American Sniper

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American Sniper Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Kyle returns to Taya and his children in 2006, Taya senses right away that he’s stressed and “numb to everything.” Taya still loves Kyle, but she doesn’t know how to treat him—she doesn’t know if she should ask him about his service or not. At the same time, Taya is still angry with Kyle for leaving for Iraq so soon after the birth of their children.
Taya continues to struggle with her conflicted feelings toward her husband. While she loves Kyle and respects his military service, she feels personally wronged by Kyle’s decision to reenlist—she interprets Kyle’s decision as a sign that he prefers being a SEAL to being a husband and father.
Themes
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Back in the U.S., Kyle watches as the doctors run tests on his daughter. Eventually, the doctors realize that Kyle doesn’t really have leukemia; she’s just suffering from a bad case of jaundice. When Kyle’s daughter leaves the hospital, Kyle tries to show his love for his daughter, but, since she barely knows him, she often cries when he’s near her. Kyle also becomes annoyed with his young son for “little things,” and insists that his son needs more discipline.
Kyle tries to express his love for his children, but struggles to do so. In particular, he realizes that he barely knows his son—he’s spent most of the last few years in Iraq. Poignantly, Kyle’s own daughter cries when he’s near her—a sad reminder of the distance that’s grown between Kyle and his family over the course of the book.
Themes
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
While he’s back with his family, Kyle is shocked to learn that, after his departure from Ramadi, the troops lost another SEAL, Mike Monsoor. Monsoor was trying to save the lives of some of his fellow soldiers when a grenade struck him in the chest. Rather than running from the grenade, Monsoor alerted his fellow SEALs of the danger and allowed them to run past him. In effect, Monsoor sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his two friends. A group of SEALs travels back to the U.S. for Monsoor’s funeral and wake. Kyle attends the wake and gets exceptionally drunk.
More of Kyle’s friends and associates die or sustain serious injuries, further contributing to Kyle’s own guilt and self-hatred. Kyle wants to be back in Iraq, fighting insurgents. However, he goes to Monsoor’s wake. (In the original version of American Sniper, there was a passage describing a drunken fight between Kyle and another guest at Monsoor’s wake—later, it was revealed that Kyle’s opponent was none other than Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota and former professional wrestler.)
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
In April 2007, Kyle and some fellow SEALs go to a bar, where they see a group of professional mixed-martial-arts fighters celebrating. The fighters bump into Kyle’s friends, and a fight breaks out. The cops rush into the bar and arrest Kyle and the other brawlers. The next day, Kyle goes to court and pleads guilty to assault, and the judge drops the case. Taya is furious when she finds out what Kyle did; their marriage is “rapidly going downhill.” Kyle recalls that he’s gotten in bar fights on many occasions: once, in Colorado, he defended a waitress from an aggressive customer. Kyle was arrested for fighting, but, as usual, the charges were dismissed.
In part, Kyle gets into fights because the code of machismo tells him that he can’t back down from danger or aggression of any kind. But at the same time, the escalating frequency and viciousness of Kyle’s fights might suggest that Kyle is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition common to veterans of war. Like some victims of PTSD, Kyle feels disconnected from others and so turns more easily to violence.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
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While back in the U.S., Kyle and other SEALs go to speak with a famous author and former SEAL, Dick Couch. Couch delivers a lecture to the SEALs, arguing that the troops in Iraq should be focused on winning the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi civilians, rather than simply killing insurgents. Kyle strongly disagrees with such an idea—he interrupts Couch several times during his lecture, and argues that the only way to bring Iraqis “to the peace table” is to first prove that the U.S. military is as dangerous as the insurgency. Couch becomes increasingly irritated with Kyle, and after a while, Kyle’s CO orders him to leave the room, which Kyle is happy to do. Kyle continues to believe that the “hearts and minds” approach to war is wrong—the reason that the U.S. military saw any success at all in Iraq is because it intimidated people into obedience. He insists, “This is how the world works.”
It’s often said that the War on Terror—the war in Iraq as well as other U.S. military operations in the early 2000s—was a failure, because it created more insurgents than it killed. While soldiers like Kyle killed many terrorists, the overall brutality of the U.S. military polarized the Middle East, causing many moderate people to gravitate toward terrorist groups. Kyle utterly disagrees with such an interpretation of the War on Terror—in his mind, precisely the opposite is true. In other words, he believes that U.S. troops weren’t severe enough with Middle Easterners, and that any success the military achieved was due to intimidation and fear, not the “hearts and minds” strategy.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Kyle learns that he’s suffering from serious knee injuries sustained over the course of his last few tours of Iraq. In the end, he spends five months working with a physical therapist to strengthen his knees. Kyle also tries to use this time to repair his marriage. Kyle realizes that he’s forgotten what it feels like to be in love with Taya. Around this time, he begins talking and texting regularly with one of his old girlfriends. Taya eventually “figures out that something is up.” After a long talk, Kyle and Taya agree that they want to remain married, and that they still love each other. They agree to go to marriage counseling.
During his time back from Iraq, Kyle struggles with his marriage, and is tempted to begin an affair with his old girlfriend. However, he rekindles his love with Taya, and decides to go to marriage counseling to talk through his feelings—something he’s always struggled to do, having been trained to suppress emotion and channel his feelings into violence.
Themes
Machismo Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
After many weeks of counseling, Kyle decides that he will not reenlist in the military when the time comes. He says, “Others could do my job protecting the country, but no one could truly take my place with my family.” However, Kyle still has another tour of Iraq coming up. For this upcoming tour, Kyle and the rest of the platoon are broken up and sent to different places. Kyle is assigned to Delta Platoon. Furthermore, he is now an LPO, or “lead petty officer.” This means that he will be assigned more bureaucratic duties on this upcoming tour. He’ll have to assign responsibilities to different soldiers, like deciding which soldiers detonate explosives.
Kyle makes the difficult decision to spend time with his family rather than reenlisting in the military. For most of the book, Kyle has operated under the assumption that his country needs him more than his family does. However, he seems to realize that the opposite is true: with his children growing up and his wife sick with worry, his family needs him much more than his fellow SEALs do. Kyle will return to Iraq for one final deployment, but afterwards he’ll return to Taya and his children.
Themes
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
Kyle is still back in the states, recovering from his knee surgery. This means that he’s unable to participate in the normal training for his upcoming deployment; however, he works with his physical therapist and gets back into shape. One night, Kyle gets into another bar fight, and winds up breaking his hand, further delaying his deployment. When Kyle goes to the military hospital the next day to fix his hand, he sees the “kid” whose jaw he broke at the bar the previous night. When the “kid” tries to confront Kyle, Kyle claims that the kid is lying—he broke his fist during a routine training exercise. The medics believe Kyle. A few weeks afterward, Kyle’s hand is back to normal, and Kyle prepares to ship out and “kill some more bad guys.”
Kyle continues to fight with strangers at bars, reflecting his strong machismo and, more debatably, his trauma sustained during the war in Iraq. (It's interesting, however, that Kyle lies about his fights—one might assume that refusing to own up to one’s deeds would conflict with the code of machismo.) In spite of his psychological issues, Kyle continues to serve his country—after breaking his hand in the bar fight, for example, he still ships off to Iraq for the last time.
Themes
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon