Some of our more regular visitors may be aware that we are currently running a survey asking people if they believe intercultural skills (or training) would have benefited troops in Iraq.
In the short time we have run the survey we have received a decent response but now want to drive the numbers up in order to get an accurate reflection of people’s beliefs.
The idea behind the question the survey poses is to examine whether people appreciate or believe that the “hearts and minds” approach is now also crucial to winning conflicts in the modern age, rather than “shock and awe”. The situation in Iraq all will agree has not been ideal, but moves from the U.S. military seem to suggest that they are now appreciating that providing troops with skills to communicate with people are more and more crucial.
We have seen the provision of cross-cultural coaching for troops in Iraq or going to Iraq become increasingly called for and as a result provided. “Cultural understanding is a weapon,” Edward Slavis, a Marine captain, told about 150 troops from the 1st Radio Battalion and 1st Reconnaissance Battalion about to go to Iraq in February 2007. “You need to prepare for the war of ideas and beliefs through cultural learning and understanding.” The British miliary establishment also seems keen to provide their men on the ground with the appropriate skills. A Unit Education Officer, Captain Pete Henning, commented “Getting it right makes a massive difference. They [meaning the Iraqis] are very forgiving of language errors, but cultural mistakes are unforgivable. It’s a ‘hearts and minds’ game. We make soldiers question why the Arabs behave in such a way and question their own perceptions.”
As well as cultural awareness troops are also being given either language training. In December 2006, Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli told Baghdad-based journalists that a poll conducted among 1st Cavalry Division soldiers following their 2004 deployment to Iraq pointed out how important they believed language skills to be. On top of actual language learning the military has also invested heavily in all sorts of translation gadgets to help troops speak to locals.
A sign of the growing importance of looking outwards from the USA also manifest in President Bush’s National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), a plan to further strengthen national security through developing foreign language skills. The NSLI hopes to dramatically increase the number of Americans learning critical need foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Farsi and others.
The question we are posing is this: ” do you believe that intercultural training could have benefited troops in Iraq?”. At present the results show 79% of respondents believe it would have been a benefit.
What do you think?
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