Saturday, May 06, 2006

Culture and counterinsurgency

The Iraq war is in its fourth year, and yet the Pentagon has failed to instruct military personnel on Iraqi culture. There are many more severe flaws in the prosecution of this war that require resignations (Don Rumsfeld). But this is a clear example of continuing mistakes that plague the war effort.

Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times reports on the latest lacking in cultural sensitivity and its negative effects on the war effort:
Beyond the propaganda war, however, there is a clash between the culture of the American military and the pious, rural values of Iraqi Shiites.

Akeel Mahmoud Qazali, the governor of Karbala province, said he had lambasted his American counterparts after U.S. soldiers brought explosives-sniffing dogs into the provincial headquarters before the arrival of a visiting American delegation in February. Dogs are considered unclean by observant Muslims.

In Najaf last month, Iraqi officials looked on with shock as bored American soldiers flung pieces of bread at one another.

"They're playing with food," one police officer said with disgust. "That's a sin."

And Shiites bridle at what they see as American and British interference in matters of state — especially security.

"Beside every Cabinet minister there is an American advisor," said Mohammed Bashar Najafi, son of, and spokesman for, one of Iraq's four grand ayatollahs. "Each province has an American advisor. Each city council has an American advisor. The country is occupied, and this occupation is a weight on the chest of Iraq."
These cultural miscues are inexcusable in a prolonged counterinsurgency. I found a two year old story on cultural classes for some Marines. Clearly, the program needs to be expanded. 3/14/2004 North County Times:
For months now, Marines at Camp Pendleton have said their next role in Iraq in the spring would be "security and stabilization ops."

They've been through cultural sensitivity training and the best and brightest among them have been to short, intensive Arabic courses.

They know how not to show the bottoms of their feet, use their left hands in public or wear sunglasses when talking to locals lest they offend the locals by flouting codes and customs.
And by the way, you STILL see American military personnel discussing important business with Iraqis while wearing those damned wrap-around sunglasses. Inexcusable.


Post a Comment

<< Home