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by Norman Ricklefs, Small Wars Journal
These thoughts were initially penned on my way to RnR, while stuck at Baghdad International Airport for three days waiting for the mother of all dust storms to end. At the time, by chance, I was handed a photocopy of T.E. Lawrence's "27 Articles" -- and while reading it was impressed by how useful the information still was for those working in an Arab cultural environment. I thought that this would have helped me prepare for my work in the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, and wondered if I could put together something similar to help those who come to Iraq to work as advisors. Inspired by Lawrence and, especially, the work of Gertrude Bell, I've written the following points, which bring together my experiences of working with Iraqis over two deployments since 2005. It is not intended to advance the notion of cultural determinism -- many of the individuals you meet in Iraq will defy many of the examples below, as individuals do in all cultures -- but it is intended to provide examples of some of the chief cultural differences between Iraqi and Coalition culture and thus a few jumping off points for the advisor as his begins his work in an Iraqi Government office, a Provincial Reconstruction Team or Military Transition Team.
There are numerous sources that you can read before you deploy but the starting point (especially for US personnel) should be FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency. I've provided some suggested starting points for FM 3-24 at the end of the paper.
As the Coalition presence in Iraq increasingly moves away from a warfighting role, the advisory role will become more important, and I hope that the points below will add to the section in FM 3-24 which deals with advisors in the context of building host-nation security forces (especially chapter 6).
I hope also that the points below will also be relevant and useful, at least in part, to those serving in Afghanistan, though it is focused on Iraq.