Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Lone Survivor’ smackdown

In the new issue of Marine Corps Gazette, Ed Darack takes apart Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, which purported to be a history of a botched operation in Afghanistan in June 2005. Darack, himself the author of Victory Point, a book about the same operation, does a good job of explaining why he thinks the Luttrell ...

www.darack.com/sawtalosar
www.darack.com/sawtalosar
www.darack.com/sawtalosar

In the new issue of Marine Corps Gazette, Ed Darack takes apart Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor, which purported to be a history of a botched operation in Afghanistan in June 2005. Darack, himself the author of Victory Point, a book about the same operation, does a good job of explaining why he thinks the Luttrell book, which was a bestseller, was off base. Most strikingly, Luttrell stated in his after-action report that his SEAL team was attacked by 20 to 35 fighters, but his book claims that the team faced hundreds. (In fact, Darack adds, video analysis and other intelligence indicates it probably was eight to 10 insurgents.) Darack calls the book "gripping, yet extraordinarily unrealistic."

Also, another book, Seal of Honor, about the same incident, refers to Marines from "Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne)," a unit which Darack notes actually does not exist.

Unusually, Darack concludes his critique by listing the ranks, names, and positions of 12 Marines he interviewed.

In the new issue of Marine Corps Gazette, Ed Darack takes apart Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, which purported to be a history of a botched operation in Afghanistan in June 2005. Darack, himself the author of Victory Point, a book about the same operation, does a good job of explaining why he thinks the Luttrell book, which was a bestseller, was off base. Most strikingly, Luttrell stated in his after-action report that his SEAL team was attacked by 20 to 35 fighters, but his book claims that the team faced hundreds. (In fact, Darack adds, video analysis and other intelligence indicates it probably was eight to 10 insurgents.) Darack calls the book “gripping, yet extraordinarily unrealistic.”

Also, another book, Seal of Honor, about the same incident, refers to Marines from “Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne),” a unit which Darack notes actually does not exist.

Unusually, Darack concludes his critique by listing the ranks, names, and positions of 12 Marines he interviewed.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.