The Name’s Bond, James Bond: Agent 007 in the 21st Century

Daniel Craig in his second outing as the suave and sophisticated British secret agent.

Daniel Craig in his second outing as the suave and sophisticated British secret agent.

This past Tuesday the 22nd James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace,” made its way to DVD and Blu Ray. No one can deny the popularity of the Bond franchise and doubt that it will not continue to live on for years to come. Once shaken, always stirred.

But consider this: In today’s world of post-Cold War terrorism, multilateral foreign policy, anger toward the Bush administration’s neocon political agenda, and the scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, there seems to be a trend in the Western world to reject the old ways of war, violence, espionage, and covert counterterrorism.

The new wave of optimism brought on by the Obama White House has many Americans thinking that the disastrous and costly “War on Terror” may finally come to an end. The reputation of America as being a country that tortures and invades oil-rich Middle Eastern countries may finally be put to rest.

So, in spite of all that, if, and I do mean if, a James Bond-type secret agent were to be working on behalf of the United States, would you approve of that?

Also consider what James Bond does in his career: he has a license to kill (meaning he can kill anyone he deems necessary to fulfill the mission), he violates nations’ sovereignty (agent 007 is a globe-trotting hero who pays little attention to other nation’s policy and law), and he often uses less than noble tactics to achieve his goals (in both “Licence to Kill” and “Quantum of Solace” Bond has his double-o status revoked, or at least something to that extent). This sounds like something I would not approve of.

I, of course, understand that James Bond is a fantasy character who does not really exist. He exists in his own world and serves the purpose of defeating evil all within the convenient confines of two hours. Bond is a fictional character, but the villains he faces are often not.

In the two newest Bond adventures, MI-6 is up against a mysterious organization called “Quantum,” an international crime syndicate who sponsors men like Le Chiffre and Dominic Greene, villains who could very well exist in the real world.

Le Chiffre is a banker who funds terrorism and goes into deep debt when he gambles his client’s money away in risky games of chance. Sound familiar? He should work for AIG. Dominic Greene is a quasi-environmentalist businessman who uses his power to control the water supply of Bolivia. Private corporations controlling the natural resources of third world countries have actually happened before. This is not the stuff of fantasy. The evils of Quantum could exist in our universe. They have people everywhere, of course.

That being said, what is the best way to rid the world of these super villains? Diplomacy? Asking the United Nations to intervene? Unilateral military action? Or perhaps covert espionage in the form of the CIA or MI-6. These are all viable options.

But consider the larger picture: if there were actually James Bond-style secret agents existing in our world, how would you respond? Would you gladly accept them as necessary to defeat the evils of the world, or would you reject them as violent, archaic relics of a bygone age? As M called Bond in “GoldenEye,” Bond is “sexist misogynist dinosaur.”

If peaceful diplomacy is the wave of the future, are secret agents a thing of the past? Have we reached such an enlightened age that reason, negotiation, and international cooperation are more useful and practical tools to solve world conflicts? This is definitely something to ponder about. Diplomacy and multinational cooperation may help prevent nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly feel that this is what we should do.

During the Bush administration, Americans rejected the Bush Doctrine of using violence to uphold and protect domestic and international interests. Blood for oil or the protection of Israel are unjustified reasons to violate a nation’s sovereignty and invade them. Americans have also rejected using torture to get information out of “terror” suspects. Jack Bauer of “24” fame would not fly by well in today’s world.

Yet, every practice of the Bush administration that Americans and people everywhere seem to hate are exactly those done by James Bond. We chastise men like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove for making America just as bad as terrorists. We responded to 9/11 by staging 9/11s of our own, everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems people believe America is better than that, that we are the defenders of justice and peace, not propagators of violence, chaos, and evil.

Consider President John F. Kennedy and his policy toward Vietnam. Kennedy, a huge James Bond fan who considered “From Russia With Love” to be one of his favorite novels of all time, authorized covert operations to exist in Vietnam before major troop escalations began. Being cautious of sending too many combat troops into Southeast Asia, President Kennedy allowed secret operations occur in South and North Vietnam to assist military advisers who were there to help train the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam).

This continued even after Kennedy’s assassination. In 1964 the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) was formed by President Lyndon Johnson to help secretly fight the Communist insurgency in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Their operations helped expand the war and gathered information that inspired the U.S. to send more troops to Southeast Asia after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Today most Americans view the Vietnam War as unnecessary, costly, and completely not worth it. Did U.S. intelligence help us in our anti-Communist crusade there? Maybe. Or maybe it helped escalate the violence and led to 58,000 U.S. servicemen losing their lives for nothing.

Speaking of faulty intelligence, don’t even talk about WMDs, Iraq, and Saddam Hussein. We all know how that turned out. In short, perhaps intelligence is overrated and only leads to more war instead of peace. Maybe there are facts that we will never know.

I have no problem with James Bond existing in the world of fantasy. He provides entertaining films and books for millions of people to enjoy. I’ve seen every movie and plan to see more in the future. However, I am not so sure if I would be comfortable with James Bond existing in the world of reality. Then again, maybe he does and we just don’t know about it. The Patriot Act could give someone the authority to do such things in the name of national security. Or possibly it doesn’t.

His name may be Bond, James Bond; and he likes his vodka martini shaken but not stirred, but his license to kill may create more problems than it solves. Should we have our own James Bond in this uncertain, fear-driven 21st century world? Or will that only further radicalize our enemies and tarnish the reputation of the United States of America?

As Bond tells a bartender in “Casino Royale,”

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

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