Monday, August 17, 2009

Leadership in Iraq

Many people find the Middle East and its people difficult to understand (For an excellent introduction to the region listen to Scott Powell's The Islamist Entanglement). In particular one gets the sense that our former President George W. Bush was under the impression that there are no significant cultural differences between Iraqi Arabs and Americans (what our current President Barack H. Obama thinks is really too depressing to dwell on). reviews the reality encountered by American soldiers in the field. Their experiences do not inspire much hope. Here are two examples:
# Most Arab countries are a patchwork of different tribes and groups, and Arab leaders survive by playing one group off against another. Loyalty is to one's group, not the nation. Most countries are dominated by a single group that is usually a minority (Bedouins in Jordan, Alawites in Syria, Sunnis in Iraq, Nejdis in Saudi Arabia). All of which means that officers are assigned not by merit but by loyalty and tribal affiliation. This continues in democratic Iraq, where political parties or powerful politicians strive to control individual police or army units.

# Islamic schools favor rote memorization, especially of scripture. Most Islamic scholars are hostile to the concept of interpreting the Koran (considered the word of God as given to His prophet Mohammed). This has resulted in looking down on Western troops that will look something up that they don't know. Arabs prefer to fake it, and pretend it's all in their head. Improvisation and innovation is generally discouraged. Arab armies go by the book, Western armies rewrite the book and thus usually win. Despite years of American advice on this matter, many Iraqi police and military personnel stick with the old, less effective, traditions.
A total of 14 examples of such difficulties are recounted. They are well worth reading.


madmax said...

Thanks for this. It was very interesting and further reinforces the argument that the NeoCon strategy of occupation and cultural and political transformation now seems undeniably like a pipe-dream based on bad premises. What a rational strategy would have been is difficult to say but it wouldn't have been "The Forward Strategy of Freedom."

Sadly, a rational foreign policy is no longer even a remote probability (nor is it even being publicly debated anymore) with the monsters who are now running the country. My fear is that by the time the Dems are done we may look back on the Bush Administration as an era of relative allegiance to free markets and strong self-defense by comparison. What a sorry testimony to our times.

Gideon said...

Well, certainly the foreign policy outlook provided by the unprecedented combination of naivete and maliciousness of the Obama administration is depressing. But hopefully this will ultimately give a chance for some better voices to be heard and perhaps, some time in the not so-near future, elected.