Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wars of Blood and Faith, condensed, part one

I am printing here some of the more provocative and interesting passages from Ralph Peters' 2007 book Wars of Blood and Faith. I am a bit pressed for time, so here's part one.

Clausewitz had it Backwards
p. 39-40 [I]t may be our predilection for prolonging even the most wretched peace that ultimately makes our wars so bloody. After a century of Euro-American conflicts, it requires little effort to make the case that the quickest way to inspire a shooting was may be to cling to the dream of peace in our time. . .Idealistic American communists abetted Stalin's crimes while conservatives insisted that Hitler wasn't our problem. . .The massacres at Srebrenica can't be blamed on Serb militias alone--Europe's pacifists were the enablers. Darfur screams, while we stop up our ears.

p. 40 Along with our nibbling at Clausewitz, we also snack on a few crumbs from Sun Tzu, without any real comprehension, that "to win war without fighting is the highest form of victory." Our assumption is that the maxim has a pacific, if not a pacifist, sense: victory without bloodshed! Hurrah, hurrah! Such an interpretation is profoundly wrong. Sun Tzu's primary emphasis in that passage isn't on avoiding battle--that's secondary--but on winning by alternative means. The distinction is critical. Sun Tzu would have found Western peacekeeping operations incomprehensible: avoiding battle and losing.

p.41 The conundrum is that our military strength makes our policy-makers lazy. Neglectful of other instruments and means of national power, they inevitably find themselves forced to resort to military solutions.
The Chinese understand perfectly that policy is an extension of war beyond the crudities of the battlefield, and they act upon the insight skillfully. The Russians grasps it, too, if less coherently . . . (as with the depth-of-winter gas shut-offs to Ukraine and then Georgia). The French have acted as if engaged in comprehensive warfare with all other parties for four centuries, failing only because their means were never commensurate with their exaggerated ambitions.

p.43 Brilliantly, the Chinese have managed to harness the greed of influential elements within our own business community to prevent the implementation of policies by Washington that might reduce China's artificial trade advantages and limit our own self-inflicted vulnerabilities. By allowing a relative handful of American corporations to grow rich, the Chinese have paralyzed our government's ability to defend our workers, our industries, and our economy. We have reached the point where lobbying veers into treason. The Chinese view our relationship as a war conducted through nonmilitary means. Under such advantageous economic conditions, they are perfectly happy to refrain from shooting.

p44 Saudi Arabia, for example, has engaged in a merciless religious war against the West for more than three decades, yet it has not only done so while convincing our national leaders, Republican and Democrat, that we're "friends," but has managed to gain the protection of America's military on the cheap, even as it refuses meaningful cooperation with our forces. To preserve the profits of a handful of multinational oil companies, we protect a repellent, throwback regime that willfully created Osama bin Laden and his ilk.

p 45 The target of the suicide bomb isn't really flesh and blood--it's the video camera, that powerful, postmodern "other means" of securing a military advantage without possessing a military.
By refusing to instill a warlike spirit in other fields of our national policy, we only make "real war" inevitable.

The Hearts and Minds Myth
p50 Self-righteous journalists love to claim that the first casualty of war is the truth, but that's a self-serving lie; the first casualty of any form of violence is reason, that weakest and most disappointing of learned human skills.
We are, indeed, engaged in religious wars--because our enemies have determined that these are religious wars. Our own refusal to understand them as such is just one more debilitating asymmetry.

p 51 We must get over out impossible dream of being loved as a nation, of winning hearts and minds in Iraq and elsewhere. If we can make ourselves liked through our successes, that's well and good. But the essential requirement for the security of the U.S. are that our nation is respected and our military feared.

p52 We need to be tough on ourselves. Begin by listing the number of religion-fueled uprisings throughout history that were quenched by reason and compromise--call me collect if you find a single one. Then list the ethnic civil wars that were solved by sensible treaties without significant bloodshed. Next, start asking the really ugly questions, such as: Hasn't ethic cleansing led to more durable conditions of peace than any more humane approach to settling power relations between bloodlines? Shouldn't we be glad when fanatics kill fanatics? Is there a historical precedent for coping with violent religious fanatics that does not include bloodshed to the point of extermination?

The Myth of Immaculate Warfare
p54 The siren song of techno-wars fought at standoff range makes military solutions more attractive to political leaders than would be the case were they warned about the war's costs at the outset.

p56 [T]he impressive -in-theory capabilities of the latest weapons cloud the vision of military planners, leading them to focus on what the systems can do instead of concentrating on what needs to be done. Rather than buying the weapons we really need, we twist the conflicts we face to conform to the weapons we want to buy. The resulsts are flawed war plans based on unrealistic expectations--in short, Iraq

Politically Correct War
p62 You can trust to kinds of officers: those who read a great deal and those who don't read at all. But beware the officer who reads just a little and falls in love with one book. A little education really is a danegrous thing.

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