(This is a picture taken of Human Terrain specialists. A friend of the Casbah once told me over a Beiruti beach day that when she did this work in Iraq, the Iraqis felt better talking to her when she wore dress clothes, not military camouflage.)
Non-kinetic warfare: You can't just kill your way out.
As far as the US military is concerned, this is too bad. Not because they are a brazen bunch of killers, but because the US military--to use a sweeping generalization--is a conventional force. And they specialize in taking down other conventional forces (I.E Saddam's Iraq, part I and II).
So what happens when you send a troop of US Marines into a place like Iraq or Afghanistan and the regime crumbles almost faster by the threat of US power than its firepower? Answer: You get the . Non-conventional. Insurgency.
The truth is that most of our "Johny Utah's" in the armed services don't care or understand the local culture of wherever they are fighting. However, they aren't to blame. They are trained to use weapons. Period. And while there are notable exceptions to this, the current task of population-centric counterinsurgency--that is based around wining over and protecting the civilian population--is severely harmed by the fact that US forces are simply not trained for working with average Mohammads on the street.
So what do you do? Human Terrain Systems is a $40 million program that integrates civilian experts with US troops to win hearts and minds.
Regardless of whatever you think about this controversial program, there is an interesting new movie coming out about the nature of this notion. (Many academics have complained that this is just an Avatar-like charade that seeks to exploit rather than understand local cultures.)
I say watch the trailer and decide for yourself...