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A warrior reflects: Peters' principles

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Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
 

Ralph Peters likens his new nonfiction collection, "Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security" (Stackpole Books), to his "greatest hits."

With 27 books, including best-selling and prize-winning novels, to his credit, he still laments that Washington "wisdom" so little reflects the hard-won insights he gained as a career military officer and now offers as a Fox News strategic analyst. Following are excerpts from the Trib's phone conversation with him.

On patriotism:

Real patriotism is bearing personal responsibility for your actions in your public life and your personal life. ... (C)ertainly, not everyone's meant to serve in the military. But just being a good citizen in your day-to-day life is more important than waving the flag and making all sorts of wild pronouncements. I really see the real patriots as the people who vote in every election, who work hard, pay their bills, take care of their families and don't expect the government to do everything for them. ... (O)ne thing that profoundly troubles me about the United States domestically today is the flight from personal responsibility. Everything is always someone else's fault. The government owes us everything ... . It doesn't matter what their political persuasion is, left, right, independent, people just feel a sense of entitlement that is to me profoundly un-American. ... And to take it to a very personal level, if the average American wants to do something truly patriotic, lose weight. I mean, we may be the first great power that has eaten itself to death. ... And I also believe that every unimpaired adult American should have to pay a minimum of $100 in income tax ... a year, just to make everybody know that they have a stake in this system.

On the military and the nation:

One thing the military doesn't get credit for is it turns out better citizens. There's always a focus on "Oh, all the homeless veterans" ... (who) are certainly a serious issue, as are all homeless people. But I never see an article about how, for instance, young soldiers or Marines who enlisted from a ghetto or barrio have finished their GED and got an associate's degree or even a bachelor's while they're in the military. You always get attention paid to the bad apples, but our military has always been a corridor of upward mobility for minorities, and a chance for people to lift themselves up. And I think the positive effect that military service has on society after the individual leaves the service has gone utterly ignored.

On selections for the book:

There were essays ... that really did have an impact, that are still used in war colleges or Command and General Staff College, and they've stood the test of time ... and so they're there. The next tier were those that are still controversial but I firmly believe will prove their value over time ... . For instance, there's one piece that's been tremendously widely read and debated ... in the special operations community ... called "When Devils Walk the Earth," written immediately after 9/11. ... (A)nd then a few pieces that I would call "intellectual round-outs." ... (M)ost of the people who buy it won't be military officers ... . But the people I really want to reach enduringly are military officers. They definitely need their horizons broadened. They read -- but they read the same stuff and they read it over and over again.

NEW PAGES TO TURN

In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir

by Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney

(Threshold Editions)

Reactions to this memoir have run along much the same lines as did reactions to its author in his most recent stint in public service alongside President George W. Bush. Those who admired Dick Cheney as the nation's 46th vice president will find plenty here to reinforce their opinions of him, as will detractors of him in that role -- and one suspects he wouldn't have it any other way. Yet "In My Time" covers not just those eight years -- which, being most fresh in mind, tend to overly color current perceptions of Cheney -- but his entire life, and by reminding readers that his vice-presidential tenure was but one part of a career spanning more than 40 years, the book provides valuable perspective. Cheney also was, after all, the youngest White House chief of staff ever, serving President Gerald Ford in that capacity after President Richard Nixon's resignation; a six-term congressman from Wyoming who rose to House minority whip; President George H.W. Bush's secretary of Defense, presiding over America's first war against Saddam Hussein and the end of the Cold War; and CEO of Fortune 500 company Halliburton. Still, it's Cheney's post-Sept. 11 actions as vice president that remain most controversial, and after all the opinions, speculations and accusations aired from all points on the political spectrum about his involvement in America's war on terror, he does a great service to the historical record by speaking his mind and relating his recollections about those years in his own words. Without this memoir, U.S. history -- and future scholars thereof -- would be missing an essential first-person account of crucial events from a man who was both witness to and participant in them. "In My Time" instantly becomes required reading for anyone seeking to understand Dick Cheney and the time he spent in public life and service.

Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left's Assault on Our Families, Faith, and Freedom

by Marybeth Hicks

(Regnery)

Leftists' relentless attacks on American character and culture have finally succeeded, according to Washington Times columnist, Family Events e-newsletter editor and former Reagan White House writer Marybeth Hicks. She says polls show younger Americans are falling for leftist dogma that destroys their ambitions, work ethic, optimism and faith, leading them to accept less liberty and prosperity for the sake of social order. She also points out what today's civics and economics education lacks, and how Internet use negatively influences children.

Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, and Memoirs

edited by S.T. Joshi

(Library of America)

This collection of the best from one of America's most distinctively sardonic writers, whose literary voice was shaped by the Civil War and its aftermath, reintroduces Ambrose Bierce to today's readers. It incorporates the Civil War short-story collection "In the Midst of Life," the horror/ghost stories of "Can Such Things Be?", the supremely cynical "The Devil's Dictionary," "Bits of Autobiography" and a few other stories. As such, it's a handy, one-volume primer on an author who set the standard for dark American humor, one whose work remains well worth reading today.

Property Rights: Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings Re-Examined

edited by Bruce L. Benson

(Palgrave Macmillan)

Continuing debate triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial 2005 decision Kelo v. City of New London , which upheld government taking a private home so that a private developer could turn the property into more of a tax generator, this volume brings together expert authors to analyze such questions as how to remedy such takings and whether legislatures or courts are more likely to produce meaningful reform. Varying but all critical of Kelo and its implications, these views are brought together by an editor who's the DeVoe Moore Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at Florida State University, senior fellow at The Independent Institute and contributing editor of The Independent Review.

SHELF LIFE: PARTIES, THEN & NOW

The 2012 presidential race, already under way in earnest, features not just Republicans hoping to challenge the incumbent Democrat but a new sort of movement, the tea party, that's no less influential for not being an official, formal third party.

It's yet another wrinkle in America's long history of partisan politics. Explore that history -- from the Federalists and Anti-Federalists who prefigured partisanship, to parties that came and went, to how we arrived at the two-party system -- through the following titles, selected especially for A Page of Books readers by manager Karen Rossi and her staff at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Downtown & Business branch.

The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress

by Jack N. Rakove

(Knopf, 1979)

Triumvirate: The Story of the Unlikely Alliance That Saved the Constitution and United the Nation

by Bruce Chadwick

(Sourcebooks, 2009)

The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, 1790-1801: A Study in National Stimulus and Local Response

by Harry Marlin Tinkcom

(Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1950)

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

by Gordon S. Wood

(Oxford University Press, 2009)

Party of the People: A History of the Democrats

by Jules Witcover

(Random House, 2003)

The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War

by Michael F. Holt

(Oxford University Press, 1999)

Populist Cartoons: An Illustrated History of the Third-Party Movement in the 1890s

by Worth Robert Miller

(Truman State University Press, 2011)

America's Three Regimes: A New Political History

by Morton Keller

(Oxford University Press, 2007)

A Page of Books, written and compiled by Alan Wallace, appears on the last Sunday of each month.

 

 
 


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