Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The Battle for Hearts and Minds of Iraq

Seyed writes
To win hearts and minds you have to make yourself humble. You have to open your eyes to the simpler charms of foreign lands and the ancient, proud history of a people. You have to speak their language, not just the words but the understanding that goes with those words. If a trained soldier, fed a diet of confident superiority in their own culture and values, is expected to be the tool by which hearts and minds are won then you've already lost. Sure, there may be specialists and in the long run civilians who can do this job but the first contact leaves a lasting impression. As the war gets dirtier, and I believe it will, the American troops will rashly retaliate at the wrong targets for fear of their lives. It is a natural inclination of any normal human being in the face of great dangers. However, from such actions are blood enemies born. Restraint is paramount and evident in the top-level plans, which we see playing out on the news. However, restraint in the towns and on the ground by troops will be difficult to maintain. It is not a unique failing of the American character, although it is most evident when they are seen in combat. It is no surprise the British troops, generally far more skilled at these measures, are used to clean up the population centers. Winning this war will be more difficult than previously thought. Not on the grand plains of military strategies but on the street and homes of all those affected by it. Once, the war is won, winning the peace will be a monumental task. How large a task will depend on the efforts during wartime. This is not merely a matter of economics, the flow of capital, the reconstruction of infrastructure or the proper sales of Iraq's natural resources. It is a function of how sensitively and with what humility the peace is managed. Historically, American forces have been extremely poor in this regard and this requires a United Nations presence. However, until the handover is completed I expect Iraqi hearts and minds will foremost be thankful for the death of the dictator but secondly wary of the foreigners who hold them, their culture and their way of life in such disregard.
(posted by Iman)

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