SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of An Elite Navy SEAL Sniper
I have just begun to read the book, SEAL Team Six by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin. While, I have not yet read a sufficient amount of the book to write review, I will share some preliminary thoughts.
l. The jacket cover’s version of the story makes it sound like the book will be another Marcus Lutrell, Lone Survivor, one of the worst books I’ve read since the millennium.
2. While I can’t tell how the rest of the book will read, I am relieved to say that the first chapter does not appear to resemble Lone Survivor’s whiny and thoughtless assault on the Rules of Engagement (ROE). Instead it begins with an account of the world from the perspective of a SEAL sniper in the middle of an operation. It’s an interesting depiction of how a sniper gets “into the zone” so he andhis rifle are one.
3. It is also interesting to read an account that reveals how one Navy SEAL thinks. He doesn’t come across as intellectually vapid as Marcus Lutrell. He does appear to hold a similarly simple and almost childlike view of the world that neatly divides black and white. It may be that this world view is necessary for him to effectively executive missions that involve killing other human beings while blocking out all other thought.
4. Typical is his notion that “I felt that if we could kill Atto and Aidid, we could stop the fighting, get the food to the people quickly, and go home in one piece.” A few pages earlier, the SEAL ridiculed the term “developing country” as “bullcrap,” claiming the term failed to describe the reality of starvation and war, “two of the worst events imaginable.” Instead, it just helped people feel good.
5. Sorry SEAL, but the term developing country is no less illusory than the idea that two lethal shots from your rifle would have ended the fighting and aborted starvation in the country where you executed the relevant mission. To think that your actions could have that result allows you to dehumanize and make monsters out of Atto and Aidid so you can neutralize guilt, kill and still keep a foothold in your religion.
I’m not suggesting the your targets don’t deserve the title of monster. The problem is there are probably plenty more monsters there, waiting to take their place. Two shots from your sniper rifle might help get some food off some vehicles to distribute to a handful of starving people. Your actions will not feed sufficient numbers of the hungry to relieve their suffering and end the conflict, bloodshed, despair and poverty that I suspect is flooding their nation.
6. So far I like SEAL Team Six precisely because it reveals some of the mental means snipers use to do their jobs, including making monsters out of men and believing their actions can change conditions that are, in fact, determined by factors beyond their control. In addition, our author(s) appear to have an adamant belief in God, Christ and Country. While I respect their beliefs, I think it likely that they also allow our SEAL to execute missions that involve killing.
7. I’m not sure what I think of this use of religion. I can’t help but recall my southern grandmother’s uncanny ability to reconcile the bible with her justification of segregation.
8. For this reason, I am glad the some persons in the military are calling for atheist chaplains. I believe in religious freedom and the separation of church, state and the military. I am uneasy with the idea that our wars might be justified by some sort of right wing Christian belief that turns our wars intomodern versions of the bloody crusades with missionary-soldiers trying to spread their faith along with the notion that every state would best function if it were organized according to the principles of an American style democracy and a “free market” economy.
9. Don’t misunderstand me here. The authors of SEAL Team Six do not appear to be doing this. I am just uneasy with some of their implicit religious rationalizations.
10. Still, I would like to know if there are any SEALS out there who wear their religious beliefs as softly on their shoulders as they walk in their ghillie suits.
I will write a real review when I finish the book.