(To read the rest of "Over-Reacting to COIN (Again): On Cultural Empathy and 'Gratitude Theory'", please click here and scroll to the bottom.)
Eric C had an interesting thesis on Monday (people hate foreign soldiers in their countries) but I wasn’t quite sold when I first read it. So I took it upon myself to do a bit more research. I went to Google Future, where you can search up to fifty years in the future for articles not yet written. There, on our own blog, On Violence, a blog on foreign affairs, military affairs and counter-insurgency, written by two brothers, one a Nobel laureate, the other a former President, I found this gem.
Titled “America Capitulates: Why America Should NOT Let The New Persian Republic Station a Garrison in Wyoming” and written nearly 38 years in the future--apparently one of many possible futures--America began letting The New Persian Empire--sorry, Iran in modern parlance (they became a republic after they took over Iraq “Tom-Clancy-style”)--station troops on its domestic soil. Unsurprisingly, future Michael C was outraged by this injustice:
“Nothing shows the true downfall of America better than President [Jenna] Bush allowing The New Persian Republic to station a garrison in America. Sure the Brazilians--who excel at Olympics and World Cup soccer [editor: soccer and curling, in the future, are America’s favorite sports]--provided plenty of economic growth with their garrison in Daytona Beach, but we should not trust the New Persian Empire.
“This spits on the Constitution. And yes, I know giving Herman Cain four terms in the White House already wiped away much of the Constitution, but still I think we all pine for the Golden era of Cain-otopia from 2016 to 2032. Cain would never have let this happen.
“As always, money is the primary reason. Already the LA Times, on its Twitter brain feed, is claiming that the New Persian Republic will bring a host of new jobs to Wyoming. Iran’s leaders claim that this new cooperation gives them unprecedented reach into North America and vital commercial interests.
“As I wrote years ago, we shouldn’t station troops overseas in each other’s countries. If only we hadn’t dissolved the UN under Cain’s third term, then maybe we could organize against this...”
I cannot argue with future Michael C’s feelings. I mean, imagine if the China, Russia, or Iran said they wanted to put a base on American soil, in say, Seattle or North Dakota. Can you picture Bill O’Reilly reporting this, or would his head explode instead? I can’t even imagine letting Germany or France doing this. Maybe England or Australia, but they speak versions of American. (Joking.)
I guess I agree with future Michael C and current Eric C: people don’t want foreign soldiers in their country. America primarily stations troops in countries with much lower economic wealth than us because we are essentially buying our way in. Even now, our military is looking to move troops out of expensive Germany and towards old Warsaw Pact countries where the dollar buys more.
And I bet Swiss Francs to Afghanis that most Americans would vehemently oppose garrisons of foreign troops on American soil. We--America--fail to understand this basic fact because we can’t put ourselves in the shoes of the people we occupy. Now, imagine if any country, for any reason, invaded America. We would fight back until our dying breaths, screaming, “Live free or die.”
This issue--and the post from the future tried to get at this--is one of cultural empathy. Too many Americans in the military love America so much they literally cannot imagine why people in foreign countries wouldn’t love it too. (The same ones who would--ironically--fight the hardest against any foreign invader.) They couldn’t understand why Iraqis, especially young Iraqis, started an insurgency. They don’t get that Al Qaeda gets its motivation and support because America stations troops in Saudi Arabia. They don’t have the cultural awareness to understand that all humans are similar, and no one likes foreigners invading their country.
Sure, the American military is the most just, most humane military to ever walk the earth. (It doesn’t have much competition.) We have more restrictive ROE and adhere to Just War better than almost any military ever. That doesn’t mean we don’t still kill and destroy people and things. And foreigners hate that (being killed).
Are there solutions for this problem? The usual. Learn foreign languages. Travel to foreign countries and meet the people. Most of all, know that most cultures are more similar than different.