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This paper is based on the topic of ethnic group conflict. The purpose of the paper is to explore the topic using the United States and Iraq conflict. Key issues which are tackled in the discussion include conformity, social perception and cognition and how they relate to the conflict, the effect of the conflict on the economy and human rights of the citizens of the two countries, and what needs to be done to bring the conflict to an end. At the end is a conclusion which ties up the main points of the discussion.
In terms of race, the United States is predominantly white, that is to say the whites are the dominant group. In terms of religion, majority of United States citizens are Christians. Culturally, the United States has what is referred to as western culture which is highly individualistic, meaning that the Americans are less concerned about others but more concerned about themselves. In terms of economy, the United States is perceived as the world’s super power in that it has a lot of influence on world’s affairs such as security, economy, fight against terrorism, democracy, trade and the environment.
On the other hand, Iraq is found in the Middle East. Its ethnic composition is the Iraqi people, who comprise three quarters of the entire population. Other ethnic groups include Kurds, Persians, Assyrians and Turkmen. The main language is Arabic. It is a leading oil producer in the world. In terms of religion, it is predominantly Islam with minority religions being Suni and Shia. Economically, the country is presumed to be wealthy due to its oil exports. The country has a history of dictatorial leadership.
The culture of the Iraqi people is majorly collectivist, which is characterized by communal ownership of property, high regard for each other and being concerned about group’s success than individual success. My understanding of the source of the conflict between the two countries is the issue of terrorism. There has been a perception that Muslims world-wide, and those in Iraq in particular are engaged in terrorism. The conflict was triggered by the allegation of the former United States President George W. Bush that the former Iraq President, Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world and to the Americans in particular. The allegation gained momentum at the wake of the terrorist attacks on the international trade center on the eleventh of September 2001.
In psychology, the concept of conformity is used to refer to the act of associating oneself with the beliefs, behaviors and actions of a dominant group. It happens unconsciously because human beings are programed in a manner which makes them want to be like the majority of the people in a society or group. It happens due to the fear of appearing as the odd one out. It therefore follows that people may conform to a particular behavior, not because the behavior is correct but because they want to be like the majority. For example, a person may join a cult due to peer influence.
People conform in three major ways namely compliance, internalization and identification. Conformity relates to United States ethnic group in that the United States citizens, being highly individualistic are not able to conform easily to anything which they do not belief in (Spradley & McCurdy, 2002). For example, there are some cases of homosexuality but that has not been adopted by majority of United States citizens. On the other hand, the Iraq ethnic group is easy to conform due to its collectivist culture. For example, there are high rates of suicide bombers in Iraq due to the high influence of religious extremism.
Social perception refers to the manner in which people make impressions of others and the conclusions they draw from those impressions. The central theme in social perception is interaction. Through interaction, people use both verbal and non verbal aspects of behavior to constitute perceptions about others. When something happens or when people observe something, they have various explanations for the same. In other words, people attribute every action or behavior to something else, meaning there is no action which happens without a triggering factor (Teiford, 2008).
Social cognition on the other hand refers to the process in which the human brain encodes, retrieves and processes information. When people observe something, for them to make a social perception, they rely on their social cognition which triggers the process of making sense of the observed behavior either through attribution or stereotyping (Hamilton, 2005).
Social perception and cognition apply to the United States ethnic group in that the citizens have a tendency of relying on stereotypes when dealing with non whites. They perceive all the blacks as stupid, all the whites as intelligent and all the Muslims as terrorists. It applies to the Iraq ethnic group in that the Iraq Muslims consider themselves as the only religion which has the right to kill others for religious extremism.
The conflict between the United States and Iraq is largely based on perceptions not on facts. The United States hold the belief that any Muslim is a terrorist. However, there is no research which has been done to prove that belief. On the other hand, the Iraqis have continued to wage a holy war especially to non Muslims or those Muslims who support United States ideology due to the belief that anybody who is not a Muslim is an enemy.
The conflict between the two countries culminated into the invasion of Iraq by the United States. The invasion led to massive violation of human rights, especially the killing of innocent Iraqi women, children and the elderly. The invasion also exposed many Iraq citizens to hardships such as lack of food, shelter, heath and education. Freedoms of worship and movement were also curtailed by the conflict. The conflict also led to the hanging of the former Iraq President Saddam Hussein, which human rights activists have argued that he was not accorded a fair trial.
The conflict also had serious economic implications on both countries. On its part, the United States spend a lot of money to sustain its military in Iraq for a couple of years. The United States also spend immensely in the reconstruction of the Iraq government by ensuring that there was a democratically elected government to replace the dictatorial government which had been in place for decades.
On the part of Iraq, the country’s economic infrastructure was completely destroyed. The destruction had serious implications, the major one being increased levels of poverty. Economic analysts have argued that it will take decades to rebuild the Iraq economy to the levels before the invasion by the United States.
One of the social perceptions which must be addressed to resolve the conflict between the two countries is the perception that all Muslims are terrorists. The reason is that the United States was moved to invade Iraq based on this perception. If the Americans could widen their fight against terrorism, they would be able to overcome it because they would be objective, which would enable them understand the root causes of terrorism and its relationship with Islam if any. By so doing, they would perceive the Iraq citizens not as enemies but as allies. The prejudice and stereotyping which has been associated with the Muslim society in the world has led to gross violation of human rights. Ironically, the United States has committed many acts of aggression but no action has been taken against it.
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The other perception which needs to be changed to resolve the conflict is the belief by the Iraq citizens that their greatest enemies in the world are Christianity and the Americans. They need to understand that all human beings are the same and that the differences in religion, race, color and culture are nothing but things which make us unique. They should learn to embrace diversity and tolerance to all people for peaceful coexistence. If these perceptions are addressed, then the two conflicting parties will be amazed to learn that their conflict is not based on facts but on mere perceptions informed by prejudices and stereotypes.
The United States ethnic group is majorly individualistic in nature while the Iraq people are collectivist in nature. The conflict between the United States and Iraq is based not on facts but on wrong perceptions and attitudes towards each other. The conflict has had serious economic and human rights implications on the two countries and the world in general. If the two countries could change their wrong perception about each other, such an action can go along way in resolving the conflict. There is need for the United States to stop labeling all Muslims as terrorists. There is also the need for the Iraqis to stop perceiving non Muslims and Americans as their enemies.
Hamilton, D.L. (2005). Social cognition: key readings. New York; Hove: Psychology. Web.
Spradley, J.P., & McCurdy, D.W. (2002).Conformity and conflict: readings in cultural anthropology. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson. Web.
Teiford, J.B. (2008). Social perception: 21st century issues and challenges. New York: Nova Science Publishers. Web.