Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Snipers, Correct and Incorrect

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO- The Corner

download (21)Were a confused Michael Moore and others faulting American Sniper on the argument that Chris Kyle was a sniper per se, or that he was an American sniper?

I don’t remember Michael Moore or any other Hollywood grandees objecting much to the 2001 war film Enemy at the Gates, which was supposedly loosely based on the controversial (and perhaps less than verifiable) career of the deadly sniper Vasily Zaitsev. That movie portrayed the expert Zaitsev as a hero in trying to cut down Wehrmacht officers and soldiers on behalf of the Soviet cause. It reminded audiences not just that Zaitsev’s sniping could save his fellow Russians, but that it was also a very dangerous business for the shooter: As the hunter, Zaitsev often very quickly became the hunted.

Nor did Moore et al. object to the positive portrayal of the sniper Private Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) in Saving Private Ryan. Jackson, from his hidden perches, kills lots of unsuspecting Germans with his telescopic sniper rifle, saving members of hero John Miller’s company—until he himself is blown up by German tank fire.

In Captain Phillips Navy SEAL snipers are portrayed as “marksmen” who nonetheless stealthily blow apart Somali pirates, and thereby save Phillips’s life. Hollywood and film critics were also quite enthusiastic about that movie, apparently including the final rescue of Phillips by skilled “snipers” (i.e., the targeted pirates never knew that they were being targeted and never knew what hit them).

What has more likely caused some controversy over American Sniper is not the sniper profession per se of Chris Kyle (since snipers were not de facto deemed suspect in prior films), but three other considerations:

a) American Sniper often portrays the Islamist insurgents as savage, and Kyle as complex, but nevertheless both patriotic and heroic in protecting other Americans from them;

b) the movie does not serve as a blanket damnation of the Iraq war, at least as is otherwise typical for the Hollywood Iraq film genre; in this regard, unlike many recent Hollywood film titles with the proper noun American in them (e.g., American HustleAmerican GangsterAmerican PsychoAmerican History X, American Beauty, etc.), the film quite unusually does not dwell on American pathologies; and

c) perhaps most important, the film is very successful, and has resonated with the public at the precise time when other recent movies more welcomed by the establishment, such as Selma, have so far not.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

26 Thoughts on “Snipers, Correct and Incorrect

  1. Often times, between twinkles and bong hits, they object merely to the word “sniper”. As a former sniper myself, I am aware that many times “snipers” are now referred to as “long riflemen” because it momentarily induces vertigo in the weak minded. But in a country that now arrests parents for letting their children walk home alone, what could possibly surprise? Buckle your seatbelts, kids, the long ride to the bottom is going to be bumpy, fast, and largely unenjoyable.

  2. Your right as usual and good way of breaking down possibly the reasons liberals probably hate this movie. I also heard that “Selma” is big-time historically inaccurate. If you bring this up around libs though, you will be soon deemed a “racist”. As for Michael Moore, like Dakota Meyer said, his great uncle that died in WW2 from sniper fire, is probably spinning in his grave. Moore’s a worthless, fat slob, deceiver. He was probably just wanting to get in the lime light again. I’d like to see him go to Syria and be with his brethren ISIS.

  3. Hoi Polloi Boy on January 21, 2015 at 9:08 am said:

    American liberals take issue with “American Sniper” simply because Clint Eastwood, the force behind the movie, effectively and hilariously belittled Obama with his “Empty Chair” monologue at the RNC 2012 convention. Eastwood is a marked man in liberal land.

  4. Spot on Professor! Brilliantly pointed out!

  5. It is interesting that a true American hero; Chris Kyle portrayed in American Sniper is being criticized in such a negative light by some on the left, when the ultimate sniper, Barack Obama with his Predator Drones is adulated and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  6. empress trudy on January 21, 2015 at 11:15 am said:

    To Moore and his ilk when they discover that the sun also shines on America they publicly denounce the sun. It really never matters what they’re whining about in specific.

  7. John Lewis on January 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm said:

    The great fighter pilots – Manfried von Richtofen, Billy Bishop, Erich Hartmann, etc. etc., always considered it a bit of a blunder on their parts if their opponents saw them before they fired.

