Tactical Iraqi

Finally, the military comes out with a video game I can support.* The new game, called "Tactical Iraqi," does not feature any violence but does put soldiers into realistic situations in order to train them about Iraqi customs. The goal is to reduce unintended offenses caused by misunderstandings and cultural differences.

Misunderstanding nonverbal cues such as proximity while speaking, handshakes and subtle gestures like bowing the head or placing one's hand over the heart can create or destroy trust, says Hannes Vilhjalmsson, the project's technical director. "There is a whole sequence of things that has to happen in connection with what you are saying, and it's that kind of rich context of interaction that we are trying to re-create in the virtual environment," he says.

Cultural taboos unknown to Americans can also lead to problems. For example, in Iraq, introducing yourself without also introducing everyone else with you is impolite. Vilhjalmsson recounts one situation in which an Iraqi man gestured to a female soldier by rubbing his fingers together. It was meant to indicate friendship, but the soldier interpreted the action to have an offensive sexual connotation.

Many new soldiers have little, if any, international experience, says Lt. Christopher Seeley of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School. "An 18-year-old who joins the military might be in a foreign land for the first time and think that everyone does it like we do in America," Seeley says.

You could argue that showing the soles of your feet is small potatoes compared to driving tanks around, and you'd have a point. But at least it's a start. I'm sure many moderate Iraqis would be favorably impressed by American attempts to be more polite, and would by association be warmer to American suggestions like not letting Islamist parties run the show.

The military seems only slowly to be discovering that having troops in Iraq now is not like having troops in Germany in 1946. Germany was a Western nation with Western customs, and most Germans seem to have been thankful for the American presence (at least for a while). Even now Germans view the Nazi period as a shameful aberration from their otherwise civilized existence. Iraq is terra incognita, and troops don't have too much common ground with the Iraqi people. Helping them not to inadvertently offend the locals is a grand idea.

The two things I'd like to see in Iraq are 1. the smallest possible amount of violence, and 2. the swiftest possible withdrawal. The game seems like it can only help with 1, and probably marginally aid 2. Fine by me.


* (For an example of a military video game that's just plain wrong, Google "America's Army" so that I don't have to get put on somebody's watchlist for linking to it.) Share this

What's wrong with America's

What's wrong with America's Army? I'm assuming you're not talking about the quality of the game (originally rubbish, but now vastly improved). I also don't think you're talking about military games in general, and if you are, that's unfortunate, they're among the most innovative out there these days. The line is blurring anyways - you can unlock the military training version of Full Spectrum Warrior (highly recommended, the new one isn't so good though).

I guess you could complain that the military is using our taxpayer dollars to produce a game, but America's Army is only a miniscule portion of the military's budget.

Maybe it's product placement? But that isn't right either - corporations use it all the time. Granted, the military can be considered more coercive then any corporation, but no one is forcing anyone to download the game.

Of course it's not

Of course it's not publicized and no one ever knows this because we wouldn't want to say good things about the military. So, I'm going to try. I served in the military in the 80's and early 90's. Including serving in Desert Storm. When I got stationed in Germany, I went through a two week course that taught rudimentary German (please, thank you, where's the train station, that sort of thing) and the basics of their customs. A week or two after we deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield the Army gave us training in the customs and culture of the Middle East. Same when troops went to Bosnia, Somalia, etc.

Regardless of what I think of those uses of American military, I think due credit needs to be given. The leadership of the American military recognizes that their presence in those countries is disruptive, in and of itself. It's made ten times worse by American soldiers giving offense because of ignorance of culture, customs and mores.

This isn't something brand new Randall, but you would never know it by listening to the media, which views (and portrays) the American military as reincarnations of Nazi Stormtroopers.