Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It isn't what we say or think that defines us
but what we do, 
--Sense and Sensibility,  
 Jane Austin 
Since the recent movie theater shooting occurred at a what was to have been a showing of  the film "Lone Survivor", we will address the event in two ways: today, the film as a misbegotten film effort to apotheosize a failed mission, and next, as the sort of media which serves as an irritant to a society whose attention is already stretched thin.

Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" turned a failed mission (Operation Redwings, 2005) into a celebratory media momento mori. But the the deaths of the 20 fine United States Special Operations Soldiers served no military function, therefore the fight served nothing of value to the outcome of the war. The operation was actuality a dereliction of leadership and a morally bankrupt interpretation of soldiering values. When myth, entertainment and propaganda steal the truth from an event, we are delusional.

Ranger asks -- in opposition to the "Code of Conduct" and the creeds of an imagined warrior caste in the U.S. military-- "What if the SEALs of Lt. Murphy's team had surrendered?" There is precedent for this sort of action (an entire U.S. field Army surrendered at Corregidor and Bataan.) When there is no military purpose served, then why fight to the death? Surely Murphy's team knew they were dead when the hostiles gained contact.

In previous RAW commentary on Redwings, we have written that the Murphy team should not have launched this mission. However, once engaged and the the odds were clear, surrender was an option, even if a risky one; "slim" is better than "none". 

The reasons for not surrendering are to prevent routs, penetrations and all those things that were not present at this fight. No other American units would have been endangered if the Murphy team had surrendered. So what were they fighting for? This must be determined before sending Soldiers into harm's way.

"Lone Survivor" is posed to become a hit, in the same way as did the the Navy's Disneyfied film, Act of Valor; as did the propaganda film "Hurt Locker", by our own Leni Riefenstahl (dir. Bigelow.) Symbol and reality are separate, and when the story is better than the reality, we will always go with the tall tale. 

But soldiering is an act of logic and cold calculations that should not be mixed with romantic warrior ethics of fighting to the death. Our Soldiers are not Ninja, Samurai or Kamikaze, yet they are depicted as such. 

In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, we prefer the comfortable and reliable bland to the real, and we have become complicit in broadcasting the simulacrum through our media. In our Age of Spectacle, we will always prefer the performance to the actuality.   

We could not win the war, but we could take a trivial, tragic defeat and transmogrify it into a heroic, death-defying battle. Defeat then becomes a mythic victory when the man who could be the truth-teller becomes complicit in his own dream.

This is alchemy, and it can only occur in a setting of willing blindness.

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Blogger no one said...

I'm going to comment for posterity's sake since the topic of this post brings my RAW experience full circle.

Operations Red Wings was a Marine Corp op. The Marines needed Naval aviation support. The Navy, apparently, attempted to avoid the perpetual fear that their presence in this (and other recent) wars is simply to chauffeur marines to the fight. In doing so the negotiated including a SEAL team into the recon phase. The Marines no doubt shrugged and agreed as long as the Navy communicated and coordinated and supply them with the helos.

Then, I can imagine that some Navy Cmdr let it be known that the SEALs had to really shine and bring home a big score. Politics. This probably helped color the decision to do the op despite obvious issues; SEALs being hard charging, can-do, kind of guys, not inclined to let their command down. Failure was already in motion.

Failure was sealed (pardon the pun) when the goat herders walked on the SEALs' pos. The right decision at that point would have been to immediately head to some defensible high ground and call for exfiltration. If the radio then failed to work, the sat phone should have been used b/c the Ts were already onto the SEALs any how. Murphy made a fatal decision in the field in not doing so.

All that being said, Jim, I just can't agree that surrender was an option. Being captured by the Ts usually means being passed around the camp fire and being used in ways that would make the hillbillies in Deliverance blush. Then having one's head slowly sawed off with a dull knife, on video. No thanks.

Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 9:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

No one,
glad to rec. your cmts.
-there were no T's in this fight. this is a lie /myth to make the sacrifice acceptable.Anti-coalition militia, bandits, smugglers,rogues yes, but T's=NO way.
The mission was sealed when the Seals didn't even consider the presence of goat herders being on the ground.WTF? Didn't they do satelite imagery, local intel or perform a VR before inserting?
The Team was not arrayed as a mobile fighting force.
They didn't have a chance.
If the Afghans are so billy bad ass then how did the lone survivor end up in such tall cotton?

Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger no one said...

Ah, I am using "T" to refer to Taliban. Agreed, these are not the same terrorists. Good distinction to make.

I will not waste time or money (or risk being shot by some ill tempered patron) on the film.

One thing in the book that caught my attention and that I heard repeated in an interview the other night is that the SEALs were called in on this mission b/c the target was responsible for blowing up a score or more marines. Now this is BS on several levels. For one, there were not scores of Marine casualties in that sector. Never happened. For another, the Navy attitude is ridiculous. The Marines can't handle a few armed turban wearing hillbillies in their AO? Give me a break.

I can't help but believe that unprofessional macho attitude and the associated politics was behind all of the oversights and, ultimately, the mission failure and the book/movie story is, as you say, an attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow's ass.

The archetype being played on is the Spartans at Thermopylae. Except the real story falls short, IMO, of meeting that standard.

Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 2:15:00 PM GMT-5  

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