There’s been a lot said lately about the discrediting of COIN doctrine. We have two glaring examples of its failure right in front of us: Iraq is descending into sectarian chaos again, as the death tolls rapidly approach the darkest days of American involvement, and Afghanistan is a basket case. Of course, Afghanistan can be partly attributed to the brain-dead idiocy of announcing a cutoff date, thereby giving the enemy hope and setting a limit that they need only wait for. There are further reasons behind the disintegration of Iraq as well; the reasons for failure are legion. However, there has been one key blind spot in all of this going back for the entirety of the war in both theaters.
From the get-go, we were told that we had to “respect the local culture.” This took the form of endless classes on how not to look at the women, not to use your left hand, and never show the soles of your feet to anyone. It was all of the little courtesies you’d need to know if you were traveling to Iraq or Afghanistan as a tourist.
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