Who knew that a poorly-animated 1980's cartoon was secretly preparing us for the War on Terror? Yes, I'm referring to "G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero," which during its 1985-6 television run introduced us to a shadowy conflict that pitted the U.S. military's best and brightest - okay, maybe that's laying it on a little thick for the likes of Shipwrecked or Sergeant Slaughter - against a global terrorist organization known as COBRA. At the time we may have wondered why the Joes weren't being dispatched to protect the American Way from those godless communists that made up the Soviet Union, but now in retrospect it's almost too clear. The folks at Hasbro had obviously been privy to a vision of post-Cold War reality, where weapons of mass destruction would prove to be a far greater threat than that of Mutual Assured Destruction. So what if Russia had enough nuclear missiles to blow up every major American city three times? COBRA had the Weather Dominator! Wouldn't Saddam Hussein have loved to get his hands on one of those - he could have made it snow on the high holidays in Israel, force hapless Alaskans to don Bermuda shorts, or rain out every game of the World Series (the evil applications are endless, really).
As this is the Internet, someone has already beaten me to the COBRA/Al-Qaeda punch. In fact, Mr. Chompers does a fairly good job of showing how Al-Qaeda could learn a thing or too from their fictional counterparts - especially in the uniform department. Let's face it, COBRA Commander is way scarier-looking than Osama bin Laden:
And of course no one is more badass than Destro:
If Destro were the head of Al-Qaeda, the United States would have surrendered on September 12th, 2001!
The main difference between COBRA and Al-Qaeda, however, is that we never really had a clue as to why COBRA was in the terrorist business to begin with. The ill-fated "G.I. Joe: The Movie" attempted to answer these questions by making COBRA the modern manifestation of a primordial serpentine race who had ruled the world millions of years ago and now wanted it back - aside from being an excuse to create a whole new set of action figures, this explanation was much more problematic than leaving the whole thing a mystery. Couldn't COBRA Commander just have been a renegade CIA operative, like every other criminal mastermind in fiction? It was bad enough when COBRA decided to clone itself an emperor - by the name of Serpentor - by mixing and matching the DNA of the greatest military leaders in history (still not sure how that got approved by COBRA Commander; maybe he was taking a shit when the rest of the organization voted on it), although the hoverfan chariot that came with his special edition action figure was pretty cool. But did the Young Adult demographic really need the Jungian mind-fuck via the myth of "Cobra-La"?
Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if COBRA Commander ever had any demands when he threatened the world with his weekly hare-brained schemes. Bin Laden might be batshit crazy, but at least he has a list of grievances which look good on a nice PowerPoint slide; whereas with the Commander it's always "Surrender!" Surrender or what? Even then, it wasn't even clear that COBRA had plans for what to do with the planet, in the unlikely event that the nations of the world did acquiesce to their demands - in the classic episode where the Joes are catapulted into an alternate universe were COBRA did in fact take over the world, the only main differences appear to be flying their flag over the U.S. Capitol Building and replacing the Statue of Liberty with a likeness of the Baroness, the official hottie of the COBRA organization (and first love of many a prepubescent boy):
Come to think of it, an attractive woman or two wouldn't hurt Al-Qaeda's image either!