The Department of Defense is developing new methods for fighting in heavily populated areas, based on recent experience in Iraq. The new methods pay a lot of attention to how to best deal with civilians. In the past, only the Army Special Forces talked about the need for carefully examining the social landscape of urban areas, and then deploying civil affairs troops right behind the combat units, to immediately take care of any damage to the social structures, and to insure that the locals became, as much as possible, friendly to American troops.
Despite the shortage of American troops with needed language skills, you can still do a lot in promptly dealing with local civilians, and their formal, and informal, organizations. There have been officers in the army and marines who have been suggesting this approach for years. But now there is the recent experience in Iraq to demonstrate that there are many opportunities to do things differently, and more effectively.
The American armed forces have an advantage in making these kinds of reforms, because they have the Army Special Forces, the only military unit in the world that constantly trains to work with foreign cultures. Over the decades, especially since the 1980s, Special Forces techniques have been spreading to the regular army. The marines always had these attitudes, developed separately via many peacekeeping operations during the first four decades of the 20th century.
The key to the new tactics is simply collecting lots of information about the local civilians, and how they think and operate. The U.S. Army Special Forces has developed techniques for this, and now more people are, literally, checking around with the locals before doing any shooting. This can be dangerous, because some of the locals may be shooting at you. But it pays big dividends when the fighting does get underway.