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Thanks to the worldwide spread of U.S. popular culture, U.S. troops abroad may find that our reputation precedes us — in rather distorted ways. “Iraqis learn about America from television, if you start to think about it,” Ms. Rush says. “Imagine if people whose only exposure to us is ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ or ‘Baywatch,’ not to mention the cop shows. Either we [Americans on TV] are killing each other in assorted ways or spending millions and living in mansions.”

The effort to show sensitivity to a country’s culture goes back to World War II, she asserts, but is now getting “renewed emphasis and recognition” as “part of our strategy and practice after archeology dropped off the radar screen in the intervening years.”

Showing respect is central to this view. “It’s important to remind troops never to paint logos onto historic places,” she says. “Military units like to put symbols of themselves wherever they are. One of the lessons now would be to remember to choose wisely. The symbol identifies you, so you will be known.”