Remember when I posted
about this WWII guide for American soldiers in Iraq
(that link is a PDF to the whole thing)? University of Chicago Press is publishing it
, and I guess it's selling well:
Perhaps even more shocking than the book's discovery has been its success. Re-published just a few weeks ago and selling for $10 a copy, the book is already in its second printing and the press is planning for at least a third printing and probably more, a feat for any academic publisher more accustomed to narrow-interest academic and reference books.
Too bad it didn't sell well before
The book includes an updated foreword from Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, who served in Iraq with the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. He writes about wishing he read the book before going to Iraq's Al Anbar province in 2003.
"Some of the guidance in this little book is eerie to anyone who has fought in Iraq recently," he wrote in the introduction. "It is almost impossible, when reading this guide, not to slap oneself on the forehead in despair that the Army knew so much of the Arabic culture and customs, and of the importance of that knowledge for achieving military success in Iraq, six decades ago -- and forgot almost all of those lessons in the intervening years."
Nagl says it would have been helpful to know that there could be an uptick in violence during the holy month of Ramadan, which he experienced during his unit's deployment. If military leaders had read the 1943 guide, they also may have better recognized the power of the tribal leaders, known as sheiks, and especially the importance of allying with the Sunni leaders.
I doubt it would have ultimately changed the overall dynamic if our troops knew a little more. An occupying army is an occupying army even if they know a little bit about where they're occupying. But it couldn't have hurt, and it wouldn't have cost much. And the army already friggin' wrote the thing 65 years ago. You know, back when we actually planned our wars.