I watched American Sniper, prepping for tonight’s Interchange interview (6 pm) with Clint Eastwood biographer Patrick McGilligan, and discovered there is a bit of “warrior philosophy” inserted into Chris Kyle’s (the sniper) childhood in order to give him motivation; it’s about sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Well, this was cribbed for the movie (it’s not in Kyle’s autobiography according to Slate) from a retired military guy named David Grossman from his book On Combat (he has many others with catchy titles, On Killing, for example). Here’s Grossman:
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.
If you dive down the google rabbit hole into this world of “warrior sheepdogs” you find this philosophy rampant among those “defenders of our freedom”–the 2nd Amendment Party–who believe they are sheepdogs. Of course, the military is not their friend because the leaders of the “new world order” recognize that “patriots” are terrorists against the global order.
Indeed down that rabbit hole I found this:
In 1994 the Pentagon’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, a Major Ralph Peters, wrote a position paper, Warrior Class:
The desire for patriotism is considered an enemy doctrine. The U.S. armed forces must be prepared to fight against all those who oppose the New World Order and who are holding out for nationalism… This new warrior class is most dangerous because they consist of those who fight out of strong religious beliefs… There is a worldwide class of patriots (i.e., “terrorists”) who number in the millions, and if the current trend continues, there may be more of these who…love freedom and are the target of the New World Order… You cannot bargain and compromise with these warriors… We, as the military, need to commit more training to counter these warrior threats. We must have an active campaign to win over the populace. This must be coupled with irresistible violence.
- from the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, May/June 1994
There you have it. Patriotic American Gunowners are the number one Enemy of the New World Order. Since we can’t be bargained or compromised with, prepare for “irresistible violence.”
We don’t need to use “McAlvany Intelligence Advisor” as the source for this, but can just google the author, Ralph Peters. This quote comes from this paper in Parameters called The New Warrior Class (a very dangerous one apparently). Parameters, in case you were unaware, is the US Army War College Quarterly journal.
As interesting to me is that the Wikipedia entry for Peters does not list this particular publication but promotes Peters primarily as a novelist, and as a talking head expert for Fox News. Also interesting is that here are two retired military “experts” offering the “pro” and “con” of the so-called sheepdog. By the way, the sheepdogs, as far as I can tell, are protecting an ideology, not actual “sheep,” weakling people who don’t carry guns and are not very manly. And Grossman classes police with soldiers. So all these Black men being killed by police are wolves then?
Please note that Eastwood begins the scene with a shot of the pocket Bible Chris Kyle will take with him into the military and Iraq. There is zero evidence that Eastwood himself has any personal interest in religion or “faith.”
What’s troubling about movies as products is that one can evade responsibility for any philosophy on the screen. Eastwood could simply be telling this story the way he thinks it should be told as coming from the subject, Chris Kyle; the way an audience will best identify with it; possibly as representative of his own belief. Without him saying, “I believe X and I intended the audience to identify/sympathize with X point of view,” I can’t really put this on Eastwood the man. But I can’t call this art either. It’s a cultural product made for entertainment and profit. Made with skill and talent, but art? As far as I can tell Eastwood makes money, not art. He makes money real good! I imagine him not as a believer but as an opportunistic cynic. Still, that opinion has no authority. McGilligan’s biography does, however, give it quite a bit of ballast.
When a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov threatened passengers on the Amsterdam to Paris train, the service personnel locked themselves away in a bathroom and were utterly useless, but three young Americans took the initiative at grave physical risk to subdue the assailant and prevent a massacre. Does this tell us something about the difference between Americans and Europeans? Yes, argues Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung editor Lorenz Hemicker, “In the US, the people believe that they are responsible for their own safety first and foremost. That may lead to some other social problems. But on Friday, this conviction led to saving the lives of hundreds. And that should give us reason to pause.”