There’s a really excellent Wired story online by Noah Shachtman, who is reporting from Iraq. Yesterday’s post described an effort on the part of the U.S. Marines to win “hearts and minds” by passing out soccer balls and bags of food to Iraqis, a performance that ended in screaming and gunfire, though no one was hurt.
Shachtman interviewed “Mac” MacAllister, a Marine Corps consultant who is described as someone who “spent years on end studying Middle Eastern history and tribal culture.” MacAllister contends that the U.S. military should focus on shame and honor, not hearts and minds, to win over the Iraqis.
Shame and honor are “limited resources,” Mac explains. “They’re exchanged like currency. And it’s a zero sum game. If I embarrass you, I take some of your honor, and you give me some of your shame. Now you want to do something to get it back.
“The father, off to the side, is thinking, ‘Hey, that’s my job.’ [giving the kid a soccer ball] So you’ve shamed him. He might also know that the kid doesn’t deserve it. Shamed him again. And if you give the ball to the little kid, he could get beat up, since the bigger ones prey on the littler ones. More shame. So does that father grab an Ak-47 and do a drive-by, to get back some of his honor?”
Best damn description of a Shame Spiral that I’ve read in a while, not to mention what’s really happening on the ground in Iraq. Click here for full story.
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