Strong opinions, weakly held

The paradox of Ralph Peters

How does someone go from writing an article as smart as Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States to drawing silly maps of the optimal Middle East? I can’t think of any pundit who has fallen father in my estimation than Ralph Peters.

Update: don’t miss Andrew Brown’s comment, which illustrates Peters’ psychosis nicely.

1 Comment

  1. Way back when, in I think the autumn of 2003, I read a piece of his in the New York Post which struck me as one of the most arrogant and Wehrmacht-ish things I had ever seen in any newspaper.

    Yup — from column of mine, written fifth November 2003 and quoting a column of his I had just read in a bar in Manhattan:

    “If the populace [of Fallujah] continues to harbour our enemies and the enemies of a healthy Iraqi state, we need to impose strict martial law. Instead of lavishing more development funds on the city – bribes that aren’t working – we need to cut back on electricity, ration water, restrict access to the city, and organise food distribution through a ration card system. And we need to occupy the city so thickly that the inhabitants can’t step out of their front doors without bumping into an American soldier. “Don’t worry about alienating the already alienated. Make an example of them. Then see how other cities respond.” Mr Peters, we learn from the “plug hole” at the bottom of the piece, is the author of a book called “Beyond Baghdad: postmodern war and peace.” He is such a clever man that he knows that defeat is impossible even if the Iraqis do fail to respond to his policies: “We should take a lesson from the Romans and the Britons before us and recognise the value of punitive expeditions. Should the Iraqis fail themselves in the end, our current expedition may prove to have been a very expensive – but still worthwhile – punitive expedition.” Note that “Iraqis failing themselves” is Post- speak for the guerrillas driving the Americans out of Iraq, rather as the North Vietnamese failed themselves in 1975, and the American colonists failed themselves in 1786. This is not an intuitive idea, even to Post readers, so Mr Peters explains, “such an outcome wouldn’t mean that we had failed, but that the Iraqis had failed themselves.”

    Sorry to quote my own wonderful self at such length, but Cassandra has to get her kicks somehow.

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