View Full Version : One of the very best articles I've ever read. EVER.

01 Feb 06,, 15:49
dalem, Sniper, Ray, lemontree, shek, OoE, and all the rest of the professional military and former-military and those interested in strategy and current geo-political affairs (you know, the stuff this board's supposed to be all about) - GET IN HERE, and read this all the way through, then re-read it.

But make sure you've got the time, that it's quiet, that you can concentrate on it, and that you can THINK about it.

I think Ralph Peters is the premier thinker about strategic matters since the German General Staff went out of business, and I wish I could write - and REASON - as well as he does. I intuitively believe everything he's set down in this article, although I could never have articulated it this well. And SOME of it is simply fresh and so innovative that it would never have occurred to me at all. He was invited to address SOCOM a few months ago, and a SuperBowl ticket on the 50-yard-line would've been and easier seat to get. I had NO CHANCE to get in that room, so thick were the senior leaders that were being turned away. We should've held it at Raymond James Stadium, such was the number of hopeful-but-disappointeds.

Read it CAREFULLY, because it's dense and so well-phrased and closely-reasoned that everything needs to be comprehended for this article to be the aid I believe it to be to those seeking understanding of its subject matter.

The Counterrevolution
in Military Affairs
Fashionable thinking about defense ignores the great threats of our time.
by Ralph Peters
02/06/2006, Volume 011, Issue 20

REVOLUTIONS NOTORIOUSLY IMPRISON THEIR MOST committed supporters. Intellectually, influential elements within our military are locked inside the cells of the Revolution in Military Affairs--the doctrinal cult of the past decade that preaches that technological leaps will transcend millennia-old realities of warfare. Our current conflicts have freed the Pentagon from at least some of the nonsensical theories of techno-war, but too many of our military and civilian leaders remain captivated by the notion that machines can replace human beings on the battlefield. Chained to their 20th-century successes, they cannot face the new reality: Wars of flesh, faith, and cities. Meanwhile, our enemies, immediate and potential, appear to grasp the contours of future war far better than we do.

From Iraq's Sunni Triangle to China's military high command, the counterrevolution in military affairs is well underway. We are seduced by what we can do; our enemies focus on what they must do. We have fallen so deeply in love with the means we have devised for waging conceptual wars that we are blind to their marginal relevance in actual wars. Terrorists, for one lethal example, do not fear "network-centric warfare" because they have already mastered it for a tiny fraction of one cent on the dollar, achieving greater relative effects with the Internet, cell phones, and cheap airline tickets than all of our military technologies have delivered. Our prime weapon in our struggles with terrorists, insurgents, and warriors of every patchwork sort remains the soldier or Marine; yet, confronted with reality's bloody evidence, we simply pretend that other, future, hypothetical wars will justify the systems we adore--purchased at the expense of the assets we need.

Stubbornly, we continue to fantasize that a wondrous enemy will appear who will fight us on our own terms, as a masked knight might have materialized at a stately tournament in a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Yet, not even China--the threat beloved of major defense contractors and their advocates--would play by our rules if folly ignited war. Against terrorists, we have found technology alone incompetent to master men of soaring will--our own flesh and blood provide the only effective counter. At the other extreme, a war with China, which our war gamers blithely assume would be brief, would reveal the quantitative incompetence of our forces. An assault on a continent-spanning power would swiftly drain our stocks of precision weapons, ready pilots, and aircraft. Quality, no matter how great, is not a reliable substitute for a robust force in being and deep reserves that can be mobilized rapidly.

There is, in short, not a single enemy in existence or on the horizon willing to play the victim to the military we continue to build. Faced with men of iron belief wielding bombs built in sheds and basements, our revolution in military affairs appears more an indulgence than an investment. In the end, our enemies will not outfight us. We'll muster the will to do what must be done--after paying a needlessly high price in the lives of our troops and damage to our domestic infrastructure. We will not be beaten, but we may be shamed and embarrassed on a needlessly long road to victory.

Not a single item in our trillion-dollar arsenal can compare with the genius of the suicide bomber--the breakthrough weapon of our time. Our intelligence systems cannot locate him, our arsenal cannot deter him, and, all too often, our soldiers cannot stop him before it is too late. A man of invincible conviction--call it delusion, if you will--armed with explosives stolen or purchased for a handful of soiled bills can have a strategic impact that staggers governments. Abetted by the global media, the suicide bomber is the wonder weapon of the age.

