Usually I don't watch series. In fact, "24" is the only series I follow from the first season. And not just follow, but became kind of fan. I was trying to find an explanation for this. Yes, I love action, I like movies dealing with politics, diplomacy, international relations. However, all these things you can find in other series or movies. What is particularly good about the "24", and what attracts me the most, is that it always reflects real-life crisis situations and dilemmas. Sometimes, the international background of "24" is not just a reflection, but projection of the real-life tendencies. Of course, like in any movie, many details are exaggerated, stretched and unrealistic. However, this parallel reality of the movie resembles, at times too closely, the reality we live.
Look for the 8th season of "24". The general background (for those who didn't see it) is set during the final phase of peace negotiations between the US President Ms. Allison Taylor and the President Omar Hassan of the fictional Islamic Republic of Kamistan, a moslem country with nuclear ambitions and program. Sounds familiar to you?
The two sides are close to reach the peace agreement that will put an end to the hostilities and wars. However, the situation gets out of control when islamic terrorist from Kamistan kidnap their own President who is perceived by them as a traitor and finally execute by them. Jack Bauer discovers that it was the Russian Government who stood behind this plot in order to thwart the peace process. President Taylor who is also aware of the Russian conspiracy, decides to proceed with the peace conference, joined by the Russians who are also happen to be the co-sponsors of the peace agreement, and have no choice to join it since the Omar Hassan's wife decides to step in and carry the legacy of her husband. However, Jack Bauer, true to his principles and values, continues to uncover the Russian conspiracy, against the decision of the US president who is willing to save the peace agreement.
In one of the most dramatic scenes President Taylor almost shouts to Jack: "But I want peace!", while his responds to it with the equally strong: "And I want justice".
So, what is the message of "24" and Jack Bauer? There is no peace without justice. Peace is important but not at all price. Peace has a value, but it's also a political interest. To achieve peace you have to make compromises, but do you have to betray your principles in order to achieve it? You can reach peace agreement based on lies and cover-ups, but it won't be a just peace. Justice is a value that transcends the interests, and there are no compromises there. You cannot compromise all your principles for peace. Sometimes you have to stand up to your principles. That what Jack Bauer did. That's where president Taylor failed.
She failed because she wanted peace at all price. In this blind pursuit for the peace agreement she betreayed her principles. She wanted engagement but ended up in sheer appeasement and cover-up. She showed weakness and she paid for it.
Is there any message for the present, real, US Administration? In the last two month the word "weakness" associated with the foreigh policies of President Obama were used too often. The most striking example for this tendency you can see in this opinion piece in Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/20/AR2010052003885.html?sub=AR
To sum up, engagement and peace are important things, both as values and national interests. However, they cannot be reached at all price - because there is a price to this.