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Lone Survivor

Politics and the War on Terror Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Politics and the War on Terror Theme Icon
Bigotry and America’s Enemies Theme Icon
Machismo and the Navy SEALs Theme Icon
Ethics and the “Rules of Engagement” Theme Icon
Survival and Trauma Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lone Survivor, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Politics and the War on Terror Theme Icon

Lone Survivor takes place during the War on Terror. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared an all-out “war” on terrorism. Bush targeted al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that claimed responsibility for 9/11, led by Osama bin Laden. Bush also approved the invasion of Afghanistan, a country known to be a stronghold for a terrorist group called the Taliban, which was said to be supportive of al Qaeda. While Bush’s initial proposal to invade Afghanistan was supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, he was widely criticized, both in his own country and abroad, for the way he waged the War on Terror. In particular, it was suggested that the Bush administration was wrong to begin by invading Afghanistan, a country whose connection to the 9/11 attacks was tenuous. Bush also came under fire for approving of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (said to be a euphemism for torture, plain and simple) and an aggressive foreign policy that seemed to be motivated around securing American industry’s access to Middle Eastern oil, rather than defeating terrorism.

More than once, Marcus Luttrell, the protagonist and narrator of Lone Survivor, claims that he’s a Navy SEAL, not a politician. But Luttrell clearly has political beliefs (for example, he obviously idolizes Bush), and over the course of his memoir he makes a series of political points about the War on Terror.

Despite his claims of being apolitical, Luttrell offers many of the same explanations for the War on Terror that the Bush administration did. From the beginning of the book, he emphasizes the point that invading Iraq and Afghanistan was a logical, morally justifiable response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, since the people who plotted 9/11 or their loyal supporters were based out of these two countries. Luttrell acknowledges that the people the American military fought in Afghanistan and Iraq may not have been the “precise same guys” who planned 9/11, but still argues that they supported 9/11 and opposed America. Many of Bush’s critics on both the Left and the Right argued that the decisions to invade Iraq and Afghanistan made little sense, especially since al Qaeda trained many of its operatives in Saudi Arabia, and was funded largely by Saudi Arabian citizens. In a similar vein, Luttrell argues that military intervention in Iraq was justified by the fact that Saddam Hussein had access to weapons of mass destruction—again, a claim that’s been vigorously disputed. Finally, Luttrell echoes the Bush administration’s justifications for a strong, militaristic foreign policy in the Middle East, in contrast to the more diplomatic foreign policy style supported by many on the left during the War on Terror. He claims that Middle Easterners will only be swayed by displays of force—meaning that, in effect, the American military will only be able to compel Middle Easterners’ loyalty by providing more “shock and awe” than the terrorists do.

Luttrell’s observations about the War on Terror are somewhat surprising, considering that he claims not to be editorializing about George W. Bush’s military policies. Yet the fact is that he frequently offers his political beliefs, even when they seem not to have any direct relevance to the plot of his memoir (for example, in the case of his view on weapons of mass destruction). Luttrell’s career in the last ten years, during which he’s become a right-wing TV show host and a supporter of Governor Rick Perry and later Donald Trump, confirms what is already obvious in Lone Survivor: he’s a strongly right-wing political figure. Reflecting his political beliefs, Luttrell defends the strong militarism of the War on Terror—even in the cases of policy decisions such as the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan where military force may have done more harm than good.

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Politics and the War on Terror ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Politics and the War on Terror appears in each Chapter of Lone Survivor. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Politics and the War on Terror Quotes in Lone Survivor

Below you will find the important quotes in Lone Survivor related to the theme of Politics and the War on Terror.
Chapter 1 Quotes

In Baghdad we were up against an enemy we often could not see and were obliged to get out there and find. And when we found him, we scarcely knew who he was—al Qaeda or Taliban, Shiite or Sunni, Iraqi or foreign, a freedom fighter for Saddam or an insurgent fighting for some kind of a different god from our own, a god who somehow sanctioned murder of innocent civilians, a god who’d effectively booted the Ten Commandments over the touchline and out of play.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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In our view, the question of whether Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons was answered. Of course he did. He used them in Halabja, right?
I guess by now the issue in the minds of the American public was, Did he have a nuclear weapon, an atom bomb?

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker), Saddam Hussein
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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That situation might look simple in Washington, where the human rights of terrorists are often given high priority. And I am certain liberal politicians would defend their position to the death. Because everyone knows liberals have never been wrong about anything. You can ask them. Anytime.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

I had in my rucksack a DVD player and a DVD of my favorite movie, The Count of Monte Cristo, from the novel by Alexandre Dumas père. It's always an inspiration to me, always raises my spirits to watch one brave, innocent man's lonely fight against overpowering forces of evil in an unforgiving world.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker), Alexandre Dumas
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

I remember the pure indignation we all felt. Someone had just attacked the United States of America, the beloved country we were sworn to defend. We watched the television with mounting fury, the fury of young, inexperienced, but supremely fit and highly trained combat troops who could not wait to get at the enemy. We wished we could get at Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda mob in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or wherever the hell these lunatics lived.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker), Osama bin Laden
Page Number: 176-177
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

The truth is, any government that thinks war is somehow fair and subject to rules like a baseball game probably should not get into one. Because nothing's fair in war, and occasionally the wrong people do get killed.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:

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This was definitely a mistake. That helo crew was supposed to have taken the rope away with them. God knows what they thought we were going to do with it, and I was just glad Mikey found it. If he hadn’t and we'd left it lying on the ground, it might easily have been found by a wandering tribesman or farmer, especially if they had heard the helicopter come in. That rope might have rung our death knell, signifying, as it surely must, that the American eagle had landed.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker), Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy / “Mikey”
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

We tried to take the fight to them, concentrating on their strongest positions, pushing them to reinforce their line of battle. No three guys ever fought with higher courage than my buddies up there in those mountains. And damn near surrounded as we were, we still believed we would ultimately defeat our enemy.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

Often, deep within the communities, there are old family ties and young men who sympathize with the warlike mentality of the Taliban and al Qaeda chiefs. Kids barely out of grade school—joke, they don't have grade schools up here—are drawn toward the romantic cutthroats who have declared they'll fight the American army until there is no one left.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 357
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

This armed gang of tribesmen, who were hell-bent on driving out the Americans and the government, could not function up here in these protective mountains entirely alone. Without local support their primitive supply line would perish, and they would rapidly begin to lose recruits. Armies need food, cover, and cooperation, and the Taliban could only indulge in so much bullying before these powerful village leaders decided they preferred the company of the Americans.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 391-392
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

It was a grim smile, I admit, but these guys had chased me, tortured me, pursued me, tried to kill me about four hundred times, blown me up, nearly kidnapped me, threatened to execute me. And now my guys were sticking it right to 'em. Beautiful. I saw a report confirming thirty-two Taliban and al Qaeda died out there that night. Not enough.

Related Characters: Marcus Luttrell (speaker)
Page Number: 407
Explanation and Analysis:

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