Saturday, December 25, 2010

Before my long winter's nap...

...I'm chillin' out with some cheerful Christmas reading: Wars of Blood and Faith, by Ralph Peters, which is a compendium of his columns over a period of several years.

Peters seems to have replaced the departed David Hackworth as the military's stormcrow. Although the topics are different, more strategic than tactical, reflecting the fact that Peters was an intel type while Hack was an infantry officer, the tenor is largely the same. He seems to delight in poking the establishment and making dire predictions. Whether you agree with him or not, it makes interesting reading...

11 comments:

Alan J. said...

I haven't read "Wars..." yet; but for pure entertainment, John Ringo's "The Last Centurion" is lots of fun. And if you don't already have this in your library, then you should check out "7 Deadly Scenarios" by Andrew Krepinevich. I believe that it was on CJCS Admiral Mullen's reading list last year.

Ed Foster said...

I don't know what to think of Hackworth. Either he was a great tactical soldier who said it like it was and had to pay the price for it, or he was a grandstanding BS artist, or both, or some of each.

I read Hackworth's stuff and thought "Damn, I wish I'd had this guy as my C.O." Then I talked to several officers who served with him and heard the exact opposite. First and foremost Mack Qwinne, one of the most scary efficient soldiers I have ever met.

Chief Wilson, the most decorated living SEAL, spent about 4 pages of his biography gushing over this wackjob Special Forces Captain named Qwinne he'd worked with, and I don't think he would be all that easy to impress.

And, I had my brother, a retired Commander, check him out through the officer's association before I did any business with him. Serious John Wayne stuff, the real deal.

Yet, I read some of Hackworth's bitches and they ring so true. More Army than Marine Corps, and the Green Machine as a rule always loved the guy, but we had some dead weight too, and Hackworth's clusters were things I'd seen and been ticked at also.

So, probable a flawed saint, but it's the message that counts, and, on a tactical level, there's a lot to Hackworth's writing.

I've been a serious Ralph Peters fan ever since his column started in the New York Post, and I don't think I've missed more than one or two in the last few years. I still have an unread copy of his "After Armageddon" book that I've been saving for a rainy day. I'm likely to be snowbound for a day or two, so maybe snow is cold rain or something.



I'm going to check out the Krepinevitch book

Ed Foster said...

Hot Damn! It looks like I will get to read the Peters book. The TV is calling for blizzard conditions from Sunday Morning to Monday afternoon, with about 2 feet of Der Wiesse Sheisse and 50 mile per hour winds. :-)

Robin said...

Ralph Peters' fiction is also worthwhile. The first thing of his I ever read was "Red Army".

He also writes a weird Civil War era mystery genre series under the pen name "Owen Parry". An acquired taste but some really like them.

Tam said...

"Ralph Peters' fiction is also worthwhile. The first thing of his I ever read was "Red Army"."

My first encounter with him was Flames of Heaven" and then Twilight of Heroes before I realized he wrote non-fiction. I'd really like to read more of his novels.

Fiftycal said...

Gee, I hope the regime doesn't send the TSA SA agents to disappear this guy for being a "threat to national security".

AM said...

Before Hackworth there was Tony Herbert. Both were good men, sort of the "old breed" that are hard to come by.

Although if you read their Vietnam memories you can see why we won the battles and lost the war. It seemed that everybody from LTC to GEN sucked at COIN.

GuardDuck said...

I read his 'Red Army' back in the early 90's. One of the few books I would go back to every couple years. Scared the bejeebies out of a kid who'd grown up expecting a fulda gap war at anytime. Even after the wall fell you were just waiting to find out it was all a trick.

D.W. Drang said...

Hackworth came to prominence for dissing SLA Marshall. Seems Hack was assigned as SLAM's aide in Nam, and he got miffed by the fact that SLAM was looking for his next Pork Chop Hill--his battle studies from Nam were good, still in print, but not movie-worthy, especially Nam.

I think Hack's popularity went to his head the same way SLAM's did. Some of the stuff that Soldiers For The Truth put out was borderline seditious.

As for Peters, being an MI Geek myself, I knew a lot of field grade officers who knew him, and they regarded him as something of a loose cannon. Somewhere I have an email thread that got BCC'd to me about his Army Times article "MI: The Broken Branch". Consensus was "Ralph's at it again." Part of the problem was that he spent much time as a FAO,, not a lot of time in Division or Corps-level MI Battalions, an entirely different world.

Robin said...

Indeed, if you read his memoir, "Looking for Trouble", its pretty clear that he knew he was a loose cannon himself.

BTW, "Looking for Trouble" is an interesting read but it isn't really a coherent narrative that goes anywhere. It has some fascinating snapshots of times and places as well as a peek at the inner Ralph Peters. You don't get a "Big Insight" but lots of smaller ones.

mariner said...

It's hard to know the truth about Hackworth (or Peters, for that matter).

But it's worth remembering that "loose cannon" is a label that often denotes someone who's right, and unpopular for being right.

Some of Hackworth's complaints about his Army superiors were similar to John Boyd's complaints about his Air Force superiors.

Too bad Boyd didn't write books about his experiences.