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President Obama’s Iranian Outreach and the Culture of Honor

If you haven’t already you should really check out Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers.”  It’s an outstanding work on exceptional-ism and how where we come from, our cultural heritage, dictates a good deal of the opportunities and success we may or may not have. 

In one chapter Gladwell discusses the culture of honor immigrants from Scotland brought with them to America; specifically to Kentucky and other similar rural states of the American Midwest.  Basically the culture of honor filters a good deal of social interactions with an eye toward compliments, insults, displays of strengths and weakness.  

The culture of honor is pervasive throughout the Middle East and many seem to have particular interests in displays of weakness; which brings to mind President Obama’s recent declaration this week in his first full interview. 

During the interview he said that, “…all too often the United States starts by dictating…” in our interactions with the Middle East.  Moreover, it was leaked that his administration is writing a letter aimed at warming relations between the U.S. and Iran.  The letter is, “intended to allay the ­suspicions of Iran’s leaders and pave the way for Obama to engage them directly.”

While it is too early to tell for sure what the outcome will be from these efforts, if the culture of honor tells us anything both of these gestures might just prove to leaders in the Middle East to be signs of weakness.  IF that is the case then we can expect more demands and shows of aggression from these regimes. 

 

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