISIS moved into Afghanistan, and the Afghan troops have struggled to secure their country. Now, the US is again considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. This time, the US military has concluded that roughly 5,000 more troops can end what the current top commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, called a “stalemate.” The Trump administration is expected to formally announce its strategy shortly after today’s NATO meeting in Brussels.
War Machine, which is out in select theaters and on Netflix tomorrow (May 26), is based on “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan” by journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 story in Rolling Stone led to McChrystal’s resignation.
Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News presented a screening of War Machine and a moderated Q&A with Pitt, national security journalist and Hastings’ widow Elise Jordan, and with other War Machine filmmakers. NYU undergrads studying media to politics were invited to observe the discussion about the movie and what it portends for the way ahead in America’s longest war.
In the clip above, Pitt and Jordan talk about why the surge didn’t work then – and what War Machine says about repeating that strategy again.