Monday, July 08, 2019

  • Monday, July 08, 2019
  • Elder of Ziyon
As we've mentioned many times before, one of the fundamental mistakes that Western analysts and leaders make when dealing with the Middle East is not understanding the honor/shame culture of Arab and Muslim societies.

Western Liberal thought is based on the idea that everyone is generally the same and thinks the same way. The concept that some people think in a fundamentally different way appears, on some level, to be racist, and therefore the truth is ignored. This leads to catastrophic results in the basic assumptions of how to deal with Arabs and Muslims. Westerners understand that they must not shame members of these societies but assume that this is more an etiquette issue than something that must be thoroughly understood - and that can be used to advantage.

The mistake of assuming that the other side thinks the same way is not only done by the Western side. A small story in the Iranian media illustrates this perfectly:
TEHRAN – The commander of the Civil Defense Organization said on Sunday that the U.S. has sent a message to Iran saying it wanted to conduct a limited strike against the country in order to save face after Iran shot down its drone.

“After the downing of its intruding drone, the United States told us through diplomatic intermediaries that it wanted to carry out a limited operation in an unimportant and deserted region to save face and asked us to avoid giving them a response, but Iran said it would regard any operation as the initiation of a war,” Mehr quoted Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali as saying.

Jalali censured Washington’s warmongering rhetoric against Tehran, saying any move against the integrity of Iran will be firmly dealt with.
This general is giving a message to his people - not only has Iran shamed the US by shooting down the drone, but that the US was anxious to save face by humbly begging Iran for permission to retaliate symbolically. Proud Iran, of course, rejected this request, thereby further humiliating the Americans.

(There is little more comical than claiming that Donald Trump can be shamed.)

Iran's definition of victory is humiliation. Westerners look at this as a quaint cultural quirk and refuse to understand how fundamental this thinking is.

The proper response to any conflict with states that are so wedded to the idea of honor/shame is to calibrate responses to maximize shame. Iran isn't afraid of some US bombs per se; but they are very afraid if the response to their aggression makes them look weak or incompetent. So any military response would have to emphasize that Iran's defenses are poor, and therefore shameful. Iran's rhetoric should not be ignored nor should it be responded to in kind - it must be ridiculed to the world. Iranians should be made into a joke.

Right now, Iran is testing the waters to see how Europe will respond to their explicit violations of the nuclear agreement. So far Europe has failed that test by clinging onto the hope that, behind the scenes, Iran might change its mind. This is a major mistake. Europe must say that the slightest violation will result in a major economic retaliation. Their failure to do so has shamed them, in Iran's eyes, and therefore they have lost their influence - the very thing that they believe they are maintaining by their position. Iran now has proven that it can act with impunity and Europe will meekly beg for scraps. Iran controls the EU.

The honor/shame culture isn't something to be treated as unimportant as table manners. How one responds to aggression must include how to judiciously use shame as a weapon that is just as important as bombs and sanctions.

Their Middle Eastern fear of shame is a resource that the West must add to its arsenal.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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