Review: Lines of Fire – A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page

Ralph Peters

5.0 out of 5 stars Six Star Epilogue, the Capstone Work, September 26, 2011

I have been a fan of Ralph Peters for over fifteen years now, going back to the early 1990's when the US Marine Corps was trying to get the Secretary of Defense (then Dick Cheney) to focus on most likely vice worst case threats. Having been the senior civilian responsible for creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, and the Study Director for the flagship study, Planning and Programming Factors for Expeditionary Operations in the Third World, I recognized both his deep integrity and his broad intelligence, both so uncharacteristic of the near-venal to all-banal US secret intelligence community that I had served since 1976.

This is his capstone work. Below are a few of his most notable recent works, there are many others, and I also recommend his Owen Parry series on the Civil War. If you only get one book by Ralph Peters, this is the one to buy.

Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization
Wars of Blood and Faith: The Conflicts That Will Shape the Twenty-First Century
Never Quit the Fight
Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?

2012 in my view is a turning point year for America, and I pray that it is the year that citizens with integrity kick politicians without integrity (all of them) out of office and get a clean sheet fresh start in recreating a government of, by, and for We the People instead of what we have now, what Matt Taibbi describes so well in Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, “a highly complicated merger of crime and policy, of stealing and government.”

I recommend that Ralph's book be part of a war college / university package that includes No More Secrets: Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence (Praeger Security International); Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State; Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform, and The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It.

The book consists of the “best of the best” of Ralph's voluminous work, and includes two long pieces not previously in the public domain, “When Devils Walk the Earth” (pp. 113-147) on terrorism and counter-terrorism, and “Hidden Unities” (pp. 188-232) on alternative strategic divisions. Both were done for the Center for emerging Threats and Opportunities, a little known element of the US Marine Corps.

The opening preface by the author is a classic unto itself, a sharp denunciation of gutless poorly-educated “leaders” who pay no penalty for failure.

I have chosen to sort my notes along the three over-arching lines of commentary that the author himself names, Strategy, Intelligence, and Security.


+ This is the age of passion and magic, i.e. a HUMAN age. Governments have failed, especially the ones where the West imposed artificial boundaries. Look to history to see the future.

QUOTE (ix): “The hallmark of our diplomats and generals in my time has been the refusal to think honestly about the transformation of our age; the first have not moved much beyond the Congress of Vienna, and the second dream of refighting bygone wars with shiny new toys. Whether Taliban hillbillies or Georgetown graduates, men cling to what they know. And much that Washington “knows” is bluntly wrong.

QUOTE (17): “We are entering an era of multidimentional, interpenetrating structures of social control, wealth allocation, and even allegiance. The decline of the state , real or relative, accelerates under knowledge assault, as new structures of knowing outpace the ability of traditional governments to process and respond to information.' [Steele: Corruption and a lack of integrity just make this much, much worse.]

QUOTE (51): “Man, not space, is the final frontier.”

QUOTE (52): “Literature is history with the truth left in.”

+ If US were making policy on the basis of reality, it should be focused on leading the world in the amending of borders peacefully, and in actually supporting human rights [Steele: instead of being best pals with 42 of the 44 dictators on the planet–see Ambassador Mark Palmer's Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025]. The author believes that now is the time for form a Union of Democratic Nations [in a sharp break with the expensive, ineffective, and hypocritical United Nations–but the US Government is also expensive, ineffective, and hypocritical, the author's suggestion presumes new US leadership with intelligence and integrity).

+ Wars of attrition are sometimes essential but not knowing your are in one is certain failure.

+ Avoid social engineering.

QUOTE (261). “[Indonesia] matters. Because nearly all of the forms of Islam at play in Indonesia are inherently more humane than any at work in the Middle East, where the health inspired by competitive belief systems has long been squandered in spiritual dissipation [under terribly corrupt and often pathologically decadent dictators]. Islam will continue to evolve. But it is most apt to do so on its frontiers…”

+ India, not Pakistan, should be the principal ally of the US in the region.

+ Time to expand and retrain the US Army and US Marine Corps is now [Steele: after bringing them home and closing all our overseas bases, and after getting an honest Department of Defense to define, design, and acquire the “four forces after next” I have been writing about since the 1990's.]

+ Utterly sensible rules of an occupation, pp. 286-290.

+ Faith is a strategic factor. See the literature on faith-based diplomacy where Capt Doug Johnston, USN (Ret) has made serious contributions completely ignored by the clerks and gerbils in power.

“Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look,” (pp. 298-305), is worthy of deep study at the war colleges and by diplomats who seek to be more than glorified clerks. With my one remaining link I will point to Professor Philip Allott's The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. There are clearly three priorities for diplomacy in the future: 1) reset the borders; 2) lose the dictators; and 3) create the Office of Information Sharing Treaties and Agreements and the Open Source Agency [complete information on the latter is at Tiny URL forward slash OSA2011 or search for < Open Source Agency: Executive Access Point >.

QUOTE (305): “If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own.”

QUOTE (347): “We need to spend at least as much time asking ourselves what our enemies want as we do telling them what we thing they should want.”


+ The present and future of intelligence is about global to local at the individual level–those that continue to divide data and attention according to artificial state boundaries are destined to remain stupid and ineffective.

+ We don't study the hard stuff — religion, culture, sub-state tribal orders and motivations. We need cultural and spiritual and ground-truth “beliefs” map very badly, but no one across the US national security bureaucracy understand this, much less knows how to do it. [Steele: it would require competence in 183 languages the US Government refuses to comprehend–meanwhile the Chinese have created a new open source intelligence system with precisely the latter objective.]

+ Urban is the major challenge and we have no clue. Urban is vertical, sub-terranean, complex, constantly changing, the US intelligence community is far worse than inept, it is pathologically mis-representing the depth of its incapacity.

QUOTE (37): “Information-controlling government and knowledge-denying religions criple themselves and their subjects or adherents.”

QUOTE (109): “The information wars that will shape our time are not about what information is electronically vulnerable, but about what information is culturally permissible [or ingestible].

+ Information is wealth formation. Our own terrorists (US financial terrorists, US anti-choice terrorists, US pro-Israel terrorists) are vastly more damaging to more souls at home and abroad than any combination of Al Qaeda and other indigenous groupings.

QUOTE (170): “One of the problems we have with our intelligence services, by the way, is that they are run by minor con men, mere bookies.”

QUOTE (172): “Our habit of stamping high classifications on low-quality work to dignify it is yet another subject.”

QUOTE (177): “Ultimately intelligence comes down to dealing with humanity.”

+ The chapter “The Black Art of Intelligence” (pp. 169-181) is a stand-alone classic. There is not a single clerk-leader of US intelligence today who could stand up to this gold standard.

+ Naive to think about any other state as a “friend,” and to not see all allies as self-serving competitors.

+ Europe will eventually genocide the Muslims that do not assimilate, and US should plan for being asked to do massive lifts after Europe reconnects to the wisdom of the Spanish expulsion edits [Steele: they did both Jews and Muslims, not because they were not willing to assimilate them, but because both groups refused to be assimilated and ultimately become a cancer on the indigenous culture, economy, and society.]

QUOTE (280): “The weapons of tomorrow will be behavior-modification technologies that penetrate titanium and bone to target the human brains and nervous system. And they're closer than anyone thinks.” [Steele: to this I would add HAARP and bio-warfare, what is being done in our name is reprehensively ill-advised and totally out of control.]

QUOTE (338): “With our armor-plated prejudice in favor of empiricism (‘Just the facts, ma'am'), we're blind to our own irrationality and susceptibility to delusions.”


+ New warrior class goes back to medieval times, asymmetric, over the course of the book the author offers up a detailed and fatal critique of all US military mission areas from armor and artillery to intelligence, engineers, and infantry.

QUOTE (71): “Pentagon officials struggle to justify the purchase of $350 billion worth of unnecessary aircraft, while our diplomats sleepwalk through atrocity and our foreign policy is an incoherent shambles.”

Within the previous mentioned “When Devils Walk the Earth,” are 25 rules for fighting terrorism that I am quite certain Leon Panetta and other seniors in the Office of the Secretary of Defense will never read, much less understand. pp. 113-147.

QUOTE (153): “The shah always falls.”

+ The author provides a devastating critique of military education, calling it “training to lose,” and alone worth the price of the book (pp. 348-360).

Concluding chapters include one on the twelve myths of 21st Century Warfare, and another on dishonest doctrine.

QUOTE (395): “Afghanistan is the strategic booby prize.”

QUOTE (399): “Serious strategy requires balancing potential rewards with inherent risks [and costs].”


I disagree with Brother Ralph on just two points:

QUOTE (257): “Suicide ‘martyrs' when they appear in significant numbers, are symptoms of a society terrified of life.”

Sorry, but this is flat out wrong. Suicide terrorists are totally coincident with US occupations of Islamic homelands, and more often than not, as with burning monks and burning veterans (we had one in New Hampshire recently, hushed up) and veterans committing suicide (18 a day now), they are in my view symptomatic of massive cognitive dissonance between life as it is and life as it should be.

QUOTE (285): “Had we planned to botch the occupation of Iraq, we hardly could have done worse than the administration did without a plan.”

In fact, the Department of State did extraordinary work on planning, and General Shinseki got it right on needed levels of manpower to pacify, not just occupy Iraq. The Iraq FIASCO was a direct results of the treason of Dick Cheney in firing General Garner as he was about to succeed, putting in frat-boy Paul Bremer for a year, the treason of Donald Rumsfeld in refusing to attend to the relative wisdom of State in its post-war planning endeavors; and the treason of Paul Wolfowitz in lying to Congress. Doug Faith can hardly be accused of treason, we agree with General Tommy Franks' assessment, “the stupidest bastard on the planet.” These are the people who General Wesley Clark is now on record as saying executed a foreign policy coup on the US public.


Ralph and I are renegades, along with Pierre Sprey, Chuck Spinney, Winslow Wheeler and a few others who have chosen to survive outside a system that could be so much more effective if it were to listen to all of us. Where I part ways with my renegade colleagues is in facing squarely and without flinching the matter of integrity. Others assume that our system is hosed because our political and policy leaders are ignorant or even stupid. Not so.  These are generally very smart people who have CHOSEN to be corrupt. They have CHOSEN to “go along” with a chain of command issuing illegal orders, favoring vendors that do nothing for the prosperity or security of the Republic. They are, in fact, the “domestic enemies” of which our Constitution speaks. I may well die before an honest US Government comes into being, but I have drawn my own personal line in the sand, and it can be summed up in one word. Integrity. We renegades have integrity, the US Government does not have integrity. It's that simple. God Bless America the Beautiful, may she one day be restored.

Vote and/or Comment on Review

Financial Liberty at Risk-728x90