Josh Byers


Writing about books, culture, ministry, design and my family

13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review

13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a great film. In fact I’ll go so far as to say I liked it much more than Star Wars. What??!! Sacrilege you say!

Now I love Star Wars, but I walked out of the theater after seeing 13 Hours more satisfied, more emotionally impacted, and more mentally engaged than I have been in long time by a film. 

I thought it was an amazing depiction of modern warfare–some have said the best. It really reminded me a lot of Black Hawk Down (which I also loved). Being a war film there were a number of things I looked for and it checked most of my boxes for a good war movie including lots of guns, fighting, male ego, blood, heroism, and sacrifice. I thought they forced the family man angle a little too much so that it didn't feel quite as genuine, but it still had an emotional pull.

However, the biggest takeaway for me was that the film clearly depicts the competing philosophies that we have in foreign relations with the Middle East in general and predominantly Muslim culture in particular.

One ideology says that we can stop terrorism, violence, and dictators by being winsome, having a conversation and working with local rebels to bring in democracy. A simplified version thinks that we should all be able to rise above our differences and just get along.

The opposite ideology says that this way of thinking is the definition of futile. The worldview of Islamic culture does not allow for freedom and democracy. The worldview of Islam has no intention, or desire of getting along.

Whether its ISIS trying to bring in the Caliphate now or Iran playing the long game, this is a religion (Apocalyptic Islam) that does not want peace, hates liberty, and would destroy all infidels, and the entirety of the West if they could, yesterday.

The leaders of our country for the past several administrations have failed to recognize this and have had the goal to impart American values and democracy in the Middle East. And from the Iraq war to the fiasco in Libya, all have failed spectacularly.

Why is this film important? It proves in a very visceral way that this strategy is a failure. It didn’t work when Bush invaded Iraq to depose one dictator. It didn’t work when Obama and Clinton aided the Libyan rebels to depose another dictator. 

You had maybe one of the best Ambassadors in terms of getting to know the people and getting the locals to love him and talk with him as was shown in the outpouring after Chris Stevens death. Yet it still failed.

This film is also important because it shows the lengths our leaders will go to prove their point. It has been stated that Ambassador Chris Stevens sent over 600 requests for additional security to the State Department. Why weren’t these requests for additional security recognized? Because it would have forced them to concede their philosophy doesn’t work.

Additionally, after the attack America was led to believe that a YouTube video was responsible. The leadership wanted to prove the point that when differences are pointed out people get mad and kill each other. They also wanted to say that those who would point out differences are to blame, not the ones who try and work together.

This film blows all that up literally.

There is no way that those attacks were a spontaneous response. First the attacks happened on September 11th, a holy day now for any jihadist. There were well-coordinated waves of attacks in two different locations. The local police and security disappeared at just the right time, and mortars were used effectively, which require advance planning.

I would love for the people of the Middle East to experience individual freedoms and democracy but what so many fail to recognize is that freedom and the rights of the individual are largely a Christian construct.

Western Civilization and America in particular exist because of the foundations given to them by Christianity. Christianity championed the rights of free speech. Free speech didn’t just happen all by itself. The liberty of conscience exists because America’s founders (while not all professing Christians) had a Christian worldview and understood that the tenets of Christianity were very good for society at large.

Christianity espouses that everyone has been created in image of God and has value. Everyone has eternal dignity. If I believe my neighbor (and everyone else in the world) was created in the image of God than certain behaviors will follow. I want them to be free. I want them to speak freely; I want them to have liberty of conscience. These liberties didn’t just happen. They were established, protected, and guarded by Christian societies.

The film 13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi shows that we will never effect change or control the ideologies in the Middle East until we understand the foundation that drives their actions.

I give it 4/5 stars.

Josh ByersComment