Iraq


Again, despite having experience working in the Middle East I feel there are several blogs which contribute greater public discourse on the topic than I, considering I really only focus on that area a few days a week at most. One thing has recently caught my attention, however, with respect to the escalating situation with Iran.

Last week the administration couldn’t quite get its story straight with respect to the potential supply of weapons from Iranian special forces to Iraqi insurgents. Now one can look at various aspects of the media coverage over the past 6 months. One week Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is speaking about destroying Israel and the West, the next he wants diplomatic discussions. First they have a secret nuclear program, and then it is for peaceful purposes. Stories even run to the extreme on both sides of the fence from a conservative view that Iran wants to convert the world to Islam and a liberal interpretation that the US will conduct a false-flag attack on soldiers or sailors in the Gulf to justify limited bombing runs.

What I find interesting is the lack of reporting on the middle class democratic movement in Iran. Prior to the election of Ahmadinejad and the growing rhetoric on our two countries foreign policy, several stories were run discussing the US-Persian influence, via satellite on sympathetic ears inside Iran. The US government had even committed funds to support such efforts to expand the Iranian middle-class and expand the push for democracy. I have two questions: (1) where has the reporting on this situation gone and (2) have we succeeded in alienating the one constituency in Iran that may have supported us?

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I have an upcoming article on the Iraq War, Shades of Thermopylae, but I wanted to go ahead and pass on the link to a blog hosting an excellent documentary and comment section.

You can find that here (graphic content warning).

If the US media could pull themselves away from astronauts in diapers, Anna Nicole Smith’s death, and Britney Spears shaving her head and getting a tattoo and going panty-less we might actually learn something about foreign policy other than “stay the course.”

I refrained from writing any articles analyzing the numerous Superbowl commercials this year. With all the buzz around the big game and the commercials anyway I figured it would just be useless clutter. I did however want to draw attention a NY Times article that attempts to follow along the same lines as my regular Commercial Culture posts. They explore the idea that the level of violence in this years commercials, “cartoonish” as it may be, could reflect the toll the Iraq War is having on the American psyche.

No commercial that appeared last night during Super Bowl XLI directly addressed Iraq, unlike a patriotic spot for Budweiser beer that ran during the game two years ago. But the ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of many of this year’s commercials.

More than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous.

For instance, in a commercial for Bud Light beer, sold by Anheuser-Busch, one man beat the other at a game of rock, paper, scissors by throwing a rock at his opponent’s head.

In another Bud Light spot, face-slapping replaced fist-bumping as the cool way for people to show affection for one another. In a FedEx commercial, set on the moon, an astronaut was wiped out by a meteor. In a spot for Snickers candy, sold by Mars, two co-workers sought to prove their masculinity by tearing off patches of chest hair.

While I agree that it is likely that the images of war we see daily manifest themselves in ways we cannot immediately explain in our everyday lives; I think men ripping the hair from their chest after having accidentally kissed may be linked to other psychological issues rather than the current state of our foreign policy.

My personal favorite from last night and it appears was a big winner: Blockbuster’s Total Access Mouse

Related Posts:

Superbowl’s Appeal to the Younger Viewer?

The not so hidden costs of the Superbowl

There was a great post on ‘The Frontal Cortex‘ a few days ago related to one of the many potential problems our Commander-in-Chief is having with the Iraq War.

So what is Bush thinking? Why is he refusing to listen to the advice of his generals and the Joint Chiefs, who are against a troop surge? I think part of the answer is that admitting defeat and de-escalating the war (i.e., bringing the troops home) would simply be too painful a decision for Bush to make. Psychologists have a name for this phenomenon: loss aversion.

Not only will this serve to place another 20,000 US troops in harms way, but will also necessitate the increase in off-budget spending, growing Congressional appropriations beyond the staggering $355 billion mark.

This loss aversion has likely been reinforced to date by a variety of factors including groupthink. Groupthink occurs when groups are highly cohesive and under considerable pressure to produce quality decisions. It results in few alternatives, poor information gathering and lack of contingency plans. Groups have an illusion of invulnerability particularly following some noticeable successes. Sales teams, for example, have a tendency to develop over-inflated egos and extreme superiority upon achieving lofty goals.

Several ways to avoid groupthink have been recommended such as having impartial leaders and initiating a ‘Devil’s advocate’ within the group. Chen and Lawson (1996) discovered that groups with promotional leaders produced more symptoms of group think and discussed fewer facts than those with impartial leaders; findings that were corroborated by Ahlfinger and Esser (2001). The Devil’s advocate, however, warrants further study as present findings do not indicate any significant effects upon decision quality (Chen and Lawson, 1996).

In the case of the current administration, having several advocates in the military ranks from generals to a new Secretary of Defense have yielded few positive results. Perhaps from a broader perspective the American public needs to assume the role as the Devil’s advocate; a position it appears many took in the recent mid-term elections. Having been on the ground in Iraq for a brief period of time, I have the utmost respect for our military, its soldiers and their capabilities. It’s time we collectively address the biases behind their current mission and bring them home.

See related Heuristics of War and What Does Barack Obama Know About Behavioral Economics?