Are the SEALs Revealing Too Much?

Act of Valor is a new film shot with real Navy SEALs which purports to give a real life sense of what they actually do. In the clip below retired former U.S. Army Delta Force commander Lieutenant General James Vaught does not mince words in warning that all such high profile attention given to the SEALs of late is going to get them killed in the future. Then Admiral William McRaven, commander of USSOCOM, which does SEAL publicity, replies to the concerns:

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As for Act of Valor, D.B. Grady (co-author of The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army) is enthused by everything except the perfunctory plot:

It is disingenuous to call Act of Valor a work of propaganda. The film, which opens nationwide this weekend, is neither hyper-patriotic nor prescriptive of what America should be doing around the world. Rather, it would seem to be a plain assertion of what we are already doing.

The same delights of a night at the symphony or competitive figure skating so apply to the SEALs on screen. It is the beauty of technical precision. Of perfect form. Of every movement, clean and with purpose and character. The SEALs are like a team of gold medalists in the Olympic sport of warfare. They have an easiness and alertness that simply can’t be faked or fixed with CGI. Films don’t often achieve this effect. War movies, in particular, are generally a disaster by-the-numbers. “Not bad” is rendered “good enough” with creative editing, but though an actor might wear a uniform and carry a rifle, it’s always just a costume and a prop.

Not so, here. No doubt there were many takes for every scene, and every manipulative camera trick in the book. But the thing impossible to forget, the thing that sticks in the brain throughout the film, and after, is that everything these men do on screen, they do for real. Presented are not invincible men of steel manufactured by the military-industrial complex, but real men who perform remarkable feats for a living. It has, in short, an unimpeachable authenticity. It has, in short, an unimpeachable authenticity. Lethal warriors land perfect head shots, but they also take stray bullets and fall dead. The violence is brutal in its clinical application, and never does any of it seem trivial or fun.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.