Diana West

"Look at me right now in my story," Mr. Luttrell writes. "Helpless, tortured, shot, blown up, my best buddies all dead, and all because we were afraid of the liberals back home, afraid to do what was necessary to save our own lives. Afraid of American civilian lawyers. I have only one piece of advice for what it's worth: If you don't want to get into a war where things go wrong, where the wrong people sometimes get killed, where innocent people sometimes have to die, then stay the hell out of it in the first place."

I couldn't agree more, except for the fact that conservatives, up to and including the president, are at least as responsible for our outrageous rules of engagement as liberals. The question Americans need to ask themselves now, with "Lone Survivor" as Exhibit A, is whether adhering to these precious rules is worth the exorbitant price -- in this case, 19 valiant soldiers.

Another question to raise is why our military, knowing the precise location of a Taliban kingpin, sends in Navy SEALs, not Air Force bombers, in the first place? The answer is "collateral damage." I know this -- and so do our enemies, who, as Mr. Luttrell writes, laugh at our rules of engagement as they sleep safely at night. I find it hard to believe that this is something most Americans applaud, but it's impossible to know because this debate hasn't begun. But it should. It strikes at the core not only of our capacity to make war, but also our will to survive. A nation that doesn't automatically value its sons who fight to protect it more than the "unarmed civilians" they encounter behind enemy lines is not only unlikely to win a war: It isn't showing much interest in its own survival.

This is what comes through, loud and ugly, from that mountaintop in Afghanistan, where four young Americans ultimately agreed it was better to be killed than to kill.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).