Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq During World War II

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Overview

“American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis like American soldiers or not.”
 
The U.S. military could certainly have used that bit of wisdom in 2003, as violence began to eclipse the Iraq War’s early successes. Ironically, had the Army only looked in its own archives, they would have found it—that piece of advice is from a manual the U.S. War Department handed out to American servicemen posted in Iraq back in 1943.

The advice in Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II, presented here in a new facsimile edition, retains a surprising, even haunting, relevance in light of today’s muddled efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds. Designed to help American soldiers understand and cope with what was at the time an utterly unfamiliar culture—the manual explains how to pronounce the word Iraq, for instance—this brief, accessible handbook  mixes do-and-don’t-style tips (“Always respect the Moslem women.” “Talk Arabic if you can to the people. No matter how badly you do it, they will like it.”) with general observations on Iraqi history and society. The book’s overall message still rings true—dramatically so—more than sixty years later: treat an Iraqi and his family with honor and respect, and you will have a strong ally; treat him with disrespect and you will create an unyielding enemy.

With a foreword by Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl reflecting on the manual’s continuing applicability—and lamenting that it was unknown at the start of the invasion—this new edition of Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq will be essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of Iraq and the fate of the American soldiers serving there.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal -- Washington Wire blog
"The University of Chicago Press has a hot book on its hands, with some solid advice for U.S. military in Iraq: .. . 'American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis . . . like American soldiers or not,' the book admonishes. The advice, which sounds like it could be lifted from a lesson book from the war on terror, was actually written 65 years ago during World War II."

— Greg Jaffe

Chicago Tribune
The University of Chicago Press has a hot book on its hands, with some solid advice for U.S. military in Iraq: .. . 'American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis . . . like American soldiers or not,' the book admonishes. The advice, which sounds like it could be lifted from a lesson book from the war on terror, was actually written 65 years ago during World War II.

— Jodi S. Cohen

Los Angeles Times
A historical oddity that sheds a certain unintended light upon our current woes.”

— David L. Ulin

Boston Globe
In 1943, the Army published this junior Baedeker to help U.S. grunts who were utterly unfamiliar with the land in which they were serving. In prose notable for its E.B. White economy (and Saturday Evening Post-style ingenuousness), the guidebook urges soldiers to respect the traditions and mores of their hosts. After all, says the anonymous author, ‘American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. It may not be quite that simple. But then again it could.’”

— Christopher Shea

New Yorker online
The essential message is to show respect. . . . Why wasn’t this the ‘commander’s intent’ when Americans returned to Iraq sixty years later?”

— George Packer

Washington Post
The surprise hit book of the summer.”

— Al Kamen

Harper's
Those despairing of American policymakers' mistakes in Iraq . . . may find some solace in this amazing little booklet. . . . It's a treasure chest of information. And the bottom line for the piece couldn't be clearer: we didn't used to be so stupid.

— Scott Horton

Military Review
Leaders, soldiers, and historians alike will be captivated by this simple yet so remarkable cultural guidebook.

— LTC Steve Leonard

World

"If only U.S. military personnel from 2003 on had something similar. . . . The 44-page booklet is the most succinct summation of Iraqi culture for Americans anywhere anytime."
Wall Street Journal — Washington Wire blog
The University of Chicago Press has a hot book on its hands, with some solid advice for U.S. military in Iraq: .. . 'American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis . . . like American soldiers or not,' the book admonishes. The advice, which sounds like it could be lifted from a lesson book from the war on terror, was actually written 65 years ago during World War II.

— Greg Jaffe

Wall Street Journal -- Washington Wire blog - Greg Jaffe
"The University of Chicago Press has a hot book on its hands, with some solid advice for U.S. military in Iraq: .. . 'American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis . . . like American soldiers or not,' the book admonishes. The advice, which sounds like it could be lifted from a lesson book from the war on terror, was actually written 65 years ago during World War II."
Chicago Tribune - Jodi S. Cohen

"The University of Chicago Press has a hot book on its hands, with some solid advice for U.S. military in Iraq: .. . 'American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis . . . like American soldiers or not,' the book admonishes. The advice, which sounds like it could be lifted from a lesson book from the war on terror, was actually written 65 years ago during World War II."

Los Angeles Times - David L. Ulin

“A historical oddity that sheds a certain unintended light upon our current woes.”

Boston Globe - Christopher Shea
“In 1943, the Army published this junior Baedeker to help U.S. grunts who were utterly unfamiliar with the land in which they were serving. In prose notable for its E.B. White economy (and Saturday Evening Post-style ingenuousness), the guidebook urges soldiers to respect the traditions and mores of their hosts. After all, says the anonymous author, ‘American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. It may not be quite that simple. But then again it could.’”
New Yorker online - George Packer

“The essential message is to show respect. . . . Why wasn’t this the ‘commander’s intent’ when Americans returned to Iraq sixty years later?”

Washington Post - Al Kamen

“The surprise hit book of the summer.”
Harper's - Scott Horton

"Those despairing of American policymakers' mistakes in Iraq . . . may find some solace in this amazing little booklet. . . . It's a treasure chest of information. And the bottom line for the piece couldn't be clearer: we didn't used to be so stupid."
Military Review - LTC Steve Leonard

"Leaders, soldiers, and historians alike will be captivated by this simple yet so remarkable cultural guidebook."
Library Journal

In 1943, as part of its global World War II deployments, the United States stationed troops in Iraq. The brief handbook issued then, and now offered in facsimile, shows the army apprising troops of what to expect in Iraq and sketches its ethnic and religious makeup. Its primary purpose was to foster caution in interacting with a complex society with which Americans were unfamiliar. Sixty years later, the U.S. Army returned to Iraq, this time to defeat the Iraqi armed forces and assist in installing a new regime. The defeat of the Iraqi forces was quick and thorough, but the creation of a new political order was not. Faced with an insurgency in the wake of the conventional campaign, the United States floundered, hoping that it could translate its conventional superiority into success against an enemy that fought an unconventional war. The new Counterinsurgency Field Manualattempts to offer a formula for success. Its basis is that counterinsurgency warfare is a political struggle that has a military component, rather than a strictly military campaign. Counterinsurgency war is a struggle for legitimacy; the host government and its American allies must provide security and at least basic services in order to earn the population's confidence. The insurgents need merely to undermine the government by whatever means they can. The currently operative manual explains that American service personnel must be able quickly and precisely to calibrate their actions to a given situation. Ironically, our armed forces today find themselves needing the type of cultural sensitivity that was considered an obvious ingredient for success in 1943. It is likely that the new field manual will be in usefor some time, and that the World War II instructions will often be cited as a comparison to it. Both are recommended for academic and public libraries.
—Richard Fraser

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226841700
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/20/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 64
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl commands the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor at Fort Riley, Kansas. He is the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
What Is This Iraq?       
Meet the People
The Country
The Moslems
Iraqi Customs and Manners
The Language
Climate and Health
Currency, Weights and Measures
Some Important Do’s and Don’ts
Hints on Pronouncing Arabic
Useful Words and Phrases
A Glossary

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