Hearts and minds absent from US Forces
In 2003, General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux boldly devised a plan to train US forces whilst serving in the Iraq War.
In his new autobiography, Taking Command, General David Richards outlines the attempt, that was made during the conflict, to aid the American effort in the Middle East.
US Hearts and Minds
The American military were described as having “little understanding of how to handle the post-conflict challenges”, which was supposedly apparent during their astringent approach to conversing with Iraqi locals.
Based on first-hand accounts, the US forces patrolled the streets in their shielded personnel carriers and tanks; whilst heavily arming themselves with guns and other weaponry.
A major mistake the Americans made whilst out in their convoys, was to cover their eyes with dark sunglasses. By doing so it became impossible to gain eye contact with the inhabitants, a basic skill to help gain trust.
Rather than politely mingling with the residents, it became evident that the ground forces were interested in maintaining a divide, as opposed to attempting in building a relationship.
Contrary to the American methods, the British soldiers were instructed that in order to successfully establish a strong rapport with the Iraqi natives, it was imperative to conduct themselves in a professional, yet welcoming manner.
General Richards would approach locals and immediately state that they are there to help, before communicating about trivial matters such as football, in order to make them feel comfortable.
The loud vehicles used by the US forces are hardly the most welcoming concepts for uncivilised societies to respond to; we all know how important first impressions are after all!
The checkpoints that were constructed during their observational patrols, seemed to be an excuse to ‘pop’ up some barbed wire and man the area appearing tough. Another example of their lack of hearts and minds.
Although military members of the United States honestly admitted they were unprepared for dealing with issues on the ground, a number of British Army officers spotted it was a concern that needed a solution.
After many meetings had taken place, it was decided amongst a select few members of the British military that their only option would be to intervene and offer their professional services.
As the idea to help rapidly grew, including the go ahead from the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the American General, who was initially skeptical after conceding “The Sun will make it look like the Brits have come to the rescue”.
General David Richards was quick to point out that there were definite risks included for the British soldiers, but that there were more potential gains for the coalition effort on the whole.
Whitehall, however, disagreed with the plan put in place, General Richards wrote that he felt they “concentrated on the risks but completely missed the point of the potential gains”.
Although a rather drastic comparison, it is important in the events industry to build relationships by being presentable and welcoming. Basic skills such as these go a long way.
General David Richard’s autobiography, Taking Command, will be released on Wednesday 9th October, 2014.
ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO BY JAMES O'ROURKE