The suicide bomber's willingness to discard civilization's cherished rules for warfare gives him enormous strength. In the Cain-and-Abel conflicts of the 21st century, ruthlessness trumps technology. We refuse to comprehend the suicide bomber's soul--even though today's wars are contests of souls, and belief is our enemy's ultimate order of battle. We write off the suicide bomber as a criminal, a wanton butcher, a terrorist. Yet, within his spiritual universe, he's more heroic than the American soldier who throws himself atop a grenade to spare his comrades: He isn't merely protecting other men, but defending his god. The suicide bomber can justify any level of carnage because he's doing his god's will. We agonize over a prisoner's slapped face, while our enemies are lauded as heroes for killing innocent masses (even of fellow believers). We continue to narrow our view of warfare's acceptable parameters even as our enemies amplify the concept of total war.

Islamist terrorists, to cite the immediate example, would do anything to win. Our enemies act on ecstatic revelations from their god. We act on the advice of lawyers. It is astonishing that we have managed to hold the line as well as we have.

The ultimate precision weapon, the suicide bomber simultaneously redefines the scope of "legitimate" targets. Delighted to kill our troops, this implacable enemy who regards death as a promotion is equally ready to slaughter men, women, and children of unknown identity who have done him no harm. His force of will towers over our own. He cannot win wars on the traditional battlefields we cherish, but his commitment and actions transcend such tidy limits. In the moment of his deed, the suicide bomber is truly larger than life. The world's a stage, and every suicide bomber is, at least briefly, a star.

We will develop the means to defeat the majority of, if not all, improvised explosive devices. But the suicide bomber--the living, thinking assassin determined to die--may prove impossible to stop. Even if we discover a means to identify him at a distance from our troops, he has only to turn to easier targets. Virtually anything the suicide bomber attacks brings value to his cause--destruction of any variety is a victory. The paradox is that his act of self-destruction is also an undeniable assertion that "I am," as he becomes the voice from below that the mighty cannot ignore. We are trained to think in terms of cause and effect--but the suicide bomber merges the two. The gesture and the result are inseparable from and integral to his message. Self-destruction and murder join to become the ultimate act of self-assertion.

And his deed is heralded, while even our most virtuous acts are condemned around the world. Even in the days before mass media, assassins terrorized civilizations. Today, their deeds are amplified by a toxic, breathtakingly irresponsible communications culture that spans the globe. Photogenic violence is no longer a local affair--if a terrorist gives the media picturesque devastation, he reaches the entire planet. We cannot measure the psychological magnification, although we grasp it vaguely. And the media's liturgical repetition of the suicide bomber's act creates an atmosphere of sacrament. On a primal level, the suicide bomber impresses even his enemies with his conviction. We hasten to dismiss his deed as a perversion, yet it resounds as a vivid act of faith. Within his own cultural context, people may hate what the suicide bomber does, yet revere his sacrifice (and, too often, they do not hate what he does).

We may refuse to accept it, but suicide bombing operates powerfully on practical, emotional, and spiritual levels--and it generates dirt-cheap propaganda. To the Muslim world, the suicide bomber's act is a proof of faith that ensnares the mind with a suspicion of his righteousness. He is a nearly irresistible champion of the powerless, the Middle East's longed-for superhero, the next best thing to the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam.

We praise Nathan Hale's willingness to die for his cause. Now imagine thousands of men anxious to die for theirs. The suicide bomber may be savage, brutal, callous, heartless, naive, psychotic, and, to us, despicable, but within his milieu he is also heroic.

The hallmark of our age is the failure of belief systems and a subsequent flight back to primitive fundamentalism--and the phenomenon isn't limited to the Middle East. Faith revived is running roughshod over science and civilization. Secular societies appear increasingly fragmented, if not fragile. The angry gods are back. And they will not be defeated with cruise missiles or computer codes.

A paradox of our time is that the overwhelmingly secular global media--a collection of natural-born religion-haters--have become the crucial accomplices of the suicide bomber fueled by rabid faith. Mass murderers are lionized as freedom fighters, while our own troops are attacked by the press they protect for the least waywardness or error. One begins to wonder if the bomber's suicidal impulse isn't matched by a deep death wish affecting the West's cultural froth. (What if Darwin was right conceptually, but failed to grasp that homo sapiens' most powerful evolutionary strategy is faith?) Both the suicide bomber and the "world intellectual" with his reflexive hatred of America exist in emotional realms that our rational models of analysis cannot explain. The modern age's methods for interpreting humanity are played out.

We live in a new age of superstition and bloodthirsty gods, of collective madness. Its icons are the suicide bomber, the veil, and the video camera.

One of the most consistently disheartening experiences an adult can have today is to listen to the endless attempts by our intellectuals and intelligence professionals to explain religious terrorism in clinical terms, assigning rational motives to men who have moved irrevocably beyond reason. We suffer under layers of intellectual asymmetries that hinder us from an intuitive recognition of our enemies. Our rear-guard rationalists range from those convinced that every security problem has a technological solution, if only it can be found, to those who insist that members of al Qaeda and its affiliates are motivated by finite, comprehensible, and logical ambitions that, if satisfied, would make our problems disappear.

