This characterization of Kyle and the American military as evil invaders is directly at odds with what the film portrays. Early on, there’s a scene in which military briefers explain that the enemy the Marines and SEALs are up against is AQI or Al Qaeda in Iraq. The jihadists have come to Iraq from all over the world. And—unlike American soldiers, who operated under strict rules of engagement and worked to protect innocent Iraqis—AQI had no compunction about abusing and killing whoever they saw fit, something the film portrays in wrenching detail. 

Still, the briefing scene is remarkable in that it was deemed necessary to explain to American audiences who the enemy is. Surely this is proof enough that the left has succeeded in debasing the war on terror as a fundamentally moral cause. 

American Sniper doesn’t make the opposite mistake, either, of depicting a simplistic tale of good versus evil. It shows Kyle making genuinely difficult moral choices—such as killing a child before the boy can throw a grenade into the midst of Marines on patrol. And no one could accuse the film of failing to acknowledge the terrible mental and physical toll war takes on our soldiers. 

The left has tried to avoid the anti-American stain it acquired in the Vietnam era by making sure to mouth platitudes about supporting the troops while criticizing the war. The reaction to American Sniper seems to suggest this pose is insincere. Either you’re rooting for Kyle and his fellow soldiers or you’re rooting for AQI. There is no middle ground in American Sniper. The film simply asks audiences to consider the motivations of American soldiers on the ground in Iraq, and then asks whether or not these motivations make them heroic. This may be a difficult question for Michael Moore, but the film and its rapturous audiences answer it with a resounding yes. In a scene taken straight from his autobiography, when Kyle first meets the woman he will marry, she tells him she doesn’t date military men because they are self-centered. “Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks, genuinely surprised. “I’d lay down my life for this country.”