Rambo 4 has, over the past couple of years, remained a standard reference point for New Mandala‘s discussions of the war that simmers away on Burma’s eastern fringe.
Of course, in recent months the fictional John Rambo has been replaced, both here and in more general reporting, by the Thomas Blemings, Jake Slades, David Everetts and Derek Meltons of the world. For better or for worse, they have provided a new and publicly discussed dimension to the ongoing battle between the Karen National Liberation Army and the men of the tatmadaw. And now it looks like we will have an unexpected Japanese angle to this intriguing story of military ambition, foreign fighters and the continuing quest for a “free Burma”.
But John “Are you bringing in any weapons?” Rambo has a habit of leaping back on to the agenda…
Over at the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter – a must-read blog for anyone who follows foreign policy debate in Australia – Andrew Selth has a few critical jabs at the recent Rambo film and all it represents. He identifies some of the deeper, dare I say it, “strategic” problems with Rambo’s Burma foray. And he concludes that “while it may give Sylvester Stallone a warm inner glow, and bring temporary comfort to the activist community, Rambo 4 risks delaying the resolution of Burma’s complex problems and prolonging the suffering of the Burmese people”.
But Rambo is a figment of the imagination – the ultimate, All-American, action hero. What about the foreigners who are (to some even very small extent) flesh and blood incarnations of the cinematic fantasy?
Are they also delaying the resolution of Burma’s problems, harming the chances of a peaceful Karen State, and, at the end of the day, prolonging the real world suffering of ordinary Burmese citizens? Perhaps these questions give (some of) them too much credit. Regardless, what do New Mandala readers think? Does the cinematic Rambo help or hinder the solving of Burma’s many problems? What about Bleming and all the rest?
As an aside, I have noticed that David Everett’s Shadow Warrior (which includes an account of his years in the 1980s and 1990s spent fighting alongside the Karen) has now been published. The National Library of Australia already seems to have a copy. If anyone out there wants to pen a review, we would, of course, be very happy to host it here.