Failure of Liberalism in "Dr. Strangelove"

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Tessa Wilson
PSC 3030
October 6, 2011

The Failure of Liberalism in Dr. Strangelove

Though Stanley Kubrick wrote Dr. Strangelove as a comedy, the premise and plot of the film are extremely realistic and suspenseful, this in part accounts for why the nightmare comedy was so successful. The main objective of the film was to show how military and civilian leaders would attempt to cope with an outbreak of an accidental nuclear war. However, in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways, it also addressed many of the concerns and hypocrisies of the American public views on liberalism in America. In spite of the prevailing view of democracy as “good” and communism as “evil” at the time, America was being just as evil as the Soviet Union by pursuing the technology of superior nuclear weapons. Dr. Strangelove takes a serious look at how liberalism ultimately failed the international system in a most horrific way.

Liberalism maintains that human nature is basically good, and that bad human behavior is usually a product of insufficient or immoral social institutions and of misunderstanding among leaders. The first level of analysis of liberalism pertains to the individual, and Dr. Strangelove displays how the individuals in this film played an integral part of the ultimate destruction of Earth. The most obvious key player in this film is General Jack D. Ripper. He is the personification of the liberal view of evil human behavior. Going against orders, General Ripper decides to launch an attack on the Soviet Union, simply because he believed the Russians were poisoning the American people through fluoridation. In order to assure that his plan would not be thwarted, he changed the abort codes so that he is the only person who is able to stop the attack. General Ripper is an extreme opposite to the liberal view of human nature as basically good, and he demonstrates how one individual could have powerful influence on the international system.

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