“The American Sniper” by Chris Kyle is an account of the deadliest American sniper ever, called “the devil” by the enemies he hunted and “the legend” by his Navy SEAL brothers. From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyle’s kills (the previous American record was 109). Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan (“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head.
Kyle earned legendary status among his fellow SEALs, Marines, and U.S. Army soldiers, whom he protected with deadly accuracy from rooftops and stealth positions. Kyle presents the gripping and unforgettable accounts of his extraordinary battlefield experiences through paper and pen and now ranks to many people as one of the greatest war memoirs of all time but to few a man representing immorality and death.
The major question that is being asked is, “Killing people is wrong, so why is it okay in war?” To begin, here is a background of the character that I have chosen to analyze.
Chris Kyle was a native Texan, born in Odessa, Texas, and was the son of a Sunday school teacher and a deacon. Kyle started his passion for shooting after his father bought him his first gun at 8 years old, a bolt-action .30-06 Springfield rifle. Later on and after school, Kyle became a professional bronco rodeo rider, but his profession ended abruptly when he severely injured his arm. After his arm healed, he went to a military recruiting office, interested in joining the United States Marine Corps (USMC). A Navy recruiter told him about the Navy SEALs. Kyle signed up, but was rejected because of the pins in his arm. A little while later, he received a call and he had the chance to go to BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL school), and finally joining the United States Navy in 1999.
After 9/11, he was thrust onto the front lines of the War on Terror, and soon found his calling as a world-class sniper who performed best under fire. Is Chris Kyle immoral based off of his actions? There are two primary views that rise from this question. The first argument claims that Chris Kyle’s actions are immoral because of his military service. The first reason is that military service, such that Kyle served in, does not allow us to exercise our moral freedom as human beings. One 20th century thinker wrote a book entitled “Moral Man, Immoral Society,” pointing out that people are often corrupted when they are part of institutions that pressure them to act in ways they might not choose to act as individuals. In comparison no military organization could operate if it respected human moral independence, that is, the capacity of individuals to take full responsibility for their actions. In all military training anywhere in the world there is unquestioning obedience to orders, no matter what these orders are. Recruits are forced to do agonizing exercises or other absurd tasks to ensure that they will obey any order no matter what.
Once in the military, there is no discussion of the rightness or wrongness of actions, just blind obedience and absolute, unquestioning submission to authority. This means that people are “trained,” forced under extreme pressure, to give up their moral independence and substitute the false dignity of the state and the military. The substitute values are forced upon recruits under such slogans as loyalty to one’s fighting unit, courage, honor, and discipline. But to give up one’s moral self-government is to give up one’s dignity as a human being. It is to become, in effect, a robot, a human machine at the disposal of the will of others. Every military attempts to submerge the sense of dignity that its members innately have into the false dignity of its collective noble aims and ideals. “We are citizens of this great country.” “We stand for freedom and democracy in the world.” “We are fighting terror and evil.” “We defend our homeland against all enemies.” “We defend human rights and justice.”
However, it is an explicit contradiction for a military to claim that it upholds these ideals while at the same time it attempts to destroy the moral autonomy of its members. Military trainees must be made to kill whomever their commanders say to kill. They must be willing to destroy the homes and factories and livelihoods of whomever their commanders designate. To look at this moral dilemma differently we view Chris Kyle as a hero, a patriot and a legend. “It was the first time id killed anyone while I was on the sniper rifle. And the first time in Iraq-and the only time-I killed anyone other than a male combatant… My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul. I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.” This view of Chris Kyle on the job is clearly thought to be morally just and for the good of the brothers by his side.
This is the moral starting point of the other side of the argument. We should ultimately recognize that there are several strong moral goals of the armed forces and that they have a strong moral responsibility to choose the best means of attaining these goals. These goals are considered extremely important; indeed, they are so important that we are willing to fight wars in order to realize them. Ultimately, these goals are based on our commitments to various rights and freedoms, given to us by many men and women dying years before our existence. A military force is not a self-justifying sort of society. The existence and use of such a force can be justified only when we reference to more ultimate values or goals. The armed forces turn out to be the means to very important moral ends.
Despite these two views I have presented, the large majority of people who read this war memoir, despite the pacifist’s, would say after reading they had a sense of patriotism, sympathy, and a connection with Kyle. There are a few reasons that these feelings occur while each page is turned. First Chris Kyle talks about the relationship he had with his wife and kids. This serves one purpose through out the novel, it humanizes Chris and takes the focus off of what he does as a day job; it also gives us a reason why he wakes up everyday. Second, Chris has an overwhelming sense of patriotism and despite the love for his family continues to go back time and time again to serve his country and to make a difference in this world by eliminating the evil he encounters.
This again humanizes Chris, and as a proud American when we read that this man is risking and maybe giving up his life for our freedom, we cant help but look upon him with respect and favor. In conclusion, Chris Kyle in the “American Sniper” is a very complex character because of his double identity as a father and a first class sniper. Based off of his actions in war he may be described as “Al-Shaitan” or an immoral man but we don’t know the deeper meaning of sacrifice until we have put our lives on the line. This is the soul reason that we sympathize with Kyle and our armed forces, as many of us wouldn’t do the same. Once at the end of the novel, a shed of light will be revealed showing us that we are not so different from our men and woman in combat, we just don’t carry M40s to work every day.