This weekend I joined millions of Americans in seeing Lone Survivor, the story of Operation Red Wings, a mission gone awry that saw 19 brave men lose their lives on a mountainside in eastern Afghanistan.
The film finished the weekend at number one, wildly defeating studio expectations. It has generated a lot of buzz and created a long-overdue conversation about the war in Afghanistan.
The dialogue that the film has created includes a segment aired on CNN featuring an interview between Jake Tapper and the subject of the film, Navy SEAL and Navy Cross recipient Marcus Luttrell.
Tapper shares his impression of the film with Luttrell, which he says echoes the way he feels when he thinks about the war in Afghanistan, a feeling of hopelessness and senselessness. Luttrell appears to take objection.
“Well, I don’t know what part of the film you were watching, but hopelessness never really came into it,” he replies.
“We spent our whole lives training to defend this country and then we were sent over there by this by this country, so you’re telling me that because we were over there doing what we were told by this country that it was senseless, and what, they died for nothing?”
Dissent is patriotic. Critical thinking is patriotic. And while 2.5 million American men and women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, how many Americans have been directly impacted by the wars? How many have actually contemplated the mission, the service, the sacrifice?
Tapper’s sin was not his question, but rather that it has taken us 13 years to ask it. More than 2,000 American men and women have died in Afghanistan and we only now, only once it’s presented before us in a Hollywood movie, contemplate whether it is worth it?
In the film, some of the most harrowing scenes come when the SEALs, attempting to evade the Taliban, have no choice but to retreat down the mountain.
Effectively, they hurl themselves from the side of the cliff – falling, tumbling, and crashing into trees, rocks, and debris, their rifles clattering off of bounders as their bodies bounce down the rough and rugged terrain.
It's a poignant metaphor for this war – brave men diving head-first for their survival, heroic victims of awful circumstances.
It's not hopeless, but it's sure senseless. And that senselessness derives not from the merits of the mission, but from its execution.
For me, the most emotional part of the film came after it was over, when the faces and names of the fallen were shown on the screen. Wedding pictures, images of them with their families. 19 brave men, among the 2,165 American service members killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
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Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)
NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)
The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.
The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.
I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.