    That’s war. Amusing that Michael Moore of all people should be romanticizing it.

  8. Bert Hernandez on January 21, 2015 at 3:27 pm said:

    As a veteran I am amused by the Left’s horror that successful soldiers are “killers.” That is the point of war. Would they have preferred that the British would have been better killers than the Continentals? Or that the Union soldiers have been lesser killers than the Confederates? Or that our fathers and grandfathers had not been so good at killing Germans and Japanese? In short, my point is that our safety depends on our military to be successful killers. There is a difference between murder and killing and during the time I was a soldier, I always preferred to be in the line with a killer than a flower child.

    • My dad was a WWII fighter pilot. He killed plenty of Germans: as many as he could, but not because he had any personal animosity toward them. As he said, “It was open season on Germans, so I made the most of it.” Neither did he dislike the Germans after the war; in fact, he admired them, though he was apprehensive at reunification.
      I might add he was VERY young during WWII, joining the Army Air Corp as a 16 y/o high school dropout (also an Eagle Scout), well before Pearl Harbor. Yeah: a Scout AND a “killer.” Yet it didn’t make him a monster, even in those impressionable years.
      One of Dad’s old squadron mates is a dear family friend whom we had occasion to visit with at several 354th Fighter Group and Aces reunions. Now a lovely elderly man with an unintimidating round shape, white hair and a twinkle in his eye, he enjoys introducing himself to unsuspecting waitresses or hotel clerks as “a trained killer,” which indeed he is…
      Our “killers” are the men and women who leave their normal lives to take on the tremendous responsibilities of protecting the nation. Protecting US. Like my old man, they often come from modest backgrounds, they have military experiences that may be well beyond the imaginings of the typical military-hating leftist, and then they return to live perfectly normal lives… Without becoming cliches such as the Left prefers to portray them.
      I suspect we’d see far less difficulty with issues of returning to civilian life if we weren’t bombarded with the idea that military force – yes, including the business of KILLING people in wartime, before they kill YOU – is somehow a terrible thing to be avoided at ALL costs. If being a warrior were to be acknowledged as a necessity and an honor, and our veterans properly celebrated for doing their jobs, it would help our vets when they transition home. I’ve read many a WWII and WWII newspaper story where the headline crows about an American victory in battle, and then lauds the soldiers, sailors or airmen who gained the objective or killed however many enemy. Now it’s seen as regrettable that American soldiers ever kill an enemy at all! As if they’re supposed to be just really buff guys and gals who are there to persuade our enemies that we really just want to be friends. The Left would have our military be just a well-funded Peace Corps.
      Nope. As the saying goes, we may not be interested in war, but war is interested in US. Our current JV president seems to think he’s the puppet master of all these regimes he’s dealing with in secret. His comeuppance on that particular conceit will be a disaster of Biblical proportions. Alas, the bill will be ours to pay.
      Thank goodness our military will still be composed of good and honorable men and women who will step forward again to protect us.
      Because I doubt Obama can take on Jihad John. A golf club makes a poor weapon, especially pitted against the crazy Persian mullahs and their nukes-to-be.
      And what would Moore do, faced with Jihad John? His only advantage is that the savage butcher might tire before he got through Moore’s substantial neck. It could take hours to get through to that jugular vein.
      When the Left discovers that appeasement only encourages genuine savagery in our enemies and that they, too, are endangered, then perhaps they’ll see a little killin’ as a laudable thing, after all.

  9. Michael Smith, M.A., History to 1000A.D. SF State U on January 21, 2015 at 10:05 pm said:

    1956-7-8 we trained as sharpshooters at 6th Army’s Presidio of SF, Friday nights, yelled at by a DI in his campaign hat, earned US Army Sharpshooter medals with 2 bars, presented in a stirring ceremony on the Main Post Parade Ground, 14 yr old Boys Scouts, fully qualified.
    Four second breaths, out, hold, squeeze.
    My brother got 65 confirmed kills in the Viet, I Naval Reserve ammo carrier.
    If we’d only had a Davy Crockett Youth to march with

  10. Jared Carter on January 21, 2015 at 11:27 pm said:

    Andrew Jackson meets Michael Moore: Two statements are made:
    “I have only two regrets: I didn’t shoot Michael Moore and I didn’t hang Michael Moore.”

