Jeri Jacquin

Tonight at the GI Film Festival San Diego from director James Shelley is a look at how the world allowed the United States to be the AMERICAN UMPIRE.

This documentary gives us a history lesson on how the U.S. military came to be part of world conflicts. At the time of President Washington there were three rules regarding involvement in issues outside this country: 1) Washington’s Great Rule of avoiding foreign politics, 2) having no standing army and 3) stay out of foreign problems.

Those three rules stayed in place until World War I but quickly went back to avoiding other countries problems soon after. That would all change with World War II with Japan and Germany wanting to satisfy needs through conquest. As the war got close to home – Roosevelt sent letters to Hitler and Mussolini asking them to leave 33 countries alone. Hitler laughed at the request.

A peace time draft came about but Japan then bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the United States. The U.S. is staying out no longer and once two wars are over and 70 million people have died, they create the United Nations.

The Truman Doctrine also comes into play as the Soviet Union is making governments nervous and Greece is having problems. England calls the U.S. for help. Truman has no choice but to tell Congress that troops need to return to Europe. This begins the Cold War and in 1947 Washington’s long standing three-rules is gone and The Truman Doctrine takes its place.

NATO and American sign an alliance and Western Europe begin creating things that have nothing to do with war. The second part of the 20th Century is considered the Golden Age as the Berlin Wall falls and the Cold War is over.

However, the U.S. continues to be the largest country to supply to other countries. European countries don’t supply anything to help in the ways of military protection. The belief is that if a country needs protecting, the U.S. will take care of it. This explains why countries don’t have a national defense of their own – why? – their view is that the U.S. can do it. It also means those same countries have more money for their citizens, education and infrastructure.

When a civil war breaks out in the Balkans and ethnic cleansing happens, no one wanted to put people in harms way to deal with the situation. Other countries began asking why the United States was not doing anything about the situation. Europe once again was asking the U.S. to solve their problems – so President Clinton does. “The Indispensable Nation” as Clinton calls it is seen by other countries as not giving one dime to help with the expenses.

The U.S. spends more on defense which leads to so little for its own citizens; in fact it spends more than all other large countries combined. The question remains – do we pull out or stay invested in the conflicts of these other countries.

Being an umpire in baseball also means backup just as indispensable doesn’t mean doing it alone. So how do we get other countries to participate? The United States needs to inspire other countries to want to help and become invested in policing their own country. They need to become more responsible so that the United States can spend money on education, citizens and infrastructure just as Europe does.

Directing and producing this documentary is James Shelley who owns Shell Studios based right here in San Diego. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and University of California San Diego, he is pursuing an MFA in Film at San Diego State University. AMERICAN UMPIRE is his PBS and broadcast debut. Congratulations!

AMERICAN UMPIRE is a documentary that takes the viewer by the hand one step at a time making this history lesson one that is understandable if not down right jaw dropping. I would truly love to see this documentary in high school class rooms because the history lesson here is spelled out loud and clear.

With our military stretched to its limits, AMERICAN UMPIRE explains why this is so and importantly what can be done to make other countries more responsible. That is what I was impressed with the most. Understanding that the U.S. does come to the aid when asked, it never occurred to me that the European countries asking for help have done nothing in the way of financial help or compensation. I kept thinking, “do they think our citizenry is any less important as theirs?” in what is needed to sustain our country.

I remember learning about isolationism in school but never grasping its meaning until later in my education. Personally I always thought it was a good idea, help when needed but otherwise countries should police their own. So it was amusing to me that it was brought up that ‘no one wants their 30 year old kid living in the basement’ which in essence is what other countries are to the United States.

Self reliance is the key and I couldn’t agree more. The audience reacted in the same way and by the documentary’s end, the applause was loud and clear for AMERICAN UMPIRE.