I introduced myself to the work of Ralph Peters by reading his latest book Wars of Blood and Faith. I did not know who Peters was before reading this book – from what I have read about him afterward makes me feel like I have lived in a closet. From the book’s cover (for those like me who do not know who Peters is), Peters is a retired military officer, a popular media commentator, and the author of 22 books. An opinion columnist for the New York Post, he is a member of the boards of contributors at USA Today and Armchair General magazine, a columnist for Armed Forces Journal, and a frequent guest on television and radio.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Wars of Blood and Faith is a compilation of articles by Peters organized in five categories: the Twenty-first Century military, Iraq and its neighbors, the home front, Israel’s struggle, and the world beyond.
My first impression after reading the book is wow. Peters is very opinionated and seems to be very knowledgeable on military affairs – especially in regards to the Middle East. He contends that Americans (and Europeans) need to go back to basic human behavior with regard to fundamentalist Islam – basically that in order to win the War on Terror we need to kill more and negotiate less (after all the terrorists are taking that view toward us). This view is particularly uncomfortable for us to hear because it runs counter to our current view that all peoples are rational and will compromise.
In connection with the first point – Peters argues that there is no way to wage a bloodless war. We can’t depend upon high tech toys to win our wars. The infantry needs to just go in and kill – and yes we will take casualties. He states that the “shock and awe” campaign was a failure because the smart bombs did not take out one high level official nor did it force Saddam to capitulate. If the infantry had gone in full bore with a take-no-prisoners attitude, Iraq would be a lot more stable than it is right now.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
According to Peters, the United States is losing the war in Iraq because we are more concerned about offending world opinion than winning the war. The media is entirely too influential in our war making. He cites the first Battle of Fallujah as a prime example – we were a few days away from annihilating the insurgents when the media falsely claimed that American forces were indiscriminately killing and raping. The public outcry caused American forces to let-up and withdraw only to be called back in six months to fight a tougher enemy.
Another interesting part of Peters’ philosophy is that the situation in the Middle East – for that matter Africa as well – is partly to blame on the Europeans who drew today’s borders with their own power in mind, not the inhabitants. Let me explain, Peters contends that if the Europeans had drawn the borders based on ethnic groups in the area, there would not be as much conflict in the Middle East. For example, Iraq should not even exist – it should be broken into three parts: Sunni Iraq, Arab Shia State, and part of Free Kurdistan. He believes that if the modern borders were reworked, there would be more peace because countries would be more homogenous ethnically. I agree to a point – there would be more ethnic or religious peace, but what about conflict over control of oil?
Peters touches on many other facets of international relations: Washington has forgotten how to think, the Age of Ideology is over and ethnic and religious identity will rule, globalization has contradictory effects – the internet helps people communicate, but it also spreads hatred and dangerous, and women’s freedom is the defining issue of our time.
Peters make some excellent points, but in doing so he forces us to rethink the way we see the world.