As I watched the new Chilean film “No,” I kept thinking about how its lessons seem obvious in retrospect, but how illusive common sense often seems in the present. The insight seized upon by director Pablo Larraín is that people are more likely to exert the minimal effort necessary to vote when they have an attractive ideal in mind rather than when they are merely protesting an evil. Of course, this has something to do with voter behavior and the outcome of the last American presidential election. But it also bears a great deal on American foreign policy.
Too often, American pundits and policymakers have expected that a foreign populace will rebel against a regime we cannot but see as evil—the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Iran’s mullahs, or Bashar Assad. And some people do choose to resist, to fight the Taliban or Saddam or the mullocracy, or, now, to sacrifice their lives to oust Assad. But others do not, which often makes any US military effort far bloodier and more costly than it otherwise would be.
The movie “No” suggests a better way.