Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by NATO AIR, Sep 23, 2005.
excellent look at why we need to be more concerned with being respected and feared, not loved.
While I don't know if it would work or not, I find his suggestion that less troops might mean less hostility interesting. Mostly because it takes into consideration aspects of Middle Eastern and also Muslim culture that Americans never seem to.
We saw another example of this with the Abu Ghraib scandal. Bush gave a nationally televised speech saying it was the US's plan to tear down Abu Ghraib in a symbolic gesture of apology/making it right. Many Americans thought that was a good suggesstion. When they interviewed most Iraqis about it...most said they didn't care. "Why tear down a perfectly good building? It was the people in it who we had the problems with!"
America puts more stock into symbolic gestures...Iraqis, who lived for years with their leader torturing people and imprisoning people, couldn't understand our zeal to tear down a perfectly good building when they knew from experience that torture and imprisonment just moves to a new location.
When we didn't stop the looters it wasn't because we only wanted to pillage oil...it was specifically because we didn't want our troops to be viewed as occupiers. The troops were ORDERED not to stop people with any kind of force...to stand down and not be seen as policing the activities. The Iraqis saw us doing nothing and took it to mean we didn't care about them...
Further back, we saw this culture clash cause problem during the first Gulf War. Bush did not go into Baghdad at the order of the UN and because, frankly, he didn't want to lose the positive poll numbers. The US thought, "Hey...we got Iraq out of Kuwait and trounced the Iraqis whenever we found them. Who cares about Saddam he was beaten bad...we won!!!" Unfortunately, the culture in that part of the world is quite different. Saddam and the people thought, "We fought the most powerful military might on the planet and WE WON. They turned and went home without every reaching our capital city!!!"
The arrogance that the military "victory" gave Saddam was one of the reasons why we continued to have problems with him over the following years.
We ran into exactly the same type of cultural misunderstanding when we were fighting al Sadr and his men. Every time we would beat them to the point of giving up they would run into a mosque. We wouldn't blow up a mosque because we didn't want to upset the Iraqi people anymore than we already had...because of the Geneva convention...because of how we knew the media would portray it across the world...THEY viewed it as a victory...once again they won. And when al Sadr asked for a ceasefire only to break it only to ask for it again...and we met with him...it just cemented the vison of al Sadr as a powerful leader who commanded the attention of the US militray...rather than what he should have been seen as...a power-hungry mini-dictator wannabe who should not have been given the power and respect we gave him.
One of my major complaints about how this war has been fought is that it truly seems like we have absolutely no one involved in the planning process who actually knows anything about Middle Eastern culture. We have made mistakes that may not have seemed like big things...but actually represent major culture-clash...and have certainly been one of the driving forces behind our difficulties in Iraq.
While I'm not sure if removing troops would work at this point...I'd be willing to consider it as an option because this author is doing exactly what I think we should have been doing all along...looking to Iraqi culture before we do something decidedly American.
That was a very well-written response Gem. I agree with you that we seem to have no one in the planning (or execution stage) of our operations in Iraq that has a fundamental understanding of ME culture. In some sense (heh,William Joyce will have a field day with this) we really should have heeded advice from various Israelis who offered some very pointed criticism of the manner of our operations from the first day after saddam's regime fell.
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