Insurgent psychology – why they aren’t trying to win, but why they will!
This article belongs to column.
Working out the perspectives for war takes a certain type of empathy. It should not be confused with sympathy or even, in this case, as necessitating a positive connotation. Every general should be empathetic to his enemy counterpart. If he is to stand a good chance of anticipating his moves and thereby forearming himself with the knowledge to defeat him, he must understand, get a feel for, and even put himself in the practical and psychological shoes of his opponent. This was sorely lacking both in the Administration and the Pentagon.
The Administration's want of cultural and humanitarian empathy meant
The Administration and the Army made no initial effort to understand the psychology of the Arabic and Muslim mind and the ways in which its invasion would be perceived and eventually repulsed. The problem with the egocentric and ethnocentric mind is that it, at best, perceives all others as thinking and feeling in ways which it does, of having the same norms and values as the West and believing itself to be perceived as some marvellous example to be modelled. At worst, the West still views other cultures as inferior and in need of civilizing, by force, if necessary. Not for one moment did the Bush Administration consider that Arabs and Muslims have their own quite different emphasis on mores and values, which often come into sharp conflict with those of the West and which they are deeply devoted to defending.
Consequently, with the utmost arrogance,
The psychological and political difference is important and not semantic. Guilt focuses on inappropriate, bad behaviour aimed at creating a social conscience. Shame concerns self-worth and profoundly affects a sense of value towards one's worthiness to exist. Guilt can lead to reforms, while shame can lead to more harmful consequences, especially in terms of violence towards oneself or those who create it.
If shame is a stronger component of a culture than guilt then the motivation to avoid guilt leading to shame is far greater. The fight for one's honour is therefore much more ferocious than in a culture where guilt is more ready accepted and then paid for and forgiven. Indeed, it rules out compromise, negotiation or trading. It is above legal statutes. It is a matter of life and death.
If a shame-based culture is attacked and threatened with humiliation and dishonour, the likely reaction will be fiercer than guilt based cultures. This is the case in the
It is a reason why the humiliation and shaming of the Palestinians has made it the cause célèbre of the Arab and Muslim world and also explains the ferocity of the eventual resistance to the US occupation in Iraq and its condemnation of by Arabs and Muslims worldwide. The occupation is felt and empathized as a humiliating, shameful, dishonour perpetrated by the infidel,
For Arabs and Muslims their honour and the shaming of themselves and their brethren is something which cannot go unavenged. One must be prepared to die for it. It is linked to the culture of retribution, where a hurt or death brought upon another of one's family, tribe or clan must be avenged and this now extends to one's sect, nation, ethnicity and common religion.
The Bush administration, thus, blindly and arrogantly entered a war, which would inevitably result in a ceaseless Arab fight to regain their lost honour, dignity, pride, and to exact revenge upon an infidel who has dared to so grievously injure it. The shame dimension of the conflict rules out a negotiated settlement. The fight for regaining honour cannot be compromised, traded or negotiated; it can only be one to the death. Therefore, psycho-culturally, the
The Administration was three times blind to these subterranean forces at work and was taken in by their own initial and fictitious victory following the initial shock of invasion. They were doubly taken aback by the new opposition, which emerged in multifarious forms triggered by the overwhelming sense of humiliation felt and the Pandora's Box of unresolved internal grievances and injuries, the retribution of which has lain unsatisfied for generations and even centuries. This blindness to reality, which continued throughout the war, was epitomized in the first period, when Bush blissfully announced, in a typical act of crude bravado that "all combat operations" had ended, under the banner of "Mission Accomplished" on an aircraft carrier in 2003!
Today, the driving forces of the character of the insurgency is not so much to defeat the American enemy, as to repay him in the form of dishonouring and shaming him. Guerrilla war which is the traditional form of Arab combat, going back to Bedouin tribal times, is precisely fought, not for victory as such, but for shaming and dishonouring those who have brought shame and dishonour upon them. Bedouin tribes would not seek to conquer kingdoms and occupy others territories, so much, but rather preferred to execute raids aimed at shaming another tribe through robbing it of its honour. Much of this lies at the root of the psychology of the un-winnable asymmetrical war the
The insurgent aims dictate the means. They wear down and ridicule the U.S. army by their hit and run tactics, their invisibility, they picking off of choppers, the sniper, the IEDs and, of course the suicide bomber. When suicide bombers first emerged in
What hold true toward the
For the blinkered and myopic, cultural ignoramuses in the White House this is a book closed with a thousand seals. Consequently, the Iraqi adventure turned out to be a victory of astonishment over foresight. But having banged their heads on it they have chosen either to ignore it, or to treat it with contempt and carry on regardless. The bankrupt Administration has chosen to simply repeat and repeat again and again the same failed strategy and tactics, regardless of whether they kept coming up with the same failed results - something someone once described as being the definition of madness.
It would take a leap of the imagination for the Administration to realize that the aim of the insurgency is not to win, but to take retribution and to heap shame upon them. Culturally, this would even be the case should they be able to win militarily! Humiliation not annihilation is their payback for the occupation. Thus, withdrawal is the only option for the
more in Politics
Edwards called ugly name; Primaries could be over by March
This article brings forth the ideas we have long known about the politics of war, although perhaps we have forgotten some of the details along the way. Read on . . .
The defeat in Iraq undermines any hope of success in Afghanistan. At least half of the country will fall to the Taliban within two years. The new southern caliphate could become a Pashtunistan, tearing away Pastun tribes and threatening the break up of Pakistan and the creation of an unstable, fundamentalist, nuclear regime there.
The US has been accused of conducting terrorism activities in various countries around the world such activities designed to bypass international and US domestic laws. The US agency involved is the CIA, which can now be classified as a terrorist organisation in accordance with internationally recognised guidelines.
Despite all the diplomatic jaw-jaw and the attempts by the Bush administration to throw dust in the eyes of the public, it is likely that the U.S. has decided together with Israel to launch a "pre-emptive" attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Whatever conferences and accords come up, there is only a short window of opportunity to attack, before defeat in Iraq paralyses the U.S. scope for operations. It will be the last war for the lost cause.