Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review: Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during Would War II

Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II

This small book(let) prepared for American servicemen stationed in Iraq during the Second World War is in its own way a masterpiece. The "voice" in which it is written is friendly and easy to understand and it is informative without being condescending. Individuals writing training manuals for governments and institutions today would do well to study this (among other manuals and booklets released during the war) for tips on how to write clear and useful instructions without descending into jargon and writing down to one's audience.

Reading it gives one insight into what was considered normal among American servicemen in 1943. For example, its readers are admonished not to "show race prejudice" because the Iraqis "draw very little color line," and soldiers are advised not to approach women on the streets not only to avoid offending Iraqis but also because that is not where the prostitutes could be found. The underlying presumption is that the men reading the booklet do draw more than a little color line and will attempt to locate prostitutes.

But the book also can surprise with its determined resistance to what is now called "mission creep" and cultural colonialism:
Sure, there are differences...But what of it? You aren't going to Iraq to change the Iraqis. Just the opposite. We are fighting this war to preserve the principle of "live and let live." (5)
Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl writes in the modern day introduction
I wish that I had read it before beginning my own yearlong tour of Al Anbar in late 2003!
and I imagine that many of the pundits I hear every day on television would do well to read it before next they share they thoughts on the US involvement in Iraq.

It is short and aimed at someone with no more than a high school education so I think that they could manage it.

1 comment:

  1. There were a whole series of these for all of the places that US soldiers might be based over the course of the war. The one for France (IIRC) included questions and answers like: Q: "When we first arrived, the French people broke out the best brandy and gave GIs nice meals. Now, we get dirty looks and re-heated rations. What gives?" A: "Perhaps, when the GIs first arrived, the French people brought out the good food and drink they had been saving for liberation. Now that saved food is gone, but we are still here. Rations are all they have to offer." There was a discussion of the role the French played during the US War of Independence, and a note on the provenance of the Statue of Liberty too.


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