Nov 17, 2007

On the Uses of Cultural Knowledge

A new study from the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College deals with "Human Terrain" requirements for COIN, and the need for American political leadership (especially the current national command) to develop a better comprehension of the nature of U.S. security interests.

On the Uses of Cultural Knowledge [38-page pdf], by Dr. Sheila Miyoshi Jager.

The aim of this monograph is two-fold. First, it attempts to distinguish between the various "levels" of cultural knowledge and how they are used at various levels of warfare—strategy, operations, and tactics. Although not mutually exclusive, cultural knowledge informs these distinct levels in different ways. For example, the kinds of cultural knowledge that are required at the tactical level (e.g., the cultural knowledge of specific customs) is quite separate from the kinds of cultural knowledge that are required to formulate grand strategy and policy.

Second, the monograph attempts to explore how cultural knowledge might help to redefine an overarching strategy on counterinsurgency. While the military has been at the forefront of significant new and innovative thinking about operations and tactics, revising its old doctrines on the fly, America's political leaders have failed to provide the necessary strategic framework to guide counterinsurgency. The innovative insights about cultural knowledge adapted in operations and tactics by our military leaders have so far not yielded any comparable innovations from our political leaders. While the use of cultural knowledge is transforming military operations and tactics in significant and revolutionary ways, this same knowledge is not being adapted by our political leaders to help redefine a compelling new strategy for counterinsurgency.

The monograph concludes by suggesting four distinct ways in which cultural knowledge can work to help redefine an overarching strategic framework for counterinsurgency.

1. Reconceptualizing the "war on terror" not as one war, but as many different wars.

2. Focusing less on the moral distinctions between "us" and "them"—a major centerpiece of the Bush Doctrine—and more on the differences between "them."

3. Building support and relationships among both friendly and adversary states by taking into account how other societies assess risks, define their security, and perceive threats.

4. Building support for counterinsurgency among America's civilian leaders. Especially amid the domestic acrimony spawned by the Iraq War, inadequate coordination between military and nonmilitary power will severely hamper U.S. counterinsurgency capabilities. Cultural knowledge of both military and civilian institutions is therefore vital if the coordination between them is to be effective.

No comments: