But one factor, mentioned only in passing, highlights why it's so important that the Army as a institution develop a better understanding of the local population:
Soldiers' discomfort is compounded by the task of forging relations with people whom few trust, and who often make clear their dislike of the U.S. presence.
"All war is political, but usually privates and specialists don't have to think much about that part of it. In this conflict they do, to a much greater degree," Biddle said, referring to the community activities that troops have been drawn into. These include negotiating with tribal leaders who once harbored insurgents, striking deals with former insurgents to bring them into the Iraqi security forces, and listening to residents' complaints about lack of services.
"You have to help people despite the strong suspicion that lots of them mean you ill," Biddle said. "We're asking an awful lot of very, very young people."
The more we equip soldiers with knowledge of the population, the better prepared they are for this new type of mission. That understanding is equipment nearly as essential as a weapon or body armor.