This is what Winning Looks Like

This is what Winning Looks Like
Made in: UK
Director: Ben Anderson
Year: 2013 - Full documentary can be viewed above

Synopsis: VICE.COM's Eddy Moretti sits down with British journalist/filmmaker Ben Anderson to talk about the 2014 withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan.

Anderson was embedded with UK forces operating in Afghanistan for several years, and has produced a film documenting a first-hand look on how the war against the Taliban is going.

In short, his film reveals a stark contrast to what the Bush and Obama Administrations (and the mainstream media) have been hailing as a success.

Focusing on isolated PBs (patrol bases) in Sangin, which is in the country's southern region, Anderson takes us through the daily lives of Afghan security and local police forces charged with fending off the Taliban and keeping order. With them are American and British marines who are acting as consultants and advisors. Their job is to make sure that the Afghan soldiers are ready to operate on their own once the occupying forces withdraw.

But rampant corruption, drug use, history of tribalism, and lack of will makes any hope for a peaceful, stable state seem highly unlikely.

Remarks: This is what Winning Looks Like is disturbing and very depressing. However, it reflects a reality to this war that all westerners ought to be aware of. 

Although well-meaning and sincere, the US and British forces have an impossible task. Their orders, which come from out-of-touch and incompetent bureaucrats half a world away, put them in direct conflict with a culture that simply has no frame of reference in understanding western-style democracy.

Ben Anderson does a great job eschewing politics and showing us perspectives from both the US marines and local Afghan security forces. In addition to the cultural conflict, the incompetence and arrogance of US foreign policy is made clear.

Especially heartbreaking is watching the emotional/psychological toll the conflict takes on compassionate soldiers who truly want to see life for the Afghan people improve. Dealing with the Taliban is almost as daunting as the multitude of problems plaguing the Afghan government, such as corruption, desertion, and even child rape/murder.

Without having to resort to America-bashing, This is what Winning Looks Like does a very effective job pointing out the futility of nation building not just in today's world, but as a historical lesson that our leaders just don't seem to get.

Who would like this film: This documentary is for fair minded viewers who are willing to look at the War in Afghanistan from a very different point of view. This is not a propaganda piece, and doesn't hit you over the head with two-dimensional anti-war slogans. 

Although the message is very clearly anti war, Ben Anderson focuses on the human toll on both soldiers and civilians. The film does not favor one political point of view over another, and instead calls out the dangerous ineptitude of insulated officials in Washington, DC. This is what Winning Looks Like will truly make you want the troops to come home.

(3 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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