Perhaps some people skills would help?
This morning on my way to work, I heard this story on NPR. Basically, the reporter went to a village in the Diyala province of Iraq to interview the soldiers she'd spoken with some months earlier.
Progress in the village is taking quite some time, and the people of the village -- or at least the people who are left -- aren't particularly pleased with the US forces. One of the things that the military did was to shut down the village's bridge to motorized traffic. This has caused economic hardships for many of the storeowners. Most of them have shut up shop.
The reporter follows one solider (an officer) around town as he talks to locals. The officer speaks with one shop-owner who is leaving the village for good. When asked if he's leaving for good and why he's leaving, the shopowner explains that he will not come back, because the Americans have made it too difficult for him to run his shop.
(It's interesting that the reporter notes that this man does not look at the soldier.)
How does the American respond to this? (Remember that the Americans shut down the bridge, and despite suggesting that they'd open it to vehicular traffic again, they have yet to do it).
He responds with condescension and sarcasm. When he asks this shop-keeper about Al-Qaeda and the insurgency, the man doesn't have anything to say about them, because they don't hurt his business. But the closed bridge does. The soldier, obviously annoyed, says something to the effect of "so it's better to kidnap people and behead them?"
He also insists to the shop-keeper that it's unfair for him (the shop keeper) to describe the village (where he lives) as "his own," when he's not doing anything to get rid of the insurgents, but the American troops (and the Iraqis they're training) are trying to get rid of the insurgency (that has only grown more powerful in these provinces as the surge has pushed them out of Baghdad).
That's some good people skills. That's going to win over the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq.
(I understand that the Americans have not reopened the bridge because the road leading away from it passes by the base of operations for the US and Iraqi forces, but still ... perhaps it would have been a good idea to move that somewhere else?)
(Okay, okay. I admit that I didn't listen to the entire story, because this particular soldier's tone made me so incredibly uncomfortable.)