August 20, 2005

Cultural Misunderstanding?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The final line in this story about the new Iraqi constitution caught my eye...

"I expect that the constitution would be finished before Monday," Sunni negotiator Saleh al-Mutlaq said. "Negotiations are still under way and everybody is determined to finish it before the deadline."

He said American and British officials were pressing the Sunnis to compromise on the issues of federalism and other topics. "Americans are more concerned about the sacred deadlines rather than the contents of the constitution," Mutlaq said

We Westerners are known for being more uptight about times and deadlines (the nice way we say this about ourselves is that "we place high value on punctuality") than many other cultures of the world. The Arab world, at least anecdotally, is less inclined towards punctuality. Here's Berlitz on the topic...
Punctuality is not considered a virtue in the Arab world.
You'll find similar sentiments in almost any guide for doing business with the Arab world.

The Iraqis drafting their new constitution may not really understand, deep in their hearts, how important hitting exact deadlines is to the minds of Americans and Europeans. Let's hope a cultural difference like this doesn't end up unnecessarily derailing the Iraqi democratization process.

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Right about the irrational focus on deadlines instead of content.

We have fought and given up 1800 dead for a democracy, and now find we have been lied to and are going to have to settle for a secular govt. Even Saddam's Iraq was not secular.

Posted by: Jack D at August 21, 2005 10:29 PM