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DON'T BOTHER CHECKING TV Guide for the made-for-TV movie on the hijacking of TWA flight 847.
The latest international hostage-taking crisis didn't have a call-in-the-cavalry ending with the horses, the guns and the blue hats and yellow scarves that make good video.
America wanted the Army's crack Delta Force to kick the door in--to turn Beirut into an Entebbe-style victory for the whole nation. Seeing the blood-smeared bodies of the terrorists on the nightly news would have given us a nationwide jolt of exaltation. Imagine post Super Bowl euphoria in every city in the country, complete with chants of "Born in the U.S.A., bud" and high-fives in the streets.
Sad to say, the Delta Force didn't get the opportunity to pump a few thousand rounds into the dirty terrorists and America lost a golden opportunity to restore its collective sense of honor after the Shiites kicked sand in our faces.
With the hostages freed and no dead terrorists, some called for a little retribution, B-52 style. We all know that the United States military could turn Lebanon back into a desert if it had the inclination, but wouldn't it be even nicer to remind ourselves, with the cameras rolling, of the decivilizing that a few well-placed loads of bombs can do.
Many of the same people who called for the Delta Force have backed off calling for massive retaliation on the tiny military sword. The images of napalm engulfing Beirut are less a appealing than those of 50 stone-faced Rangers blasting handful of religious fanatics.
Just ask John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Sly Stallone what the public wants to see.
The Delta Force is a collection of modern heroes, like the lonely range riders who galloped from town to town to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. For the Delta Force, the modernday righteous sheriff, the hang-em-high brand of frontier justice means criminals can't escape through the maze of over-bureaucratized courts or tangled international relations. Their kind of justice also means that weeping families get a taste of revenge.
The solitary hero, fighting overwhelming odds with guts and guile, has been a fixture in the American psyche--not to mention American pop culture--since the times of Andrew Jackson.
Picture about driven, freedom-minded gladiators, defending the women and wagon trains of America with six-shooters, .357 magnums of M-16s have long been a staple of the motion picture industry.
We want, perhaps even need real men (women need not apply) who can stand up to the ruthless terror tactics of Islamic fanatics, outwit and ultimately outgun the miscreants who choose to try to besmirch this nation's honor.
Before the Delta Force, the Marine Corps was the closest thing America ever had to its own band of crack heroes, and a mystique developed about the leatherneck's superior qualities. Little boys never just played soldiers, they played marines.
With the creation of Delta Force, we can concentrate our hero worship on a much smaller--and more elite--band of tough guys. Our fascination with the unit has not been in the least tempered by its epic failure in its only real test, the disastrous attempt to rescue the hostages from Iran.
AS WELL TRAINED as the group is, we should remember the Delta Force is made up of fallible humans who, without the magic of Hollywood special effects, are only so much flesh and blood.
The Duke, Dirty Harry and Rambo never lose. Real-life heroes don't always have such a good track record; Delta Force is 0-1 lifetime. And unlike Rambo, they can't rewrite history so that we win all the time.
Our $4.75 ticket guarantees a happy ending. Off the screen, there are no such guarantees.
Perhaps, the Delta Force could have brought all the Americans and a few Lebanese corpses home. Perhaps the Delta Force would have killed a few Americans by mistake or a few innocent Lebanese. Perhaps it would have failed altogether.
Diplomatic efforts made for a series of boring special reports, but it brought the hostages home alive.
Our need for a Homeric hero to defend us from all the world's evils is perpetual. We needn't be discouraged when events work themselves out without the crack of gunfire, the staccato commands of platoon leaders and the anguished screams of the dead and wounded.
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