Review (Fiction): Hell or Richmond

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Ralph Peters

5.0 out of 5 stars Equal to Cain at Gettysburg, Takes Fact-Based Fiction to New Level, May 13, 2013

I started this book, having given a rave review to Cain at Gettysburg convinced that the sequel would disappoint, as most sequels do.  Although I counted only five goosebump moments in this new book (Cain had six, The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War By Michael Shaara only had one), I have to rate it the equal of the earlier book, and also the linch pin book in what should be a series of at least four books, each – as the first two have been – a detailed study of men at war at all four levels (strategic, operational, tactical, technical). The concluding sentence in this book is brilliant, and it left me with precisely the sense of angst and anticipation for the next campaign as the author no doubt intended. If Cain was the thunderclap of divine providence, then Hell is the tough hard slog through mud during which the North adapts and learns lessons while Lee’s health worsens substantially, his weakness all the more grave because Longstreet is wounded and Stuart killed, leaving Lee with no bench, less Gordon as a late bloomer too easily ignored by his elders.

There is little doubt that with this book Ralph Peters has established a nearly impregnable position as the leading practitioner of historical fiction, taking it to a new level of accuracy and relevance to the military and political professionals who wage war, setting the gold standard for factual historical fiction that reveals the soul of those making history.

If I were to sum up the book in three words it would be leadership, logistics, and learning.

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May 13

Review: Cain at Gettysburg – Ralph Peters at his best

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PRINTABLE DOC (3 Pages): Review Peters Cain at Gettysburg

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Ralph Peters

5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Blend of Rigorous & Populist History,February 24, 2012

I have read The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library), which the author himself acknowledges as one of the best books about Gettysburg – but also one that bought into the prevalent myths. This book is the equal of Killer Angels in its atmospheric electricity, certainly the equal if not more moving with respect to “aha” professional insights and “feeling in the fingertips” gut-wrenchers (I counted six goose-bump moments reading Cain, I recall only one in reading Killer Angels), and vastly more important than Killer Angels in the grand scheme of things because this author and this book have restored the reputation of General George Meade at his finest hour – given the Army THREE DAYS before Gettysburg, and leading that Army to the single most important victory of the Civil War, however one may view that war while also instantly assessing and correcting the mistakes of his predecessor, the most important being a scattered leaderless army.

This is a book written by a professional military officer who is also a historian, a brilliant and often poetic author of both non-fiction and historical fiction better than dry academic texts, and an adventurer who knows the world from gutter to grand salons.

The book concludes with a very clear explanation of how General Meade’s reputation was ruined by a scheming General Sickles, and how some of the main characters fared after the war of secession. More to the point, this is the definitive book that rescues the reputation of General Meade. While there are many other books, one in particular being Meade: Victor of Gettysburg (Military Profiles), no other book can match the eloquence, authenticity, and level of detail of this ultra-historical and poetic work of redemption.

Here are some of the professional highlights that I noted down – I do not report the goose bump moments–for those, buy the book.

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Feb 24

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

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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.”

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Sep 26

Review (Fiction): The Officer’s Club

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Ralph Peters

4.0 out of 5 stars Gifted writing, much less detail than expected
April 1, 2011

Ralph Peters is an acquired taste for some, an addiction for others. I am in the latter camp and read everything he publishes, with a strong preference for his non-fiction books about reality, war, and the general lack of integrity across both governments and corporations.

The book is full of gifted phrases and insights, a few of which stick with me now:

– Staff officer’s smile
– Idiocy of military classifying a BBC documentary
– How far the mighty can fall
– Army swooning for computers, losing its collective mind
– Broken promises (or lost integrity) = men die

This book, while good, is not as good (at least for me) as his first military-industrial complex book, Traitor, where the detail was chilling and compelling. I also liked The Devil’s Garden This particular new book is certainly a good read, and I endorse the other positive reviews, but for Ralph Peters at his very best, I recommend his non-fiction and his Civil War novels, the latter written under a pseudonym.

Here are a few of each:
Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization
Wars of Blood and Faith: The Conflicts That Will Shape the Twenty-First Century
Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World
Faded Coat of Blue: A Novel (Abel Jones Mysteries (Paperback))
Shadows of Glory
Call Each River Jordan: A Novel of Historical Suspense

Two fiction (but all too real) books by others that I recommend to those who like anything by Ralph Peters are:
The Shell Game
Bulletproof

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Ralph Peters at Phi Beta Iota

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Apr 2

Review: Endless War–Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization

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27 March 2010: Full spread sheet and optimal links added below Amazon review.GOT TO RUN, Links later today.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Five Stars…Gifted Mix of Intelligence, Integrity, Insight Deeply Rooted in History and Firmly Focused on Today’s Reality

March 21, 2010

Ralph Peters

I do not always agree with Ralph Peters, but along with Steve Metz and Max Manwaring, both at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army, I consider him one of America’s most gifted strategists whose integrity is absolute. He simplifies sometimes (e.g. Iraqis turned against Al Qaeda because of the demand for marriage that was refused followed by the bloodbath execution of the family by Al Qaeda, not because of anything the US did) but that aside, Ralph is the ONLY person that reminds me of both Winston Churchill–poetry and gifted turns of phrase on every page–and Will Durant, historian extraordinaire. Ralph has a better grasp of history, terrain, and the military than Robert Kaplan, and deeper insights into our failed military leadership (no longer leaders, just politically-correct administrators out of touch with reality) than my favorite journalist-adventurer, Robert Young Pelton.

I have read and reviewed most of Ralph’s books, and am proud to consider him a colleague and a fellow Virginian. Ralph is the only author whose books jump to the top of my “to read” pile, and I absorbed this masterpiece over the course of moving my own flag from Virginia to Latin America. US national and military intelligence have completely given up their integrity, and it resonated with me that the key word that Ralph uses throughout this book–a word I myself adopt in my latest book in carrying on the tradition of Buckminster Fuller on the one hand, and most respected mentor-critic Chuck Spinney on the other–is that very word: INTEGRITY.

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Mar 27

Journal: Selected MILNET Headlines

O’s ‘Fixes’ Will Fail:Feeding more fat to obese US intelligence (Ralph Peters)

None of these people, including our president, took what almost happened on Christmas seriously — until the public outcry spooked them.

To energize the bureaucratic proles, you have to chop off aristocratic heads. But President Obama won’t use the guillotine. He’s protecting incompetents. At our nation’s expense.

The corrective measures announced Thursday boil down to two things: Buy more stuff (additional computer systems, full-body scanners, etc.), and re-arrange the deck chairs.

That won’t do it. These measures don’t address the two enduring handicaps our intelligence community (and our government) suffers in our duel with Islamist terrorists.

Yemen’s Al Qaeda Scam (Robert Haddick)

It seems that whenever the international community discovers another al Qaeda franchise, a financial reward to the host seems to follow. Pakistan has perfected how to profit from this perverse incentive. Yemen is now showing itself to be an able student of the same technique.

U.S. Army In Africa: Dodging The Continent’s Worst Wars (David Axe)

The U.S. Army’s role in all of this is to help strengthen the capabilities and capacity of our land force partners … so they can help protect their people, secure their borders, support development, contribute to better governance and help achieve regional stability.

Except, apparently, in cases where there’s too much terrorism, violent extremism, cyber attacks, piracy, illicit trafficking, crime, corruption, disease and displaced people.

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Jan 9

Review: The War After Armagedoon

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5.0 out of 5 stars Not Really a Novel, More Like a Wake-Up Call
October 10, 2009
Ralph Peters
Although I read mostly non-fiction, one of Ralph Peter’s novels (his first in ten years, the last one I really liked was Traitor), is better than reality, for it portrays what we can expect when our delusional political, economic, and military acquisition practices play themselves out, and in the case of this book, what happens when we ignore the desperate need for religious counter-intelligence that I have been calling for since the 1980′s.

The non-fiction foundations or complements to this book are American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America and Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror.

In a nut-shell, this a marvelous depiction of what happens in the future when enemies of the USA plant two small nuclear devices in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, leading to a nation-wide call to arms with crusade overtones.

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Oct 10

Journal: The Demise of Strategy in the US Government

Categories: Strategy
Capstone Summary

Capstone Summary

Quite fortuitously, the Strategic Studies Institute has placed in the public domain a superb monograph by Justic Kelly and Mike Brennan on ALIEN: How Operational Art Devoured Strategy (september 2009).

It is a very good read, along with our summary of the failed 2008 Whole of Government conference that SSI sponsored, which followed the failed 1998 Strategy Revision conference–failed for not being heard.

We were all right then, we are still right now, but unless General James Jones, USMC gets himself a deputy that is grounded in strategy & integrity, this Administration is toast, in part because there is NO DIFFERENCE among the apparatchiks that trade places within the two-party system.  They ae ALL out of touch with strategy, and hence reality.

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Oct 2

Journal: Ralph Peters on The Rules Murdering Our Troops

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Marine Barracks Today

Marine Barracks Today

Over 200 Marines died in the barracks by the beach in Beirut, in their sleep, because the White House failed to understand that the strategic situation had changed; because chicken hawk staff approved the launching of battleship salvos (think really pissed-off Volkswagons in flight) that certified the US was “taking sides” rather than seeking to preserve the peace;  and because the “rules of engagement” imposed on Colonel of Marines Tim Gerrity required that his Marines not have rounds in the chambers and not fire as approaching vehicles that failed to stop–at the same time, intelligence sucked then as it sucks now.

The photos are our own, from Beirut in August 2007.  We grieve for our Marines, who sought to serve their country while being used as an expendible tool by the White House.  Today the same thing is happening in Afghanistan and Ralph Peters has unleashed his own volley against the insanity of asking our troops to allow themselves to be killed whenever a civilian is in the area.  Click on the collage for today’s deja vu.

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Sep 25

Journal: Afghanistan–Connecting the Dots

2001: What to do about Afghanistan?  Prospects for Stability

2008: Memo Leak Says Mission In Afghanistan Doomed

Meet the Afghan Army: Is it a figment of Washington’s imagination? by Ann Jones

Afghan agony: More troops won’t help by Ralph Peters in the NY Post

Time to Get Out of Afghanistan By George F. Will Tuesday, September 1, 2009


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Sep 22