Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army officer, a controversial strategist and world traveler, and the author of 25 books, including the recent bestselling thriller, The War After Armageddon, and the forthcoming Endless War (March, 2010), which examines the history–and future–of conflict between Islam and the West. An opinion columnist for the New York Post and popular media commentator, he became Fox News Network’s first Strategic Analyst in 2009.
FP: Ralph Peters, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Peters: Great to reconnect with you, Jamie.
FP: What are your thoughts regarding the recent botched terrorist attack on Christmas Day on Flight 253?
Peters: Well, I have to separate my thoughts and my feelings. First, the feelings: Outrage. Not so much at the bomber, who was just fulfilling his duty to commit jihad against Christians on their most important holiday (with any dead Jews as a bonus), but at the stunning lack of interest or concern on the part of our partying president and his paladins. Hey, why interrupt your holiday just because an Islamist terrorist (well, they don’t exist, right?) tried to kill 300 innocents and almost pulled it off? And, of course, we were all instantly reassured when Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (whose real interest seems to be harassing law-abiding citizens at airports, while preparing to push through citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants) told us that the system worked. I mean, God help us, you and I don’t live in the same universe as our “leaders.”
On the thoughts side: President Obama, sooner or later, has to take responsibility for something. His call for yet another review in the wake of the failed attack had the primary purpose of deflecting blame from the administration. Well, the military maxim applies: A leader is responsible for everything his subordinates do, or fail to do. All his adult life, Obama wanted to be president. Now it’s time for him to actually be a president. That means taking responsibility.
FP: How much confidence, exactly, do you have in this administration providing safety to Americans against our enemies?
Peters: Unfortunately, I have no faith–none–in the administration’s seriousness, when it comes to protecting Americans. A president who insists, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that every next terrorist is just an “isolated extremist” with no connection to Islam isn’t interested in solving the problem.
FP: How about our intelligence system in this case?
Peters: It failed. But, to be fair, many things that seem obvious in retrospect weren’t necessarily obvious in advance. Our intelligence system has two pertinent problems (among many others): It’s dealing with a literally unmanageable volume of data, and (according to my friends still inside the system), the post 9-11 “reforms,” such as creating a Director of National Intelligence and the National Counter Terrorism Center, simply created additional layers of bureaucracy. We’re fighting a lean, mean, fast, ruthless enemy. Our response? Bring more of yesterday’s senior officials out of retirement and hire more lawyers. Maybe we should just sue al Qaeda and see how splendidly our civilian-justice approach to terror works.
FP: Your view of Janet Napolitano? Why is she still heading Homeland Security?
Peters: I’d rather not view Janet Napolitano at all. This woman is so far out of her depth that it can’t be measured with Newtonian metrics. She was a politically correct appointment, period. On the positive side, word is that she’ll be gone in the next few months–Obama’s too vain to fire her right now, while the administration’s under fire over the Christmas terror attempt, but he realizes what a political liability she’s become.
There’s another, unfortunate, side to this. When representing our country, especially on security matters, appearance and physical presence matter. It would be great if that were not so, but facts are facts. Even if Napolitano were a security genius, she doesn’t project a forceful, capable image to our deadly enemies (or to our allies). Again, every one of Obama’s cabinet-level appointments has been about domestic politics, not about their effectiveness on the world stage.
Well, at least he can’t blame Bush for Napolitano.
FP: Your perspective on how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going? What strategies that are in effect are wrong? What strategies would be more effective?
Peters: Strategy? We still don’t have a strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan. We just have a collection of disjointed techniques we’re desperately trying to apply, hoping something, anything, will work. A troop surge is a tool, not a strategy. And you can’t nation-build where there’s no nation to build. I’m disheartened. American soldiers and Marines are dying and being maimed for fairy-tale counterinsurgency strategies that insist that digging wells for illiterate Afghans will deter al Qaeda’s Arab fanatics from killing Americans. The only wise and effective thing we’re doing is applying UAVs (drones) and our special operations forces to the indispensable task of killing terrorists.
I’ve never been threatened by a dead terrorist. And when a terrorist believes he’s on a mission from his god to kill you, killing him is the only plausible response.
As I’ve written recently, what little analysis of the Afghan problem we do obsesses on our continuing failures. But the real question, which we refuse to ask, is “Why are the Taliban successful?” And, of course, we go on pretending that Islam has nothing to do with anything. Political correctness is killing our troops, defeating us, and facilitating terror around the world.
FP: Potential threats in 2010? Where have we taken our eye off the ball?
Peters: Good Lord, where do you start? The usual suspects will still be with us: Iran, al Qaeda, Chinese subversion of our economy (brought to you by WalMart, among others, thanks), piracy, Hugo Chavez’s apparent determination to precipitate a border war with Colombia, the Kirchner regime’s attempt to hobble democracy in Argentina, Islamist aggression in Nigeria (which is intensifying again), and, above all, Mexico–where the narco-insurgency constitutes the real number-one threat to the welfare of our citizen. It bewilders me that we’re obsessed with “saving” Afghanistan, a worthless piece of dirt in the middle of nowhere, when the crucial struggle is right on (and crossing) our southern border. Mexico is the most important country in the world to us–for better and worse–and we treat it as problem number 47.
Where have we taken our eye off the ball? Please, tell me where the Obama administration has an eye on any foreign-policy or security balls. This ultra-left administration isn’t concerned with security (except to the extent that it impacts on politics), but with a hard-left, destructive and divisive vision of “social justice.” Which means, of course, punish productive citizens to reward the Lumpenproletariat. We’re a greater threat to ourselves, in the long run, than al-Qaeda is to us.
FP: Ralph Peters thank you for joining us. It was an honor to speak with you.
I would like to announce to our readers that Mr. Peters will be speaking at the Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club:
Tuesday, January 12, 2009.
300 S. Doheny Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
11:30 a.m. Reception
12:00 p.m. Luncheon
1:30 p.m. Book Signing
To make reservations, please contact Stephanie Knudson at (818) 849-3470 ext. 209 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.