    Charleston Heston should have done so in Bowling For Columbine…

    Moore part of Hollywood’s liberal Kitchen Cabinet knows little about Americanism. Patriotic films that honor the veteran are oscar winning. To the liberal goes the spoils of Moore’s theatrics. Moore has made a career out of documentaries of anti American sentiment. A voice for cowards everywhere. Theatrics and Americanism are better suited for the Patriot.
    Jared Carter
    Caruthers, Ca

  11. Bill Schroeder on January 22, 2015 at 8:15 am said:

    Good point Professor. I think most people don’t understand the fact a sniper is a weapon system
    not unlike artillery , a machine gun crew or a helicopter gun ship. The trained sniper ( with his spotter )
    is an efficient way of controlling a small part of the battlefield . They use observation and precision shooting as the patrol does physically.
    I have read Chris Kyle’s book The American Sniper which is a very well -written memoir of his experience. I am looking forward to watching the movie

  12. The Jolly Roger on January 22, 2015 at 10:48 am said:

    Michael Moore is so one-eyed (but not like a professional military marksman) that he cannot see snipers not only protect their own side, but also practise collateral damage limitation.

    That is something that the jihadists and really repressive regimes fail to achieve.

  13. craig evans on January 22, 2015 at 5:41 pm said:

    Well done, Dr. Hansen, but as Hoi stated, Clint’s performance at the RNC doesn’t help his popularity in la la land either.

  14. Michael Moore’s extreme utopian stance of “moral equivalence” is symptomatic of someone who has been pampered for too long in an ivory tower. To ease his own discomfort with the ugly business of war, he disassociates snipers from the cause they are fighting for and just rationalizes, “all snipers are cowards.” Michael, there IS a moral difference between a sniper fighting to oppress people (e.g. the Nazis in WW2) and a sniper fighting to free those oppressed people (e.g. the Allied Forces in WW2).

    The real world is not a perfect mirror of what you want it to be. It is nasty/messy and sometimes we have to choose the lesser of 2 evils to accomplish a greater good. I can guarantee you, Michael, that if ISIS showed up at your door intending to kill or torture your family in the the name of Allah, you’d beg a sniper to defend you. Please learn some gratitude for the freedoms those who have sacrificed have given you.

  15. mudnducs on January 23, 2015 at 6:03 am said:

    drilled it. C caused A to be puked out.

  16. moore objected to amerian sniper because: 1. he needed the publicity, and/or 2. he does not understand that kyle was acting under orders from his army superior officers and his commander in chief who moore likely voted for. and/or 3. he is a hollywood liberal lemming that must object to anything eastwood or any other real man or conservative directs, 4. he is a masochist who eats too much and watches too many movies and television.

  17. Art Hippler on January 23, 2015 at 11:21 pm said:

    Without question the use of snipers totally fulfills the requirement for just war activity. It is directed entirely against combatants, has little possibility of collateral damage, enables the attacker to at least give mental prayer for the salvation of the soul of his seen targeted enemy who is not thus depersonalized. If all of war could be carried out so, (I well know it cannot) moral issues in its prosecution would be greatly reduced.

  18. Joe Toboni on January 25, 2015 at 7:15 am said:

    A fine observation in B. Before this, any modern film or tv show that began with “American …” was a sign I had no interest in watching it.

  19. David Park on January 28, 2015 at 9:21 am said:

    The biggest disgrace of the United States toward its military members is to have them maimed or killed without honoring them with the trophy of a total, merciless victory over and complete destruction of every single one of their enemies. Anything less is sick political comedy. Go to win or stay out.

