Talk about culture clash
August 29, 2002 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Talk about culture clash -- the personal opinions of a U.S. military attache/observer concerning Arab military practices. See also the EgyptAir Flight 990 investigation. Big question: how can we make some progress here? [courtesy]
posted by apollo3000 (3 comments total)
Oops, the EgyptAir bit was from thread 16892, sorry semmi, but the Atkine bit's "new," so to speak, I believe.
posted by apollo3000 at 4:15 PM on August 29, 2002

I suppose that would depend on how one defines "progress". Do we want a militarily successful Arab world?

Shopping malls, Ford Tauruses, superhighways, and satellite television have not turned Saudi Arabia into a pluralistic, populist society. The history of Middle Eastern rulers reforming their armies comes and goes in waves, and is much older than one might think: 200 years ago, Sultan Selim III attempted to reform the Janissaries, introducing changes along the lines of the European armies he faced in the Balkan frontier. A century later, the Turkish nationalists who emerged from the empire's wreckage reformed the army again along Western lines. Since then, Turkey's several successes include holding off the Allies at Gallipoli, kicking the Greeks out of Smyrna/Izmir, putting down the Armenians, invading 1/3 of Cyprus, and holding the Kurdish revolutionaries to a draw. Hard to say how to evaluate that at the macro level.

Arabs, in the modern era, have been most successful at throwing off foreign invaders: the Arab revolt against the Ottomans, Algerian independence. Other than that the armies are typically used to put down internal revolts and control the people, or to fight seemingly endless and ineffectual border wars.

Culturally, we've done all we need to do, and probably all we can. Arabs aren't going to change much unless they believe in it themselves. Cultures all around the world have come out of the colonial era smarter, stronger, and more flexible -- think of how weak China was a century ago, with treaty ports (little Hong Kongs) in every major coastal city. Oil can't be blamed, even if it seems an obvious culprit to some in the Saudi example, because these problems encompass the entire span of North Africa and the Middle East. The UN Arab Human Development Report is a start in that direction.

For ourselves, we may have to accept the Huntingtonian notion that we do live in a multicultural world with people who have different values.
posted by dhartung at 6:58 PM on August 29, 2002

What sort of "progress" are we talking about here?

I could take that to mean "we shouldn't critique other cultures", which is blatently sillly. This article states exactly what I've heard from friends that served in the Gulf War.
posted by hadashi at 7:30 PM on August 29, 2002

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