the Spanish American War, the U.S. has been providing its troops, headed
overseas, with helpful advice on how to behave with the unarmed foreigners they
might encounter. By World War II, this had progressed from lectures to printed
handouts. By Vietnam, there were small cards you could stick in your shirt
pocket. These might also contain useful phrases, in the local language, for off
the battlefield use. A separate crib sheet provided foreign language phrases
for use on hostile troops.
But it was non-hostile
foreigners the troops had the most contact with. Today, troops headed for Iraq
and Afghanistan not only get lectures (often by Iraqis and Afghans) and
"Culture Smart Cards," but also software simulations. These last items allow
the troops, most of whom grew up with video games, the opportunity to see how
well they could cope with strange people they could not just kill with a wide
variety of exotic weapons. Many troops get into this new learning experience,
but a large minority are put off by all these exotic and confusing foreigners,
and just stand aside, weapons ready, just in case.
It's hard to calculate how
effective these cultural awareness efforts have been. The cases where there is
obviously little cultural awareness, are more likely to make it to the news.
But internal surveys indicate that the cultural awareness programs, now over a
century old, do have a positive effect. Which is why there are more and more of
A typical Culture Smart
Card can be found here.