Living in unprecedented safety within our borders and lacking firsthand knowledge of the decay beyond, honorable men and women have convinced themselves that Osama bin Laden's professed goals of driving the United States from the Middle East and removing corrupt regional governments are what global terror is all about. They gloss over his ambition of reestablishing the caliphate and his calls for the destruction of Israel as rhetorical effects--when they address them at all. Yet, Islamist fanatics are more deeply committed to their maximalist goals than to their lesser ones--and their unspoken ambitions soar beyond logic's realm. Religious terrorists are committed to an apocalypse they sense within striking distance. Their longing for union with god is inseparable from their impulse toward annihilation. They seek their god in carnage, and will go on slaughtering until he appears to pat them on the back.

A dangerous asymmetry exists in the type of minds working the problem of Islamist terrorism in our government and society. On average, the "experts" to whom we are conditioned to listen have a secular mentality (even if they go to church or synagogue from habit). And it is a very rare secular mind that can comprehend religious passion--it's like asking a blind man to describe the colors of fire. One suspects that our own fiercest believers are best equipped to penetrate the mentality--the souls--of our Islamist enemies, although those believers may not be as articulate as the secular intellectuals who anxiously dismiss all possibilities that lie outside their theoretical constructs.

Those who feel no vital faith cannot comprehend faith's power. A man or woman who has never been intoxicated by belief will default to mirror-imaging when asked to describe terror's roots. He who has never experienced a soul-shaking glimpse of the divine inevitably explains religion-driven suicide bombers in terms of a lack of economic opportunity or social humiliation. But the enemies we face are burning with belief, on fire with their vision of an immanent, angry god. Our intelligentsia is less equipped to understand such men than our satellites are to find them.

All of our technologies and comforting theories are confounded by the strength of the soul ablaze with faith. Our struggle with Islamist terror (other religious terrors may haunt our descendants) has almost nothing to do with our actions in the Middle East. It's about a failing civilization's embrace of a furious god.

We are not (yet) at war with Islam, but the extreme believers within Islam are convinced that they are soldiers in a religious war against us. Despite their rhetoric, they are the crusaders. Even our conceptions of the struggle are asymmetrical. Despite the horrors we have witnessed, we have yet to take religious terrorists seriously on their own self-evident terms. We invaded a succession of their tormented countries, but haven't come close to penetrating their souls. The hermetic universe of the Islamist terrorist is immune to our reality (if not to our bullets), but our intellectuals appear equally incapable of accepting the religious extremist's reality.

We have no tools of persuasion effective against a millenarian belief. What logic can we wield against the soul fortified by faith and barricaded beyond argument? Even if we understood every nuance of our enemy's culture, the suicide bomber's intense faith and the terror chieftain's visions have burned through native cultural restraints. We are told, rather smugly, that the Koran forbids suicide. But our enemies are not concerned with how we read their faith. Religions are living things, and ultra-extremists are improvising a new and savage cult within Islam--even as they proclaim their return to a purified faith.

Security-wise, we have placed our faith in things, in bright (and expensive) material objects. But the counterrevolution in military affairs is based on the brilliant intuition that our military can be sidestepped often enough to challenge its potency. Certainly, we inflict casualties on our enemies--and gain real advantages from doing so--but we not only face an enemy who, as observed above, views death as a promotion, but also one who believes he has won even when he loses. If the suicide bomber completes his mission, he has won. But even if he is killed or dies short of his target, he has conquered a place in paradise. Which well-intentioned information operation of ours can compete with the conviction that a martyr's death leads to eternal joy?

Again, our intelligentsia falls woefully short. The most secularized element of our society--educated to avoid faith (or, at the very least, to shun enthusiastic, vigorous, proud, and public faith)--our professional thinkers have lost any sense of a literal paradise beyond the grave. But our enemies enjoy a faith as vivid as did our ancestors, for whom devils lurked in the undergrowth and paradise was an idealized representation of that which mortals knew. We are taught that we should never underestimate our enemies--yet, we underestimate the power of his faith, his most potent weapon.

Nor should we assume that Islamist extremists will remain the only god-haunted terrorists attacking established orders. This century may prove to be one of multi-sided struggles over the interpretation of god's will, between believers and unbelievers, between the varieties of the faithful, between monotheists and polytheists, between master faiths and secessionist movements, between the hollow worshippers of science and those swollen with the ecstasy of belief.

Naturally, we view the cardinal struggle as between the West and extremists within the Islamic world; yet, the bloodiest religious warfare of the coming decades may be between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or between African Muslims and the new, sub-Saharan Church Militant. Hindu extremists gnaw inward from the epidermis of Indian society, while even Buddhist monks have engaged in organized violence in favor of their ostensibly peaceable faith. In a bewildering world where every traditional society is under assault from the forces of global change, only religion seems to provide a reliable refuge. And each god seems increasingly a jealous god.

