The information in this section was extracted from an
article written by a Spanish infantry captain. It deals
with the characteristics of the Moslem soldier in Spanish
Morocco and how to get along with him.1 Basically, this
soldier is very much like Moslem soldiers in other parts
of North Africa; therefore, it is believed that a study of
him will aid our troops who come in contact with Moslems
in the African theater of operations.
Centuries of warfare have developed notable military virtues
in the Moroccans. They are born warriors, and possess in the
highest degree the characteristics of a perfect infantry soldier. They
are industrious and economical, good walkers and runners,
agile, well disciplined, strong, good at hand-to-hand fighting,
tenacious in defense, and pitiless in attack. They possess, moreover, an
enviable instinct for making the most of opportunities
offered by the terrain, fully exploiting them in retreat as well as
Military forces made up of such elements must naturally be
excellent; but it takes skillful veteran officers to command them.
The Moroccan is not urged on by the sentiments that inspire
the Spanish soldier, such as patriotism, sense of duty, self-denial,
spirit of sacrifice, and so forth. He does his work, nearly always
because of the inspiration and personal magnetism of his leader,
and such leadership is fostered only by the leader's display of
intelligence, force of will, rectitude, skill, and, above all, valor.
Aside from his military qualities, the Moroccan soldier possesses
other characteristic traits that his officers should know: He is
haughty and proud because, being a Moslem, he believes that his
religion and his race are superior to all others; he is distrustful,
because deep down in his heart he is convinced that every action
in life has a selfish end in view; he is mercenary--of necessity and
as a natural defense against the unfailing greed of his neighbors;
and he is crafty, because since childhood he has had to keep constantly
on guard to defend his own interests and his family, in a
country where so far only cunning and force have carried the day.
As a result of these traits, the Moroccan soldier will seem complex
and difficult to a young officer. One simply must learn to
know him; and for that purpose one must observe him, study him,
and treat him accordingly.
In dealing with these troops it will be found quite profitable to
mingle to some extent with the subordinates, to enter into their
feelings and get to know them, demonstrating a suitable measure
of friendly confidence such as will afford opportunity for them to
present any claims or complaints they may have, or ask any
question that may be troubling them. Such consultations should
even include the soldier's personal affairs, and he should come to
his officers for help and advice. He may without doubt be
expected to do so, and perhaps more frequently than one might
wish, as soon as he notices that his officers lend an attentive ear
and take an interest. This trait, together with the characteristic
obstinacy of the Moroccan, may become a source of annoyance; but
there is no better way for an officer really to attach a Moroccan
soldier to his person and induce him to do his best in the faithful
performance of duties assigned.
The writer does not possess sufficient experience to offer substantial
advice, and we shall limit ourselves to quoting a few suggestions
from our lamented great master in matters Moroccan, none
other than General Capaz:
"Be extremely polite, since nothing could more easily wound a
Moslem than insolence or contempt. Be of firm character, without
weaknesses; and if you show indulgence, let it always be preceded
by punishment. Avoid insulting and angry speech. The
native chiefs never shout as they speak their sentences, and you
might set them a bad example.
"Wear correct uniforms, and avoid showy attempts at imitating
the dress of the natives.
"Be equitable in your decisions; because impartiality is for a
Moslem the height of justice.
"Always keep your word, and never go back on an agreement.
"Ask for a service in such manner that you would seem to be
asking for collaboration; and the service will be rendered more
"Respect the man's religion, and take care not to offend him. It
would be an outrage to their feelings for you to attempt to
explain to them a passage from the Koran, or to say that you have
a Koran in your possession.
"Pass in silence over their beliefs and superstitions. They will
tell you all sorts of funny superstitions; and you should not agree, or
disagree, or smile. Simply remark: 'That may be.'
"The so-called good Moroccan--who admires European things and possibly
speaks Spanish quite correctly, and who publicly advertises his
repugnance to his creed and takes alcohol freely--is, generally
speaking, not the type of man to be very much trusted.
"In your dealings with Moslem authorities, show them consideration; but
do not strike too great a note of familiarity with them. They will not
understand your condescension and will not fail to regard it
as a sign of weakness.
"Look with indifference upon events as they happen; if you
give too much praise, they will regard it as cringing.
"Don't talk about war; and if you do, avoid dwelling too much
on their cooperation or praise their valor and loyalty. If you
do not follow this advice, you will hear them saying later that
success was due entirely to their help.
"Do not lend your presence too readily at festivities, banquets, or
more casual entertainment in your behalf; because the invitation
will, as a rule, be followed by some request for a favor.
"There is one thing in particular that the young officers must
keep in mind. Upon arrival, they will readily find admirers. But
do not abandon yourself to your vanity. Servility is only
one of their modes of intrigue; and a Moslem is addicted
to intrigue so much that it constitutes part of his character
no less than the Yibala is a regular part of his dress.
"In cases of doubt or hesitation--and such cases are bound to
arise for a newly arrived officer--it will be necessary to suspend
judgment and consult.
"If the occasion arises, something will have to be done. If you
make a mistake you will lose prestige. If you confess your
ignorance, they will lose respect for you. Under such circumstances
one must nonchalantly pronounce certain magic words which can
be acquired from the natives and the purpose of which is to gain
time. For instance, 'We shall have to see... But let
me see... Tomorrow;' or simply make a promise, more or
less as follows: 'Don't worry... things are bound to go
right, if it is the Lord's will...,' and so forth."