by Ralph Peters
The Journal of International Security Affairs
Below are a few excerpts from the article linked above. Although the article is technically dated, Peters' comments are as relevant today as they were when this was originally published. Peters argues that we have forgotten how to fight wars in order to win them, in contrast to the Islamists who are willing to do absolutely anything to win. [Note: Peters' essay and the book shown at left are not directly related, but their messages are simpatico.]
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 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.
History parades no end of killers-for-god in front of us. The procession has lasted at least five thousand years. At various times, each major faith—especially our inherently violent monotheist faiths—has engaged in religious warfare and religious terrorism. When a struggling faith finds itself under the assault of a more powerful foreign belief system, it fights: Jews against Romans, Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Christians and Jews. When faiths feel threatened, externally or internally, they fight as long as they retain critical mass. Today the Judeo-Christian/post-belief world occupies the dominant strategic position, as it has, increasingly, for the last five centuries, its rise coinciding with Islam’s long descent into cultural darkness and civilizational impotence. Behind all its entertaining bravado, Islam is fighting for its life, for validation.
The core world of Islam, stretching from Casablanca to the Hindu Kush, is not competitive in a single significant sphere of human endeavor (not even terrorism since, at present, we are terrorizing the terrorists). We are confronted with a historical anomaly, the public collapse of a once-great, still-proud civilization that, in the age of super-computers, cannot build a reliable automobile: enormous wealth has been squandered; human capital goes wasted; economies are dysfunctional; and the quality of life is barbaric. Those who once cowered at Islam’s greatness now rule the world. The roughly one-fifth of humanity that makes up the Muslim world lacks a single world-class university of its own. The resultant rage is immeasurable; jealousy may be the greatest unacknowledged strategic factor in the world today.
Whether faced with conventional or unconventional threats, the same deadly impulse is at work in our government and among the think tank astrologers who serve as its courtiers: An insistence on constantly narrowing the parameters of what is permissible in warfare. We are attempting to impose ever sterner restrictions on the conduct of war even as our enemies, immediate and potential, are exploring every possible means of expanding their conduct of conflicts into new realms of total war.
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. And, of course, there is a penalty for the intellectual’s dismissal of religion: humans need to believe in something greater than themselves, even if they have a degree from Harvard. Rejecting the god of their fathers, the neo-pagans who dominate the media serve as lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar.