View Full Version : Ralph Peters on Dreams & Islam

Rob Thornton
06-14-2007, 02:36 PM
Fixed for copyright concerns. The full article can be found here (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2007/05/2752865).

This is a really interesting article as Rob points out.

Dream Warriors: Our Enemies Fight for Fantasies, not Freedom

by Ralph Peters

“Dreams have a vise-like grip on the people of Islam. We never grasped that it was more useful to let our Muslims dream than to build them schools, hospitals, and factories.”

“You’re confusing dreams with hope, aren’t you?” asked Donadieu.

“Possibly. But I sense that the dream is vaster and more mysterious than hope.”

— Jean Larteguy, Les Praetorians, 1961

In his best-selling novel about the French botch-up in Algeria, the former soldier and daring journalist, Jean Larteguy, prefigured many of the problems that English-speaking nations face today in the Middle East. While there are profound differences between Algeria and Iraq, not least the fact that Iraq has not been settled by over a million American colonists and that today’s Muslim warriors are waging reactionary, not revolutionary, warfare, many of the ruminations of the officers facing Arab militants in The Praetorians are uncannily familiar to those of U.S. Army and Marine officers today.

The most-telling insight in the novel lies in the exchange above (amended from the clunky translation published forty-five years ago): The French have been focusing on statistics and infrastructure — and losing. A veteran officer who’s gotten to know the indigenous Algerians recognizes the futility of applying European analytical models to Arabs, but the vast bureaucratic machines of the army and the state plod on, obsessed by their own internal issues and rivalries.

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. Faced with combatively non-empirical cultures, such as those of the Middle East and North Africa, we’re baffled: How can our opponents continue to deny proven facts? Our stock response is to insist, yet again, that Arabs, Persians, Afghans, and Pakistanis really want the same things we want, but haven’t realized it yet and need to be convinced.

Yet, it’s our approach to life, although stunningly successful in other spheres, that’s out of step with history and humankind when it comes to sorting out the causes for which men (and women) will fight and die — even pursuing death with fanatic enthusiasm. The glimpses we can’t avoid of the mentality of other cultures are so disconcerting to us that, just as Arabs default to blaming the West for all of their ills, we default to our dogmatic insistence that the historical evidence that men fight hardest for God, bloodlines, and collective dreams is wrong and that extremist insurgents, terrorists, and suicide bombers are really fighting because they don’t have high-speed internet access.

Until we are willing to confront the mentality — the soul — of our enemies honestly, we can’t and won’t defeat them.

Rob Thornton
06-14-2007, 02:46 PM
I thought this piece was one of Peter's better for challenging our assumptions and provoking thought. Here at the BSAP class we'd been talking about war termination. Specifically we'd been talking about why guys like Napolean & Hitler just can't leave the buffet table. Then yesterday we tried to lay over a CoG analysis on AQ. It was darn tough - as it should be since there are lots of incredibly talented folks out there who are still scratching there heads. Are we mirror imaging AQ and like groups? Are our political goals unrealistic given the differences? What does it mean if they are - not like us to just sit on our thumbs.

I tell my wife when stuff comes on the news about Iraq and the Middle East that she can't understand because what is on the news only really makes sense when you are there - its what passes for normal.

I think I'll be re-reading this one a couple of times.
regards, Rob

06-14-2007, 03:55 PM
Rob, like I been saying it all goes to motive!!!!

Steve Blair
06-14-2007, 03:56 PM
Rob, like I been saying it all goes to motive!!!!

Very true, Slap. It always does. It ain't just 'bout pushin' buttons an' such....;)