"The great paradox of the 21st century is that, in this age of powerful technology, the biggest problems we face internationally are problems of the human soul.""We will not be beaten. But we may be shamed and embarrassed on a needlessly long road to victory.""When I'm writing about reality, I'm writing about death. When I'm writing fiction, I'm writing about life."
Peters enlisted in the Army as a private in 1976, after attending Pennsylvania State University.
After returning from Germany, Peters attended Officer Candidate School and received a commission in 1980. Subsequently, he served with 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, then part of the 1st Armored Division.
He spent ten years in Germany working in military intelligence. Years later, during the 2004 Killian documents controversy (also known as Memogate or Rathergate), Peters pointed out that in his front-line division in 1977, five years after the memos in question were allegedly written, only the general's secretary had an electric typewriter.
Peters later became a Foreign Area Officer, specializing in the Soviet Union. He attended the Command and General Staff College. His last assignment was to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. He retired in 1998 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Peters has appeared on PBS, Fox News, CNN and other networks with commentary on military issues and current affairs.
Peters's first novel was Bravo Romeo, a spy thriller set in West Germany. His novels progressed from futuristic scenarios involving the Red Army to contemporary terrorism and failed state issues. His characters are often presented as military maverick who have the knowledge and courage to tackle problems others cannot or will not.
His latest non-fiction book is entitled Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World, and was released in 2008. His latest novel, The War After Armageddon, is scheduled for release on 15 September 2009.
Peters is represented by Madison Avenue literary agent Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Group.
Peters is a regular contributor to the military history magazine, Armchair General, and also serves on its Advisory Board.
Peters has published numerous essays on strategy in military journals such as Parameters, Military Review, and Armed Forces Journal, reports for the United States Marine Corps Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, writes a regular opinion column for the New York Post, and has written essays and columns for USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Monthly and Army magazine. Peters is a member of the Board of Contributors for USA TODAY's Forum Page, part of the newspaper’s Opinion section. He has reported from Iraq, Israel, West Africa and other trouble spots.
He has published six collections of his essays and columns, listed below.
There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.
In a 2009 article for The Journal of International Security Affairs titled "Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars" Peters' advocates the ruthless use of United States military power, declaring "If you cannot win clean, win dirty." Peters' also raises the controversial American practice of directing the United States military to attack journalists. Peters writes, "Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media."
Peters was a strong supporter of the 2003 invasion and ongoing war in Iraq. Defending the war from critics who claimed that Iraq was descending into civil war, he authored a March 5, 2006 piece in the New York Post entitled "Dude, Where's My Civil War?", in which he wrote: "I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it (...) The Iraqi Army has confounded its Western critics, performing extremely well last week. And the people trust their new army to an encouraging degree." Claims that Iraq was descending into civil war, he wrote, were the politically motivated claims of "irresponsible journalists" who have "staked their reputations on Iraq's failure".
By August 2006, Peters had turned more pessimistic on Iraq, stating in an interview with FrontPageMagazine.com, "civil war is closer than it was (...) The leaders squabble, the death squads rule the neighborhoods." He said that while it would be "too early to walk away from Iraq", the fate of the country was threatened by the US's failure after the invasion to provide adequate troop levels to maintain order, as well as "the Arab genius for screwing things up."
On November 2, 2006, he wrote in USA Today:
Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. Even six months ago, there was hope. Now the chances for a democratic, unified Iraq are dwindling fast (...) Iraq could have turned out differently. It didn't. And we must be honest about it. We owe that much to our troops. They don't face the mere forfeiture of a few congressional seats but the loss of their lives. Our military is now being employed for political purposes. It's unworthy of our nation.
In this piece he also speculated that "only a military coup ... which might come in the next few years ... could hold the artificial country together" and that "it appears that the cynics were right: Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it."
Following the 2006 US Congressional election, Peters wrote:
It's going to be hard. The political aim of the Democrats will be to continue talking a good game while avoiding responsibility through '08. They'll send up bills they know Bush will veto. And they'll struggle to hide the infighting in their own ranks - Dem unity on this war is about as solid as the unity of Iraq.
Now that they've won on the issue, the Dems would like Iraq to just go away. But it won't. And they've got to avoid looking weak on defense, so the military will get more money for personnel, at least. But we won't get a comprehensive plan to deal with Iraq or, for that matter, our global struggle with Islamist terrorists.
No matter how many troops we send, we're bound to fail if the troops aren't allowed to fight - under the leadership of combat commanders, not politically attuned bureaucrats in uniform. At present, neither party's leaders want to face the truth about warfare - that it can't be done on the cheap and that war can't be waged without shedding blood.
Peters was opposed to what became the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 when it was first proposed. In October 2006 he wrote, "the notion of sending more U.S. troops is strategic and practical nonsense. Had the same voices demanded another 100,000-plus troops in 2003 or even 2004, it would have made a profound, positive difference. Now it's too late." By July 2007, he had changed his mind, writing that U.S. troops were making "serious progress against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq and other extremists", and that while "Iraq's a mess", "we've finally got a general in Baghdad - Dave Petraeus - who's doing things right."
In August 2007 Peters wrote that a quadruple truck bomb attack in Iraq that killed reportedly 500 individuals was "a sign of al Qaeda's frustration, desperation and fear."
In January 2008, on the first anniversary of the troop surge, Peters wrote that "the political progress has been remarkable." He added:
Determined to elect a Democrat president, the "mainstream" media simply won't accept our success. "Impartial" journalists find a dark cloud in every silver lining in Iraq. And the would-be candidates themselves continue to insist that we should abandon Iraq immediately - as if time had stood still for the past year - while hoping desperately for a catastrophe in Baghdad before November. These are the pols who insisted that the surge didn't have a chance. And nobody calls 'em on it.
By 2009, Peters had become much more optimistic about the future of Iraq. In July 2009, a day before the Iraqi Kurdistan legislative election he wrote, "for all of Iraq's remaining problems -- and they're vast -- it looks more and more as if 'Bush's Folly' may work out." He added, "We've all come a long way since the dark days of 2006." He reserved special praise for Jawad al-Bolani, head of the Interior Ministry, whom he called, "in the context of Iraq... a miracle worker." He also praised the Kurdistan election, calling it "a horse-race toward accountability and transparency."
Redrawing borders and regime change
In a June 2006 article titled "Blood borders: How a better Middle East would look", Peters conducted a thought experiment by changing the borders in the Middle East: "In each case, this hypothetical redrawing of boundaries reflects ethnic affinities and religious communalism...in some cases, both."
In a February 2008 column, Peters called for giving the majority-Serb enclave in northern Kosovo to Serbia, calling it a "cancerous issue" that "just promises further conflict down the road - like forcing an ex-husband and -wife to share an apartment after a savage divorce." In the same column, he also called for a division by ethnicity of Pakistan, writing that "Islam has not been enough to unite Sindhi and Punjabi, Baluchi and Pashtuns." Regarding Iraq, he wrote, "might it not have been wiser - as several of us suggested in 2003 - to shake off Europe's vicious legacies and give Kurds their state, Iraqi Shias their state, and the country's Sunni Arabs a rump Iraq to do with as they wished?" Regarding all these countries, he wrote, "We needn't launch an endless war to fix the mess Europeans in pinstriped trousers left us - but we'd damned well better accept that, when we expend blood and treasure to prop up phony states, we're standing on the tracks in front of the speeding train of history."
In a column for Armchair General Magazine, he wrote in support for regime change in Syria, Iran and Pakistan:
Syria's determination to develop nuclear weapons apes Iran's and North Korea's nuke programs, as well as Pakistan's successful bid to join the club of nuclear powers....Given a choice between taking out Osama Bin Laden and his entire leadership network and eliminating renegade nuclear engineers, the latter option might do far more for our long-term security.
In February 2009 Peters called for U.S. troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan, writing, "we've mired ourselves by attempting to modernize a society that doesn't want to be ... and cannot be ... transformed." He continued, "We needed to smash our enemies and leave. Had it proved necessary, we could have returned later for another punitive mission. Instead, we fell into the great American fallacy of believing ourselves responsible for helping those who've harmed us."
Peters expressed sympathy for POW Bowe Bergdahl's family, but speculated (Fox News, July 19, 2009) that Specialist Bergdahl might be "an apparent deserter"; "if he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime ... I don’t care how hard it sounds ... as far as I’m concerned the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills". He characterized Bergdahl's description (in the Taliban produced video) of U.S. military behavior in Afghanistan as collaboration with the enemy, even if coerced. Peters called those statements about military policy lies, and doubted existence a girlfriend (Steve Malzberg's radio show, July 22). Bergdahl had said he missed his girlfriend and local media identified her as Monica Lee. Peters also wished him to be reunited with his family, but argued the media glorifies one captured soldier who shamed his unit and lied, while ignoring heroes and casualties (The O'Reilly Factor, July 21).