Faith is the great strategic factor that unbelieving faculties and bureaucracies ignore. It may be the crucial issue of this century. And we cannot even speak about it honestly. Give me a warrior drunk with faith, and I will show you a weapon beyond the dreams of any laboratory. Our guided bombs may kill individual terrorists, but the terrorist knows that our weapons can't kill his god.

Even in preparing for "big wars," we refuse to take the enemy into account. Increasingly, our military is designed for breathtaking sprints, yet a war with China--were one forced upon us by events--would be a miserable, long march. For all the rhetoric expended and the innumerable wargames played, the best metaphor for a serious struggle with Beijing--perhaps of Homeric length--comes from that inexhaustible little book, Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, with its pathetic image of a Western gunboat lobbing shells uselessly into a continent.

Given the comprehensive commitment and devastation required to defeat strategically and structurally weaker enemies such as Japan and Germany, how dare we pretend that we could drive China to sue for peace by fighting a well-mannered war with a small military whose shallow stocks of ammunition would be drained swiftly and could not be replaced in meaningful quantities? Would we try Shock and Awe, Part II, over Beijing, hoping to convince China's leaders to surrender at the sight of our special effects? Or would our quantitative incompetence soon force us onto the defensive?

We must be realistic about the military requirements of a war with China, but we also need to grasp that, for such an enemy, the military sphere would be only one field of warfare--and not the decisive one. What would it take to create an atmosphere of defeat in a sprawling nation of over one billion people? A ruthless economic blockade, on the seas, in the air, and on land, would be an essential component of any serious war plan, but the Chinese capability for sheer endurance might surprise us. Could we win against China without inflicting extensive devastation on Chinese cities? Would even that be enough? Without mirror-imaging again, can we identify any incentive China's leaders would have to surrender?

The Chinese version of the counterrevolution in military affairs puts less stress on a head-to-head military confrontation (although that matters, of course) and more on defeating the nation behind our military. Despite the importance Beijing attaches to a strong military, China won't fall into the trap that snared the Soviets--the attempt to compete with our military expenditures. Why fight battles you'll lose, when you can wage war directly against the American population by attacking its digital and physical infrastructure, its confidence and morale? In a war of mutual suffering, which population would be better equipped, practically and psychologically, to endure massive power outages, food-chain disruptions, the obliteration of databases, and even epidemic disease?

Plenty of Americans are tougher than we're credited with being, but what about the now-decisive intelligentsia? What about those conditioned to levels of comfort unimaginable to the generation that fought World War II (or even Vietnam)? Would 21st-century suburban Americans accept rationing without protests? Whenever I encounter Chinese abroad I am astonished by their chauvinism. Their confidence is reminiscent of Americans' a half century ago. Should we pretend that Chinese opinion-makers, such as they are, would feel inclined to attack their government as our journalists attack Washington? A war with China would be a massive contest of wills, and China might need to break the will of only a tiny fraction of our population. It only takes a few hundred men and women in Washington to decide that a war is lost.

As for our military technologies, how, exactly, would an F/A-22 destroy the Chinese will to endure and prevail? How would it counteract a hostile media? If we should worry about any strategic differences with China, they are the greater simplicity and robustness of China's less developed (hence, less fragile) infrastructure, and a greater will to win in Beijing. No matter how well our military might perform, sufficient pain inflicted on the American people could lead a weak national leadership to a capitulation thinly disguised as a compromise. Addicted to trade with China, many in America's business community would push for a rapid end to any conflict, no matter the cost to our nation as a whole. (When Chinese fighters forced down a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on Hainan Island several years ago, American-business lobbyists rushed to Capitol Hill to plead for patience with China--they had no interest in our aircrew or our national good.)

The Chinese know they cannot defeat our military. So they intend to circumvent it, as surely as Islamist terrorists seek to do, if in more complex ways. For example, China's navy cannot guarantee its merchant vessels access to sea lanes in the Indian Ocean--routes that carry the oil on which modern China runs. So Beijing is working to build a web of formal and informal client relationships in the region that would deny the U.S. Navy port facilities, challenge the United States in global and regional forums, and secure alternate routes and sources of supply. China's next great strategic initiative is going to be an attempt to woo India, the region's key power, away from a closer relationship with the United States. Beijing may fail, but its strategists are thinking in terms of the out-years, while our horizon barely reaches from one Quadrennial Defense Review to the next.

Even in Latin America, China labors to develop capabilities to frustrate American purposes, weaken hemispheric ties, and divert our strategic resources during a Sino-American crisis. We dream of knock-out blows, while Beijing prepares the death of a thousand cuts. The Chinese are the ultimate heirs of B.H. Liddell Hart and his indirect approach: They would have difficulty conquering Taiwan militarily, but believe they could push us into an asymmetrical defeat through economic, diplomatic, and media campaigns in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America--while crippling the lifestyle of America's citizens.

It's become another cliché to observe how much of our manufacturing capability has moved to China while we tolerate, at our own business community's behest, Beijing's cynical undervaluation of its currency. If you don't think this matters, try to go a single week without buying or using a product made in China. A conflict with Beijing might be lost on the empty shelves of Wal-Mart. Indeed, Beijing's most effective international allies are American corporations. In the Second World War we famously converted our consumer industries into producers of wartime materiel. Will a future president find himself trapped by our defense industry's inability to produce consumer goods in wartime?

A war with China would be a total war, waged in spheres where our military is legally forbidden to engage, from data banks to shopping malls. How many readers of this magazine have participated in a wargame that addressed crippling consumer shortages as a conflict with China dragged on for years? Instead, we obsess about the fate of a pair of aircraft carriers. For that matter, how about a scenario that realistically portrayed the global media as siding overwhelmingly with China? The metastasizing power of the media is a true strategic revolution of our time--one to which our narrow revolution in military affairs has no reply.

Oh, by the way: Could we win a war with China without killing hundreds of millions of Chinese?

Many of us have struggled to grasp the unreasonable, even fanatical anti-Americanism in the global media--including the hostility in many news outlets and entertainment forums here at home. How can educated men and women, whether they speak Arabic, Spanish, French, or English, condemn America's every move, while glossing over the abuses of dictators and the savagery of terrorists? Why is America blamed even when American involvement is minimal or even nonexistent? How has the most beneficial great power in history been transformed by the international media into a villain of relentless malevolence?

There's a straightforward answer: In their secular way, the world's media elites are as unable to accept the reality confronting them as are Islamist fundamentalists. They hate the world in which they are forced to live, and America has shaped that world.

It isn't that the American-wrought world is so very bad for the global intelligentsia: The freedom they exploit to condemn the United States has been won, preserved, and expanded by American sacrifices and America's example. The problem is that they wanted a different world, the utopia promised by socialist and Marxist theorists, an impossible heaven on earth that captured their imagination as surely as visions of paradise enrapture suicide bombers.

The global media may skew secular, but that doesn't protect them against alternative forms of faith. Europeans, for example, have discarded a belief in God as beneath their sophistication--yet they still need a Satan to explain their own failures, just as their ancestors required devils to explain why the milk soured or the herd sickened. Today, America has replaced the horned, cloven-footed Lucifer of Europe's past; behind their smug assumption of superiority, contemporary Europeans are as superstitious and irrational as any of their ancestors: They simply believe in other demons.

One of the most perverse aspects of anti-Americanism in the global media and among the international intelligentsia is that it's presented as a progressive, liberal movement, when it's bitterly reactionary, a spiteful, elitist revolt against the empowerment of the common man and woman (the core ethos of the United States). Despite their outward differences, intellectuals are the logical allies of Islamist extremists--who are equally opposed to social progress and mass freedom. Of course, the terrorists have the comfort of religious faith, while the global intelligentsia, faced with the death of Marxism and the triumph of capitalism, has only its rage.

Human beings are hard-wired for faith. Deprived of a god, they seek an alternative creed. For a time, nationalism, socialism, Marxism, and a number of other-isms appeared to have a chance of working--as long as secular intellectuals rejected the evidence of Stalin's crimes or Mao's savagery (much as they overlook the brutalities of Islamist terrorists today). The intellectuals who staff the global media experienced the American-made destruction of their secular belief systems, slowly during the Cold War, then jarringly from 1989 to 1991. The experience has been as disorienting and infuriating to them as if we had proved to Muslim fanatics that their god does not exist.

America's triumph shames the Middle East and Europe alike, and has long dented the pride of Latin America. But the brotherhood of Islamist terrorists and the tribe of global intellectuals who dominate the media are the two groups who feel the most fury toward America. The terrorists dream of a paradise beyond the grave; intellectuals fantasized about utopias on earth. Neither can stomach the practical success of the American way of life, with its insistence on individual performance and its resistance to unearned privilege. For the Islamists, America's power threatens the promises of their faith. For world-intellectuals, America is the murderer of their most precious fantasies.

Is it any wonder that these two superficially different groups have drifted into collusion?

The suicide bomber may be the weapon of genius of our time, but the crucial new strategic factor is the rise of a global information culture that pretends to reflect reality, but in fact creates it. Iraq is only the most flagrant example of the disconnect between empirical reality and the redesigned, politically inflected alternative reality delivered by the media. This phenomenon matters far more than the profiteers of the revolution in military affairs can accept--the global information sphere is now a decisive battleground. Image and idea are as powerful as the finest military technologies.

We have reached the point (as evidenced by the first battle of Falluja) where the global media can overturn the verdict of the battlefield. We will not be defeated by suicide bombers in Iraq, but a chance remains that the international media may defeat us. Engaged with enemies to our front, we try to ignore the enemies at our back--enemies at whom we cannot return fire. Indeed, if anything must be profoundly reevaluated, it's our handling of the media in wartime. We have no obligation to open our accounts to proven enemies, yet we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by platitudes.

This doesn't mean that all of the media are evil or dishonest. It means we need to have the common sense and courage to discriminate between media outlets that attempt to report fairly (and don't compromise wartime secrets) and those whose track records demonstrate their hostility to our national purposes or their outright support for terrorists.

We got it right in World War II, but today we cannot count on patriotism among journalists, let alone their acceptance of censorship boards. Our own reporters pretend to be "citizens of the world" with "higher loyalties," and many view patriotism as decidedly down-market. Obsessed with defending their privileges, they refuse to accept that they also have responsibilities as citizens. But after journalistic irresponsibility kills a sufficient number of Americans, reality will force us to question the media's claim that "the public has a right to know" every secret our government holds in wartime.

The media may constitute the decisive element in the global counterrevolution in military affairs, and the video camera--that insatiable accomplice of the terrorist--the cheap negation of our military technology. (And beware the growing capability of digital technology to create American "atrocities" from scratch.) We are proud of our ability to put steel precisely on target anywhere in the world, but guided bombs don't work against faith or an unchallenged flood of lies. We have fallen in love with wind-up dolls and forgotten the preeminence of the soul.

We need to break the mental chains that bind us to a technology-über-alles dream of warfare--a fantasy as absurd and dated as the Marxist dreams of Europe's intellectuals. Certainly, military technologies have their place and can provide our troops with useful tools. But technologies are not paramount. In warfare, flesh and blood are still the supreme currency. And strength of will remains the ultimate weapon. Welcome to the counterrevolution.

Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, is the author of 21 books, including New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy and the forthcoming Never Quit the Fight.

© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

01 Feb 06,, 18:17
but bluesman,

I think Ralph Peters is the premier thinker about strategic matters since the German General Staff went out of business,

the OKW really sucked at strategic thinking :biggrin:

i believe the article's been posted elsewhere on the forum; but it is indeed an interesting read. OoE has a few counters already.

01 Feb 06,, 18:33
Well, OKW wasn't the German General Staff. :)

And yeah, it appears that shek already has it posted up.

Frankly, I think it's brilliant.

Officer of Engineers
01 Feb 06,, 18:34
I've re-read the article several times trying to see what Ralph Peters see and thus far, I've found a few big holes in his theories.

The biggest premis here is that the Americans lacked the stomach for the kind of war necessary to win against both the suicide bomber and Chinese determination. I supposed a case can be made about Vietnam and the body bag syndrome.

Suicide tactics, however, throughout history has been proven a war loser. If you want to die, the other side will happily oblige you and in alot of cases, they would even help your family along with you.

American reaction is a finicky thing. Hostage beheadings were initially shocking but now has become an unevent. Americans are learning dead means dead. There's a limit to which you can make the Americans uncomfortable enough to abandon an adventure but push them too far and they hit back with full force. Vietnam is the example of the 1st. 11 Sept an example of the second.

I once commentted after 11 Sept that the last time an American Army was this angry, the Imperial Japanese Marines were killed almost to the last man. Suicide bombers ain't a match for this kind of feriocity.

The read on the Chinese is completely out of whack though. IF and ONLY IF the CCP can manage the Chinese population can his premis that China could endure alot more than the Americans can. The CCP has sucked at this big time everytime they tried to unite the populace in a common foreign cause, it invetiably turn against the CCP.

01 Feb 06,, 20:32
col yu,

it just seems strange to me to see a self-proclaimed dinosaur launch an attack on an article that does not really believe in the dreams of the RMA! :biggrin: :biggrin:

01 Feb 06,, 21:06
I once commentted after 11 Sept that the last time an American Army was this angry, the Imperial Japanese Marines were killed almost to the last man. Suicide bombers ain't a match for this kind of feriocity.

Yeah, as I said the day of, on another board, the last time someone miscalculated that much we sunk their navy, destroyed their Empire, killed their soldiers, burned their cities to the ground with fire and atomic weapons, and hung their leaders by the neck until they were dead.

So far we've invaded and turned two countries, scared another, and shown the light to a few more.


01 Feb 06,, 23:15
I've re-read the article several times trying to see what Ralph Peters see and thus far, I've found a few big holes in his theories.

The biggest premis here is that the Americans lacked the stomach for the kind of war necessary to win against both the suicide bomber and Chinese determination. I supposed a case can be made about Vietnam and the body bag syndrome.

Suicide tactics, however, throughout history has been proven a war loser. If you want to die, the other side will happily oblige you and in alot of cases, they would even help your family along with you.

American reaction is a finicky thing. Hostage beheadings were initially shocking but now has become an unevent. Americans are learning dead means dead. There's a limit to which you can make the Americans uncomfortable enough to abandon an adventure but push them too far and they hit back with full force. Vietnam is the example of the 1st. 11 Sept an example of the second.

I once commentted after 11 Sept that the last time an American Army was this angry, the Imperial Japanese Marines were killed almost to the last man. Suicide bombers ain't a match for this kind of feriocity.

The read on the Chinese is completely out of whack though. IF and ONLY IF the CCP can manage the Chinese population can his premis that China could endure alot more than the Americans can. The CCP has sucked at this big time everytime they tried to unite the populace in a common foreign cause, it invetiably turn against the CCP.

L. Col. Yu,

Yes Right after 9/11, the Americans were completely angry and committed to a full support after the Taliban and Al Queda and to this day, have not let up. I don't see any reports or hear any reports for any calls of withdrawal from Afghanistan or a give up of the hunt against Al Queda.

But Iraq was not involved in it and to the masses of the American people, the visible side counts a lot. They cannot truly understand that it was a strategic move to take out Saddam Hussein, in which I fully support and truly understand. However I am not pissed off as hell. Thus, they are not this angry at Iraqi suicide bombers as against Al Queda.

I think there is a point to having the masses of the American People mad because they are what sustain long drawn out expensive wars. Anger equals long term political support for wars because they override any other material needs such as housing, jobs, medical aid,deficits, trade, education, i.e, things tangible to the common joe on the street. We need their political support in order to finance and equip expensive armies to go for the long overhaul. In WWII, we had truly immense political support to kick the living **** out of the Japanese and the Germans whatever it was required no matter how long it was. Not so with the Korean War. Not so with the Vietnam. Not so with the Desert Storm. George Bush truly knew what it means to fight a long protracted war and he KNEW that he did not have the political support for a long drawn out war of peacekeeping. That's why he didn't go into Iraq. He did everything to stay out of Iraq because he knew it would take more than several years to pacify Iraq, something that the American people didn't have the stomach unless the Iraqi people or the dictator did something truly stupid like 9/11 to the Americans. And it remains to this day.

George W. Bush was only able to get into Iraq ONLY BECAUSE of the overwhelming success in Afghanistan and the fact that he sold the American people that Iraq was tied with Al Queda and weapons of mass destruction whether he truly believe it or not is aside the point. After it turns out that Iraq had nothing to do with Al Queda or 9/11, Americans quickly lost their anger and stomach for the kind of war that Iraq demanded and right now George Bush is hanging on by his nails as evidenced by the polls if they are to be believed.

I have no illusions about the wishes and wisdom of the majority of the American people. However I do really hope that the majpority of the elites that Americans elects to be office holders truly have the wisdom not to withdraw from Iraq until they finish their important and biggest job: Training a combat viable and stable military force that keeps Iraq together and doesn't fall apart at the first sign of trouble. I don't really care about democracy processes in Iraq too much because we cannot truly do anything about what the Iraqi people want and the Iraqi people are finicky. All we need to is to ensure that the institution is made of people who will be dictators or elected ofiicials who respected the rule of law or any others but MOST IMPORTANTLY, won't make the stupid kind of mistakes that Saddamn Hussein made such as pissing off the Americans. As long as we ensure the institutions are filled up with those people and the military force that is combat viable and strong is in place, we have done our job and get out of there.

Officer of Engineers
02 Feb 06,, 01:49
col yu,

it just seems strange to me to see a self-proclaimed dinosaur launch an attack on an article that does not really believe in the dreams of the RMA! :biggrin: :biggrin:

It's going to take alot more to convince me that sufferance or suicide power is superiour to killing power.

02 Feb 06,, 15:41
RMA or hi tech cannot replace the man behind the machine. Man will continue to plan the strategic, operational and the tactical milieu in which these technological marvels will be activated and man alone will to activate them target bound. These technological marvels will thus be mere "force multipliers" or "combat decision enforcers".

The comparison of a formated combat paradigm with that of assymetrical warfare is not really equitable. In the contemporary geostrategic environment, the weaker side which will be devastated with hi tech weaponry will always await the advancing military and then activate assymetrical warfare. Therefore, both aspects of warfare and its wherewithal have to be in the arsenal of the stronger and hi tech army. Neither can be in a stand alone mode.

No war is fought on a plan or on any marvel of technology alone. It is an ammalgam of all factors and ingenuous application with the inbuilt flexibility of situational response.

The US Army may have leant heavily on technology in Iraq, but they are training with armies like the Indian Army to hone up the skills that close combat requires in an insurgency environment.

Therefore, the idea that the US Army has not paid adequate attention to other aspects of warfare would not be correct.

The only inhibitor is that the US Army under-estimates the adversary because of the American psyche that suggests that the US is the "biggest, largest and the bestest" of them all.

The cardinal principle of warfare is that one never underestimates the adversary.

02 Feb 06,, 18:32
RMA is all about ingraining "force multipliers" or "acute real time battlefield awareness" that enables a military force to decisively beat an opposing force soundly into the military operational art. This RMA has been going on for millimium. During the Greek era, the RMA was in the formation of phalanxes. During the Roman era, the RMA was in organisation of tactical units such as shields, spear, and javelin units and later on, cataracts and scorpions. And also the RMA was in the engineering units they had. During the Mongols, the RMA was in extreme mobility, recon & ntelligence (extensive use of spies and scouts), and communications and ranged mobile firepower, ie, mounted horseman on sturdy ponies armed with advanced horsebows of the day. During the 1400s and 1500s, the RMA was all gunpowder and cannons. The 1600s and 1700s saw the RMA in square units or "hop scotch" formations, battle lines and the value of drilling and marching for decisive battle use, the 1800s saw the RMA in railroad logistics, artillery and massed firepower. Late 1800s and the early 1900s saw the RMA in machine guns, advanced artillery, aerial spotters, and trenches. The mid 1900s, the RMA was all about tanks and radio communications. For the navy and airforce, the RMA was in sonar, radar, and jet engines. Now today, it is all about digital computing power and communication to bring us total real time battlefield awareness to reduce the fog of war for us, increase fog of war for the enemy, and accurately pinpoint the targets and increasily efficient use of armaments to take out the enemy.

Anoop C
05 Feb 06,, 17:40
A few comments on Col. Peters' piece. It made for fascinating reading, but I suspect that in trying to prove a point about the need to rely less on technology and more on men, he has diluted his argument.

1. He paints a rather bleak picture about the US' ability to resist motivated Islamic terrorists. The Indian experience with Islamic terrorists in Kashmir suggests that fatigue sets in as much among the terrorists as it does among the civilized. Now I don't want to stretch the analogy between US defending its extra-territorial interests around the world and India (its govt., its military and its citizens) defending our territory, except to point out two things:

(a). While US citizens are less accustomed to living with terror next door than Indian citizens, the US govt. has much greater monetary, military and political resources to apply pressure on the sponsors of terrorism. Hack away at the root and the leaves wither away. This has been substantiated by our experience in Kashmir. At the root of the solution is the recognition that terrorism is a criminal enterprise, conducted by back-stage actors for monetary or political gains. In the battle of wills, there comes a tipping point where the monetary considerations offset the political agenda and is then more amenable to subversion.

(b). Like individuals in any organization, not all terrorists are created equal and the most motivated among them are also the most scarce. To remain in the news, terrorists need to continually attack and lose their own. As the battle of attrition carries on, terrorists also have to contend with lower-quality, less-trained and less-motivated recruits to keep up with business. But before they run out of recruits, usually they run out of sympathisers and facilitators, who, by definition are less committed to the cause. But to achieve this, a strong political component must exist in the anti-insurgency effort (which is much more long lasting than an anti-terrorism effort).

2. The point about media "collusion" (deliberate or unwitting) is a valid one, but he also ignores the strong conservative public movements that are generated as a counter to what is perceived as liberal appeasement. Such currents lead to a local equilibrium and can be expected to be stable when vital public interests are threatened.

3. From an American perspective, there is a need to reduce its direct involvement in trouble spots if only to help shape public opinion about loss and gain. The Cold War strategy of installing proxy govts may be the need of the hour. It may also lead to an inevitable loosening of controls on those proxy govts in some spheres in order to help them survive and remain on the American side in a possible next edition of Cold War with China.

05 Feb 06,, 17:50

Rather well wrapped up.

Anoop C
05 Feb 06,, 17:55
Thank you, Ray sahab. I'm still working on your thread on BRF re. Indian security needs, but it's a real hard slog! Too many strands of thought, too many balances between competing strands and too much breadth of knowledge is called for.

Officer of Engineers
06 Feb 06,, 13:50
Cold Start can be reduced. By its very nature, it's not all out war. Giving public disclosure about the mobilization requirements, you can reasonably extend that this is a maximum a divisional level engagement. From this, you can start ignoring a hell of non-essential elements, such as the InAF's deep strike requirements. If it doesn't affect the divisional battlespace, it's useless.

06 Feb 06,, 14:49
but bluesman,

the OKW really sucked at strategic thinking :biggrin:

i believe the article's been posted elsewhere on the forum; but it is indeed an interesting read. OoE has a few counters already.

Yep, they most certainly did.

02 Jan 09,, 23:54