  20. Mark Katzman on January 30, 2015 at 4:24 pm said:

    Dr. Hanson-You’re positively correct, spot on! I was just thinking about “Saving Pvt Ryan” the other day, and the sniper in the movie (portrayed by Barry Pepper), who also invoked God’s blessing on his efforts to kill Germans. This obviously didn’t bother Mr. Spielberg, nor his Hllywd brothers and sisters. On seeing American Sniper, both my wife and I were struck by how savage the “Islamists” in Iraq were/are. But then, having been to Israel many times since 1964, I’m quite aware of what those people are capable of doing. Hollywood has done a 180 since I was a child and the movie moguls ran things. My “screwed up” generation of the 60’s has rejected anything that even hints of American excellence. It’s what kids are taught today in schools-better, brainwashed. Clint Eastwood made a very very good film.

  21. Lastango on February 1, 2015 at 2:20 pm said:

    d) The Democrats took a tremendous thumping during the recent election, and are terrified about what that might signify. How deep and far does it run? How will it manifest? Now, the success of “American Sniper” has hit the Marxist/progressivist Left like a black swan. How many more might be on the way? Something’s happening here… what it is ain’t exactly clear…

    The Left always doubles down on its themes; that’s dangerous to them if they do so on the very positions that have begun undermining support for their power structures. For instance, what if the nation is fed up with fabricated, victim-based narratives like “Rape Culture”, “War-On-Women”, and with the calculated Race-ification of issues and society? How does the Left back away from those campaigns, and what new exercised in collectivist agitprop should be launched instead? Hard questions indeed. No wonder the Left is hysterical and panicked.

  22. Jared Carter on March 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm said:

    VDH,
    Follow up to American Sniper:
    Chris Kyle was a Champion Saddle Buck Rider, but he knew how to stalk mainly deer. Rejected by the Navy first because of pins in his arms due to serious Rodeo ring accident he almost did not record over 150 kills as a Navy SEAL. Speical Opps and Chris Kyle is a book you do not judge by its cover, not do you judge Clint Eastwood. If you meet Kyle on the street you would not have the faintest idea of his deadliest marksmanship. Seal Team 3 and Chris Kyle go well with each other, as do Brandon Webb in Seal Military History. Why? Deployment and bragging rights. Iraqi Freedom March 2003. While he was there, Chris saw some serious action. The Second Battle for Fallujah, which turned out to the biggest and bloodiest engagement in the entire Iraq war. Kyle was in the middle of all this. In the first deployment he racked up close ot 100 kills, 40 of them in the Second Battle for Fallujah alone. He was shot twice, the six sepearte IED explosions, and received the mutiple frag wounds from RPG and other explosives. The insuregents had a sniper there from Iraqi Olympic shooting team, who was a packing an English made Accuracy International, about $10,000 worth of the weapon. Al Qaeda put a bounty on Chris’s head but not one every collected. As remarkable as Chris Kyle is and he greatly missed by many, he was quick to point out that he was not unique on the battlefield. There was a whole lineup of SEAL Snipers in Iraq at the time. Michael Moore is a complete idiot and the non patriotic type. SEAL snipers in Iraq at the time who were cutting a wide loop through the insurgency, providing clear zones for the marines (like my father who was a veteran of vietnam) and army forces to operate withouth being picked off by enemy snipers themsleves of being ambushed by IEDs. Why Hollywood and Michael Moore do not recognize American Heroes shows the anti American sentiment. I have called you the Savior Pen of Americanism for a reason. Make no mistake: War is about killing other human beings, taking out the enemy before he takes you out. Warriors like Chris Kyle, Brandon Webb and Marcus Luttrel are heroes for a reason they lived to tell the tale. As military historians we can only imagine and write about what they went through. Brother-in-arms makes for the best military heroes. Chris Kyle still represents the American Sniper that inconspicously does the job like the patriot/cowboy type that Hollywood and the liberal is no longer fond of. Where did they learn to shot, locally in our San Joaquin Valley at the Coalinga, California range. Be on target, and have a steak Harris Ranch shows that Kyle and Eastwood and our Veterans are as American as its gets and hats off to them, you and the American Farmer.
    All three I have mentioned are first rate SEALs and heroes in my book, Michael Moore is an overweight American sell out…
    Jared William Carter
    Caruthers, California

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: