Neuron Culture

Spencer Ackerman explores and explains the importance of eating the local food when fighting an insurgency:

One of the things that struck me when I embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is how little local food I ate. When I met some friends for drinks in April 2007 after coming a month in Baghdad and Mosul, one of the first questions I got was about local Iraqi delicacies. Man, I said, I ate king crab legs with a plastic fork on a huge base around the Baghdad airport, courtesy of KBR. Or rather I tried, since you can%u2019t eat king crab legs with a plastic fork.When I went unembedded in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2006, I got the real deal, a wonderful interplay of Persian, Arab, Turkish and other influences, at every meal. Lots of pickled beets. Lots of grilled lamb and fish. Something I%u2019ve never had before or since %u2014 tender beef meatballs in a pomegranate and beet broth, almost like a Kurdish version of matzoh ball soup. At the fake Sheraton in Irbil, the second floor hotel features a Chinese restaurant, where short-order Kurdish cooks interpret Chinese food through their own prism of anise. My chow fun tasted like the end of American hegemony.

“There’s a reason that counterinsurgency mantras include Get Off The FOB and Don’t Commute To The Fight. The greater the distance — not just physically, but also culturally — from a populace, the fewer opportunities U.S. troops have to demonstrate to that populace that U.S. actions are in their interest.”

Do read the whole thing. It’s fabulous.

hat tip from @ezraklein

Comments

  1. #1 Who Cares
    July 4, 2009

    I’ve been following another blog. This eating with the local populace is just a part of respecting the culture (regardless of how much it is not what you’d like to see), speaking the local language and leaving the local people in their value.

    It all boils down to be morally superior then whomever is the enemy so that the people in the area will (start to) support you instead of who you want to kick out.

    On that blog they go even further. You need to be willing to take more casualties then the other side. By this they mean (among other things) that in civilian areas you never start a fight, do not spray and pray while fighting, do not call in fire support, don’t drive around in hermetically sealed vehicles but walk (with guns in a secured position instead of ready to fire).