W. Thomas Smith, Jr

In Part I of our exclusive two-part interview with Brigadier General Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team in Iraq, we covered a variety of topics as they relate to the standing-up of the new Iraqi Army. Among those were Iraqi soldier motivations (Why do they fight?), Iraqi Army strengths and weaknesses, and problems associated with training Iraqi soldiers. Bolger also explained why Iraq is not devolving into ‘civil war’ – as some have suggested – in the purest definition of the term. Additionally, he says, the recent bloody infighting between domestic insurgents and foreign-led “Al Qaeda in Iraq” (also known as “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia”) is a real opportunity for the new Iraqi government.

In Part II, Bolger discusses the so-called “Arab mind,” Iraqi perceptions of soldierly virtues, U.S. troop morale, what Americans back home might be surprised to know, and why the U.S. and its allies will ultimately defeat the insurgency in Iraq.

WTSjr: Westerners often talk about “the Arab mind” and how it is different than the Western mind. In that sense, is their perception of the soldierly virtues – things like courage and honor – different from our own? And would you elaborate on Iraqi perceptions of courage and honor.

BOLGER: I do not subscribe to an Arab mind or ‘an Oriental mind’ – with apologies to the late General of the Army Douglas MacArthur – or anything like that. The daily lesson I get is that Iraqis are individuals. Sure, they have cultural views based on their upbringing. Who doesn’t?

In Iraq, years of isolation and repression have made a lot of people here especially insular, magnifying this region’s tendency to value strong extended family ties. When you can’t trust the government – Ottomans, British mandate, Ba’athist socialists, and then the ultimate Ba’athist dictator, Saddam – you go with whom you can trust. People here rely on the family, writ large, sometimes called “tribes” in recognition of their size: thousands of relatives claiming kinship.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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