The conviction prevails, in privileged circles that, if we study history without reshaping it to our contemporary prejudices, history will corrupt us. May I suggest that the opposite is true?
…Those who deny history die of myth.
In that quotation from his Introduction, Ralph Peters sums up much of the lessons he propounds in his 2010 collection of essays and columns, Endless War. The first section of the book consists of a series of essays on early Islamic victories in the historic struggle with the West, followed by a series of Western (dare I say Christian?) victories as Muslim civilization went into decline. Then he draws conclusions, and proceeds to analyze various aspects of our contemporary “War On Terror” (a designation he loathes).
Our great mistake, as I read him, is our insistence on “understanding” our opponents. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but the way our academics and academically-trained soldiers do it is so informed by postmodern secularism that they end up violating both fact and logic. Better than academic anthropology and political theory, these people should read original historical and religious texts, and myth. Our enemies are fighting for a dream, not an ideology.
Peters expresses some iconoclastic opinions on our current struggle. Contrary to what you’ve read, he says, Iraq was the “good war,” and Afghanistan (following the original incursion, which should have been more massive) is a waste of time. Afghanistan, he says, has no strategic importance, is impossible to govern, and was only the base for the 9/11 terrorists because they’d been kicked out of every other safe haven. In Iraq, he maintains, the terrorists chose to make their real stand, and Saddam Hussein was genuine military threat. Control of Iraq also gives us considerable strategic advantages.
Having read Endless War, I feel a little better informed than I was, though the whole question remains Endlessly Complex.
The only major problem I had with the book was one essay (can’t find it now) in which he said he was as afraid of Christian fundamentalists as of Muslim fundamentalists. That’s a remarkably “conventional wisdom” kind of observation for a thinker of Peters’ originality. He doesn’t repeat it, so perhaps he thought better of it later.
Full disclosure: I got this book free for my Kindle through a special offer.
Endless War is an extremely readable, highly original, and penetrating analysis of the struggle between East and West. Recommended.
Lars Walker is the author of several fantasy novels, the latest of which is West Oversea.