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Stereotypes Can Get You Killed

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. – Sun Tzu

Karen at Peripetia has a post on the efforts of the military to figure out who they are fighting: It’s the Tribalism…Stupid! (Part 2). After more than three years into the second Gulf War they decide it might be a good idea to find out what motivates the enemy.

You have to wonder if Israel is aware of Hezbollah’s secret weapon, a very shallow overview of the group they are fighting in Lebanon.

Does anyone in charge of anything understand the difference between Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr on Islamic governments? Do they know who these men are as they blithely decide to alienate all of the Shi’ia? Do they know the significance of the color of the turban worn by Shi’ia clerics? Do they know the religious significance of the King of Jordan?

Do they understand the cultural differences between the Persian, Arab, Turkic inhabitants of the Middle East? Do they know which “terrorist” groups are religious and which are secular?

Do they know enough to include Jewish groups in their studies, since more Israeli politicians have been killed by Jewish terrorists than Islamic?

Do they understand why Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt are worried about a Shi’ia confederation?

I’m getting a real feeling that sitting down in a little town on the Gulf Coast with an Internet connection I’m getting better intelligence than the Secretary of State.

2 comments

1 cat daddy and dr. squeeky { 07.25.06 at 8:22 pm }

What do you mean differences…. Aren’t all Muslim the same?… Are you saying, like, all Whites are not British, or that all Blacks don’t come from the Bronx, or that all Hispanics are not from Mexico?

I don’t know, your blog can be controversial, but this is really pushing it Mister…

ON the other hand… we don’t have the interest in finding out about them, we may actually begin to care about them… It’s a lot safer to remain distant and informed only by stereotypes and the wornderful information we get from the traditional sources and the government… I wonder if some Romans had a similar conversation at some point while they shared time at the public toilets… I don’t think they realized they wouldn’t be an empire forever…

2 Bryan { 07.25.06 at 10:54 pm }

This entire mess is the result of a bunch of civil servants in London and Paris drawing lines on maps of countries they’ve never seen. The maps they were drawing on weren’t even very accurate and in some cases they didn’t even bother to connect all of the lines. There still isn’t an official border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

If I had been this sloppy when I was watching the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces, there would be a glowing pit where Omaha, Nebraska used to be.

I don’t understand this. When I was stationed overseas in the 1960s and 70s I received a package of materials on the country I was going to be living in. There were lists of do’s and don’ts included with a basic language phrase book. The unit I was going to would supply more information on the individual town where the base was located.

We used to do these things, but we don’t anymore. It’s like they just don’t care.