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December 4, 2009

Wars of Blood and Faith

The Conflicts That Will Shape the Twenty-First Century
Ralph Peters - 9780811702744

This account informs and concerns readers regarding the world of wars in the 21st century. It is comprehensive, well documented and clearly opinionated--though he amply explains the basis of his opinions; not always right, but always worth consideration. After retiring from the Army he became one of the most respected military commentators of our time. He is wise, experienced, and has solid sources. The book is a selection of his essays from 2006.*

The "wisdom of our Age of Ideology" posits that ethnicity and religion are fading. They are not. Ideology has faded, leaving timeless, indestructible identities behind: "Arab or black African, Sunni or Shia, Christian or Muslim, Kurd or Arab." Human beings remain who they were a millennium ago. They like it that way; they are more secure that way. Globalization is not unifying the world. It may homogenize the choices of autos and vacations for the privileged (and their world views), but for the masses its effect is disintegrative. It undermines fragile national identities, narrows tribal and religious affiliations and promotes growth in exclusivity rather than being inclusive. We may consider "others" madmen, but their view of humankind is no less bizarre than our own mix of self-serving beliefs. We imagine rationality, thus living in a comparable dream world. Our insistence that human beings will grow ever more alike defies the historical evidence. Comically, we make a fuss over diversity while claiming that human values are converging.

Ours is an age of super-technology and superstition. The struggle is between those who believe in a merciful god and those who worship a divine disciplinarian; between those who believe in the equality of the sexes and those who oppose; between those content to "live and let live" and those who are not. After centuries of pretending warfare can be limited by laws, savagery is back. Robust jihad is a struggle in which adversaries will do anything, in any sphere, to wound us, while we debate illicit monitoring to their phone conversations.

His comments on Beijing are jarring. One can only admire the "intellectual integrity" of Chinese strategic thinking. Without war, per se, they have engaged us in economic, financial, diplomatic and military spheres, while our response has been periodic, piecemeal, inexpert and ineffective. We, too, need to instill a warlike spirit in other fields of national policy. Otherwise we make "real war" inevitable.

He suggests interestingly that Clausewitz actually had it backwards. His maxim should read: "politics is war carried on by other means." He hammers the preposterous dictum that "war doesn't change anything." It does. Negotiations rarely solve much unless done between victors and vanquished. They may work well in business, but not so in war. It is first necessary to win.

I take issue with his attitude that "winning hearts and minds" is only done over the corpses of the violent. It is not altogether misguided, but an old Psychological Operations commander from my army days was certain that we can't kill all of them. It is necessary to convert a few. However, a few corpses do make the villagers comfortable that you will take measures to protect them. Most of them find the here and now intolerable and dangerous, making the peasants easy prey for prophets promising a return to some mythical lost golden age--and victims of vicious dictators we have supported in the interest of maintaining "stability."

It is true that "early ferocity" saves countless lives . . . as I observed in an early blog when, after the taking of Baghdad in Gulf War II we refused to shoot the looters and criminals destabilizing Iraq. We had replaced a dictator with . . . nothing! Mayhem reigned. Mercy can follow victory but it cannot precede it. It is certainly not a substitute for it.

The press is inherently hostile to American values and activities. They willingly divulge documents and information announcing how we obtain intelligence. They presume our fighting men to be guilty of any charge leveled, yet reluctantly expose the barbaric activities of the opposition. The insurgents are our open enemies while the world's media are their conscious or unwitting allies.

The modern, elitist media emerged in the wake of Vietnam. Its practitioners are from families that belong to country clubs and "train" in select, liberal institutions. Almost none of the modern reporters are from the mean streets, and none have come up thru the ranks. Ernie Pyle was in the trenches with the GIs in WWII and Bill Mauldin lived their experiences. Back then the press reported on what was happening. Now they seclude themselves in distant hotels, have stringers who check things out for them, and offer their own interpretations of what is reportable. People like "the trusted" Walter Cronkite determined that we were beaten after Tet, while moderns were the decisive power in Fallujah.

He takes particular exception to our present attitude toward war, noting that the purpose of an Army is to fight, and the point of going to war is to win. You can't negotiate with a guy who believes God is instructing him to kill you. It is unlikely that we can win an Eastern war while employing Western values. Israel has been trying for years, while Hezbollah uses every possible ruse or evil tactic, regardless of consequence. Morality and rules have nothing to do with its way of making war.

He is certain that "Eurabia" is a myth. "These people perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing." When Europeans feel sufficiently threatened they don't just react, they overreact with stunning ferocity. Recall the Spanish in 1492, the massacre of French Huguenots during the St. Bart's massacre of 1572. Oh, yeah, there were the Crusades before and Hitler, Stalin, and . . . .

From have a little faith--recently reviewed--the rabbi observed that more wars have been fought over religion than anything else. When asked why such killing goes on if God doesn't approve, his reply was that man doesn't want it to stop.

We harbor the weak and dangerous attitude that our adversaries are predisposed to act rationally. Meanwhile, Tehran is on the verge of misjudging America's will and resources as dangerously as did the Japanese in 1941 and al Qa'eda on 9/11. "Iraq is the Arab world's last chance to board the train to modernity; to give the region a future, not just a bitter past."

It is fatal to suppose that all populations want what we want, and can be influenced to support us in our endeavor to deliver what we know to be good for them. Not all share our vision for their future. Even we don't always agree amongst ourselves. A majority of Americans presently disagree with the future that progressives insist is best for us! And we're presumed to be friends and countrymen of like mind.

We need to make it clear we will leave them alone in their squalor if they will do the same. But we must make it clear that we are prepared--as the West has always been prepared--to annihilate them if that is what becomes necessary. Only they can prevent that. They cannot win, unless we allow it. I often recall Lincoln's observation that a nation of free men cannot be defeated. It must die by suicide. We'll see if modern America commits "honorable seppuku" (ritual suicide of the Samurai warrior).

*I would highly recommend reading his essay "The Return of the Tribes" in the Weekly Standard in September of 2006. If you will copy and paste the link here, the article is still "up" on the web:

Posted by Curmudgeon at December 4, 2009 4:26 PM