Ralph Peters’ Lines of Fire – Book Review
Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security by Ralph Peters. Stackpole, 2011. 368 pages, hardcover $29.95.
Ralph Peters, today’s most insightful strategist, said his goal in selecting which of his consistently outstanding articles to include in Lines of Fire was to pick “only pieces that might still be worth reading thirty years from now” – in our judgment, Peters has hit a home run with the bases loaded! This superb collection of 35 “best of the best” think-pieces selected from over 1,000 of his journal, magazine and newspaper articles will clearly stand the test of time and will continue to enlighten and inform for years to come. In fact, many of them (the articles were written 1994-2011 and are presented chronologically in the book) already have – indeed, a prime example is the very first one in Lines of Fire, “The New Warrior Class,” which appeared in the Summer 1994 Parameters journal published by the U. S. Army War College and which remains an absolute “must read” article 17 years after its publication. Peters’ description in that groundbreaking article of the social and psychological origins of the “warriors” that professional armies must now confront, created by the “unique confluence of breaking empire, overcultivated Western consciences and a worldwide cultural crisis” still reads as fresh — and remains as vitally important — as if it was written only hours ago.
Each of the articles that Peters has thoughtfully selected for inclusion in Lines of Fire is a gem – compare his incisive and informed analyses to the “blizzard of blather” spewed forth by today’s legions of self-appointed pundits and so-called “experts” polluting magazines and internet blog sites. These latter efforts habitually fall into the “read and forget” category, quickly relegated to the circular file or mercifully “vaporized” via the computer’s “Delete” key. Each one of Peters’ articles, conversely, is definitely a “keeper,” to be read, re-read, quoted and cited. That fact makes this collection of Peters’ articles not only a great read, but also an extremely handy “best of the best” reference compilation of his outstanding writings on strategy and security issues.
Another thing that sets Peters’ lucid writing apart from “the pack’s” drivel is alluded to in a key word in Lines of Fire’s subtitle: “renegade.” He explains, “I always wrote what I believed to be true, without regard for reward, approval, or penalty.” Peters, characteristically, is not afraid to “tell it like it is” and that is exactly what he does, skewering generals, political leaders (on both sides of the aisle), deep-pocketed defense contractors and all else who deserve it – for example, he dedicates Lines of Fire “To all the troops who died while generals dithered,” words not likely to endear him to the military hierarchy. Peters’ articles are military and political complacency’s worst nightmares; he is a gadfly whose “stings” hit his targets with laser-like precision, illuminating today’s key strategy and security issues with candor, clarity, common sense and an unique incisiveness gained from his years of military service and through his experience in over 70 countries world-wide.
ACG is extremely proud that two of Peters’ articles published in Armchair General in 2011 made his cut for inclusion in Lines of Fire. One of ACG’s most popular departments in each issue is Peters’ regular Crisis Watch column in which he analyzes and explains with razor-sharp clarity today’s most pressing problems and global issues. For inclusion in his Lines of Fire book collection of articles, he selected his succinct yet highly revealing and enduringly relevant January 2011 issue Crisis Watch column on Pakistan, “The Last (Mini) Empire.” What Peters achieves in this concise article of less than 800 words is simply the best, clearest explanation one could hope to read of that troubled nation and the challenges it faces.
And the final entry in Lines of Fire is Peters’ superb think-piece on the “magic” of command, “Charisma + Victory” (May 2011 ACG). This feature article is his brilliant analysis of “charisma,” an elusive and rare phenomenon that is difficult to even describe, let alone explain why some leaders have it — but most don’t. Using specific examples of historical leaders, Peters presents the best and most thoughtful examination yet written of what charisma is and how it is achieved.
ACG rates Ralph Peters’ new “Must Buy” book 5 STARS, our highest rating. Lines of Fire proves conclusively that Ralph Peters is not merely today’s most insightful and articulate strategist, he is a true national treasure.
About the Author: Ralph Peters is a former U. S. Army enlisted man and retired Intelligence officer, an acclaimed author and a strategist who appears frequently as an expert commentator in broadcast media. Peters, a long-time member of the Armchair General team, is the author of 28 books, including his upcoming new epic novel CAIN AT GETTYSBURG.
Reviewer: Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, Colonel, U. S. Army, ret. is ACG Editor in Chief.