Commentary

October 5, 2012

Cultural battlegrounds: Why culture matters in Global War on Terror

by Dr. William L. Dulaney
Air Force Culture and Language Center

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. — In every culture, there exists the possibility of a mob of people that could be easily compelled to action by others who know how to disrupt peaceful times. Understanding culture, for the military professional, should be thought of as the art and science of understanding cause and effect in social contexts.

In operational contexts, culture is human terrain, just as real as the ground on which we fight, the airspace we own and the seas we dominate. Culture subsumes, a people’s morals, values and ethics — what is beautiful, right and wrong; what people will or will not fight and die for. These are all aspects of culture that military professionals need to understand to be successful in 21st Century warfare.

Military information support to operations cannot produce effective media and/or conduct psychological operations without a working knowledge of what certain people regard as pleasing to the eye, ear or heart.

Understanding what people consider right or wrong is as important to the private on his first foot patrol through an Afghan village, as it is to the four-star general who makes a speech to another nation on international television.

The knowledge of what people are willing to fight and die for should be obvious. Sadly, it is not. Evidence is clear that the spate of Green-on-Blue shootings in Afghanistan is overwhelmingly caused by cultural transgressions. From refusing to urinate in private to condemnations of the Qur’an, we as a military seem not to understand that we sometimes cause our own problems.

Military professionals must not succumb to flimsy explanations, such as those tossed around on television, radio and internet news sources, that ‘those’ people are just ‘crazies.’ Fanatics exist in the form of extremists all around the globe. Many of them are lobbing Molotov cocktails, rocks and RPGs at our embassies and consulates across North Africa as I write this. However, one must ask him or herself — which is more likely? Is an entire culture of people crazy enough to be incited to violence by a poorly produced video clip downloaded from the Internet? On the other hand, are there are a few or maybe only one, individual or organization behind the violence?

Experience has shown that the latter is usually the case. One example is a band of bad actors that understand a culture so well that all they need do is search the Internet for the most effective stimulus to create a predetermined effect on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Leaders of extremist, Islamist and illicit organizations understand well that culture is a fire burning in the heart of every human. All one needs to do to make that fire erupt is fan the flames just a little, then sit back from a safe distance and watch. Watch as their small efforts spread across a region or even a continent. Watch as we Americans continue to try and explain what is happening while wearing the blinders of ethnocentrism, the belief that one’s own culture is inherently superior than others. Watch as we lose more American lives and treasure fighting an enemy that is overwhelmingly outmatched on every single plane of warfare.

So the challenge seems clear, military leaders of all ranks must strive to slash the irrelevant information away from the actual causes of deadly effects. To understand that it is impossible to fight an idea or ideology, but very possible to target our awesome military might on the specific bad actors perverting ideas and ideologies. To bring the fight to the few who are manipulating the many.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
breast-cancer-awareness

A story of survival and resilience

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — On April 16, 2007, I got a call no expecting mother would dream of receiving. “We got the results from your biopsy and it came back malignant.” Did the doctor just say I had cancer? I fi...
 
 

UltimateMe to help military families get healthier

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) is working with the Sharecare team to support the launch of UltimateMe, a secure, personalized online wellness platform to help members of the military community assess, manage and improve their health and performance. The new platform expands the access to wellness programs and resources for service members and...
 
 
U. S. Air Force artwork

Hundreds in 452nd held as POWs in WWII

U. S. Air Force artwork Depiction of a crippled B-17 settled on the ground. (Tenth in an 11-part series that was first run in the Beacon in 2007) More than 750 men from the 452nd Bombardment Group were shot down in B-17 Flying ...
 

 
Nuke-Medal-graphic

Air Force releases criteria for new service medal

U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Air Force officials released nomination criteria for the new Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, following Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James’ May 2...
 
 
DoD

Obama activates reserves for Operation United Assistance

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — President Barack Obama has authorized the Defense Department to call up a small number of National Guard or reserve troops that possess special skills needed to aid efforts in stopping the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa. Obama issued an executive order yesterday authorizing the secretaries of Defense and...
 
 
Halloween-Safety

Halloween safety tips for 2014

Here are a few safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission can protect children who plan to go trick-or-treating this Halloween. Costume Designs: Purchase or make costumes that are light and bright enough to be...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin