Ever since World War II there have been a growing number of advocates for CI (Cultural Intelligence, also known as "cultural topography") within the U.S. military. This sort of thing involves the study, analysis and understanding of the cultural traditions, habits and beliefs of opponents, allies, and even the U.S. This is all part of an effort to seek better insight into what all concerned are capable of and who is likely to do what next.
In the United States the cultural intelligence found a home in the U.S. Army Special Forces, an organization that grew out of the World War II OSS (Office of Strategic Services). The CIA also evolved out of the OSS. Despite the success of the OSS that organization created a lot of enemies within the U.S. and was deactivated soon after the World War II ended in 1945. It did not take long for the OSS to be missed and thus the CIA and Special Forces were created by 1950.
Until the arrival of cheap and powerful computers, huge amounts of data available from all over the world and analysis software to mine (not just data mining) all this is was difficult to get people (especially military and government bureaucrats) to appreciate how important and useful CI actually was. During World War II the OSS used CI successfully a lot as have many others have throughout history. Same with the Special Forces during Vietnam and in subsequent conflicts. Gradually the senior military and intelligence officials began to accept the importance and usefulness of CI. After the 1990s the data mining and other analysis of large quantities of data from different cultures made it difficult to dismiss CI as irrelevant and not useful.
Case in point is the use in CI in determining the causes of the current outbreak of Islamic terrorism and possible solutions. That effort has encountered problems because CI frankly discusses firmly held myths. Take for example the fact that most Moslem victims of war and terrorism are killed by other Moslems and despite over half a century of animosity towards Israel by a larger, and because of oil income, quite wealthy Arab coalition, Israel not only still exists but thrives compared to its Arab opponents. By every measure the much reviled Jews have done better than the Arabs. To explain away this Israeli success it is accepted fact (by most Arab leaders, journalists and so on) that all this was only possible because of vast conspiracy engineered by the United States and the West in general. This is considered absurd in the West but is still widely accepted in the Arab world.
Unfortunately this key cultural difference is rarely mentioned in Western media. Yet any Western diplomat or businessman working in the Arab world quickly becomes aware of this different attitude and adjusts their own behavior to survive (or at least get the job done).
Until recently Arabs openly discussing these truths faced arrest or violence (often fatal) from those opposed to freely talking about a lot of forbidden subjects. But after decades of living the lies more and more Arabs, including many leaders and senior business, government and religious officials are mentioning the unmentionable. This discussion often includes pointing out those Arab states that seem to be doing better; like Dubai and some other states like the UAE/United Arab Emirates are the ones that take a more “Western” approach to things. Naturally the successful Arab states are much less corrupt, better run and, well, more like Israel (but without lots of Jews).
In the past reference, especially by Israelis or Westerners, to cultural differences to explain Arab problems was immediately jumped on by political demagogues and media pundits worldwide as a racist remark. But it was never that and now that is more obvious because as Arab leaders have been openly discussing the same problem. Those discussions are often ignored by the demagogues and pundits, especially in the West. More's the pity because there is a cultural crisis in the Arab world in particular and the Moslem world in general and it is very serious, very real and very explainable. The result of this crisis is a lack of economic, educational and political performance. By whatever measure you wish to use; Nobel prizes, patents awarded, books published or translated, GDP growth, the Arabs have fallen behind the rest of the world. Part of the problem is the Arab tendency to blame outsiders, and to avoid taking responsibility. Tolerating tyranny and resistance to change doesn't help either. Those attitudes are shifting, and for most of the last decade the war in Iraq became the center of this cultural battle.
Arabs, even Arab leaders, know they need some changes that actually work. They have tried so many different ideas that don’t work, as well as repeating ancient customs (dictatorship and rampant corruption and exploitation of your own people) that don’t work no matter how often you keep at it, that radical (for the Arab world) ideas are becoming acceptable. But it isn’t easy. The corruption and general lack of a “civic society” seem to alien to most Arabs that it appears impossible for such alien ideas to work. CI has made it more obvious to Arab, and Western, leaders why this is so and that a lot of effort will be required to enact real, lasting and effective reform. Such change is strong medicine for the current Arab leadership, and many would rather just talk about it and go no further. And that is the problem in the Arab world. Islamic terrorism is the result.