Spencer Ackerman is right that the complex version of Tony Stark in the comic book version of Iron Man can't lend itself to the big screen--Marvel's Civil War is an allegory of government overreaching that culminates in the symbolic death of American freedom with Captain America's assassination and that would still be a little heavy several films down the line.
Favreau's Iron Man is merely a critique of unregulated capitalism, a brief and shallow admission that just maybe America might kinda sorta bear some responsibility for some of it's current problems. But the film doesn't even come close to suggesting that we should stop sticking our nose into other countries' business, after all, superheroes need people to save.
Besides updating the Iron Man story for a contemporary audience, the Afghans in the film are only there to rationalize Stark's imperialist tendencies. Whether its Dr. Yinsen sacrificing his life so Stark can escape (a classic Magic Negro style moment), terrorists murdering and pillaging or innocents crying out for help, their only purpose in the film is to argue for Iron Man's (or in a broader sense) America's intervention. Even Obadiah Stane's trading Stark weapons to terrorists is an allegorical plea for further American involvement, an invocation of the Pottery Barn rule.
Ultimately the point of Favreau's Iron Man is that even though we may have screwed up, it's still our responsibility to save everyone from themselves. No where in comic book mythology has there been a hero who respects the free will of mortals enough to hang up his tights or titanium armor, and America's love affair with the genre probably has something to do with the fact that we feel something of the same way. Watching folks flip through the catalog of new countries we might invade this year, it's pretty clear that infectious desire for foreign policy "heroism" in the short term that Ackerman correctly identifies as "corrosive" is still pretty prevalent among some prominent foreign policy folks.
In any case, using my unimpeachable objective status as a guest blogger I'll cosign the editor's recommendation, Ackerman's "Iron Man Versus the Imperialists" is a good read.
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