The Line: Moral dilemmas for the military

Apple TV

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Eddie Gallagher is what’s you might politely term a “divisive character.” Depending on who you ask, they could call him a decorated military hero or a murderous thug. In The Line, Dan Taberski attempts to separate fact from fiction in Gallagher’s controversial war crime case — and revisit some of the morally loaded questions around acceptable wartime behavior.

Now admittedly, this all sounds a little heavy. Killing, war and morality are hardly frothy topics. Yet, in conversations with over 50 special operators, Taberski actually brings a good deal of humor to the table as he peels back the curtain and marvels at the parallel universe of the US Navy Seals.

Sure, we learn about the biggest war crime trial in recent history, but the early episodes also offer a study in the “type.” What drives a Seal? How are they raised? How tough do they have to be? We lean in as Taberski asks all the right questions.

Then, we move onto the ethics, and the ambiguous nature of right and wrong in a theater of war. Is it fine to kill an operator who would’ve killed you? Even if he’s injured? Is it ever okay to torture the enemy? Whatever your first instincts, they will be challenged by some of the real-life scenarios presented as framing for the Gallagher situation.

Ultimately, we come to see Gallagher as a product of his training, the company he keeps and a psychology reshaped by the trials of war. But while his court case is centered on whether he (or anyone else…) intentionally murdered a young ISIS fighter, The Line is undoubtedly more interested in whether such an act can ever be vindicated. Whether those who are trained to dispose of the enemy should ever be expected to show them leniency — or if it’s even possible to for them to switch seamlessly from one mode to the other.

Taberski really earns the trust of Gallagher (and his family); so much so that The Line becomes a podcast-turned-confessional in its final episode. It makes for fascinating listening, as does this whole series. This is a rare and special work of extraordinary effort offering its audience a sympathetic study of each character, and of wartime morality itself.

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