What a Serious Commentator (and McCain adviser) says about Americans and war
Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters has been one of the most visible cheerleaders the last few years for counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare and aggressive American intervention. He was a national security adviser to the John McCain campaign. In "Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars", The Journal of International Security Affairs Spring 2009, he argues that our biggest security threat is that Americans are a bunch of sissies:
The most troubling aspect of international security for the United States is not the killing power of our immediate enemies, which remains modest in historical terms, but our increasingly effete [sissy] view of warfare. The greatest advantage our opponents enjoy is an uncompromising strength of will, their readiness to “pay any price and bear any burden” to hurt and humble us. As our enemies’ view of what is permissible in war expands apocalyptically, our self-limiting definitions of allowable targets and acceptable casualties - hostile, civilian and our own - continue to narrow fatefully. Our enemies cannot defeat us in direct confrontations, but we appear determined to defeat ourselves. [my emphasis]
Many citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan would not doubt be surprised to learn that the US has been narrow and restrained in inflicting civilian casualties as we bring bomb them into freedom. But we seen the last several years how little such thoughts influence those like Peters who are so fond of chest-pounding rhetoric and blustering verbal belligerence.
He gives us a measure of what contemptible pussies he thinks Americans have become:
By 1965, we had already forgotten what it took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and the degeneration of our historical sense has continued to accelerate since then. More Americans died in one afternoon at Cold Harbor during our Civil War than died in six years in Iraq. Three times as many American troops fell during the morning of June 6, 1944, as have been lost in combat in over seven years in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, prize-hunting reporters insist that our losses in Iraq have been catastrophic, while those in Afghanistan are unreasonably high.
I wish he had cited some of those "prize-winning reporters", because I don't remember even the most emphatic critics of the Iraq War saying that American losses were "catastrophic". I've referred to the war many times as a catastrophe, which is was. It was a catastrophe for American foreign policy, for the practical framework of international law, and for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and millions turned into refugees by the war.
It's important to recognize what Peters sees as pathetic feminine weakness: a preference for peace over war, an unwillingness to have American soldiers die in unnecessary wars. For the Bluster Brigade, the real men are Islamic terrorists: "They live their cause, but we do not live ours." When liberals say something like this, it's the very kind of sentence that can be pulled out of context to say the speaker is insulting and defaming our brave soldiers. So why does Ralph Peters hate our soldiers?
In reality, this kind of bombastic rhetoric is meant more to intimidate critics of whatever military actions the user of it favors than to be any kind of guide to policy. The Air Force and the aerospace industry actually have vested interests in the notion that heavy reliance of air war is necessary in order to minimize American casualties. But for posturing on FOX News or CNN, it serves well.
But I have to believe he's just overdosing on testosterone when he refers to war as "humanity's most complex, decisive and vital endeavor." (my emphasis) More vital than, say, producing food?
And the following is absurd hubris: "We have the power to win any war. Victory remains possible in every conflict we face today or that looms on the horizon." This kind of unwillingness to recognize any limits on American power is just foolish triumphalism. As most sentient human beings have learned again in the course of the Iraq War, the power of the United States has real limits.
Sadly, the guy who is saying this with all seriousness in his article is taken seriously not only by our Pod Pundits but by some military strategists, as well.
But his article is fairly remarkable in the number of straw-man arguments he sets up and pummels to bits in the space of a few pages. No wonder he's so popular with neocons and other war lovers.
Peters also has remarkable powers of insight into the spiritual conditions of the elites he thinks have succumbed to sissification:
A paralyzing problem "inside the Beltway” is that our ruling class has been educated out of religious fervor. Even officials and bureaucrats who attend a church or synagogue each week no longer comprehend the life-shaking power of revelation, the transformative ecstasy of glimpsing the divine, or the exonerating communalism of living faith.
He also offers the highly dubious observation that "monotheist faiths" (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are "inherently violent" (my emphasis). Since the founder of the Christian religion, Jesus of Nazareth, appears in the Gospels as pretty much a total pacifist (except for that little tiff with the exploitative bankers), there's some pretty glaring problems with that assertion on its face. (In fairness, this assertion is made seriously by some feminist thinkers, but it's nevertheless an historically shaky assumption, at best.)
There's a lot more dreary, stock propaganda assertions, of the kind that call to mind this Tom Tomorrow cartoon.
His solution to the scary, scary fanaticism of The Terrorists is something closely akin to merciless, massive destruction and killing of civilian noncombatants:
When the United States is forced to go to war - or decides to go to war - it must intend to win. That means that rather than setting civilian apparatchiks to calculate minimum force levels, we need to bring every possible resource to bear from the outset - an approach that saves blood and treasure in the long run. And we must stop obsessing about our minor sins. Warfare will never be clean, soldiers will always make mistakes, and rounds will always go astray, despite our conscientious safeguards and best intentions. Instead of agonizing over a fatal mistake made by a young Marine at a roadblock, we must return to the fundamental recognition that the greatest "war crime" the United States can commit is to lose.
His sneering use of the concept of a war crime pretty much tells us everything essential about his perspective on warfare.
And Peters defines "the media" as a military enemy:
Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight, but one which we not only refrain from attacking but are hesitant to annoy: the media.
While this brief essay cannot undertake to analyze the psychological dysfunctions that lead many among the most privileged Westerners to attack their own civilization and those who defend it, we can acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that, to most media practitioners, our troops are always guilty (even if proven innocent), while our barbaric enemies are innocent (even if proven guilty). The phenomenon of Western and world journalists championing the "rights" and causes of blood-drenched butchers who, given the opportunity, would torture and slaughter them, disproves the notion—were any additional proof required—that human beings are rational creatures. Indeed, the passionate belief of so much of the intelligentsia that our civilization is evil and only the savage is noble looks rather like an anemic version of the self-delusions of the terrorists themselves. Rejecting the god of their fathers, the neo-pagans who dominate the media serve as lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar. [my emphasis]
As a description of reality, this could only be described as psychotic. As off the tracks as Maureen Dowd is, I can't picture her getting together with David Gregory and Cokie Roberts to do some nekkid pagan dances and blood sacrifices. However, it does provide a crude but thorough propaganda justification for unlimited censorship and deliberately killing reporters.
And he could scarcely be less explicit that his intention is exactly that:
Of course, the media have shaped the outcome of conflicts for centuries, from the European wars of religion through Vietnam. More recently, though, the media have determined the outcomes of conflicts. While journalists and editors ultimately failed to defeat the U.S. government in Iraq, video cameras and biased reporting guaranteed that Hezbollah would survive the 2006 war with Israel and, as of this writing, they appear to have saved Hamas from destruction in Gaza.
Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours. Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom. [my emphasis in bold]
And this main is taken to be a Serious Commentator by our Establishment press. The press he thinks are neo-pagan in bed with Salafi Sunni fundamentalist terrorists.
And he's not only a Respectable Commentator; he was a national security adviser to John McCain's Presidential campaign last year. This kind of attitude is consider respectable, sober thinking to today's Republican Party.