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.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo/Linda Welz

March Field Emergency Fire Services engineer remains calm at accident scene

U.S. Air Force photo/Linda Welz Engineer Mark Hanenberger, March Field Emergency Fire Services, March Air Reserve Base, shows the gloves he keeps in his personal vehicle in case of an emergency, which proved to be the case when...
 
 

Fourth of July fireworks safety tips

Many cities and communities in or near Riverside County provide spectacular fireworks displays for their residents. The operators of these displays are licensed and have permits issued by the State Fire Marshal. As a reminder (other than the licensed and permitted operators mentioned above), all fireworks (including sparklers) are illegal in Riverside County because they cause...
 
 
Mackenzie-Welz

How being a military dependent helped me prepare for my future

“You’re going to be the man of the house now,” are the words one may hear a military father tell his son before deployment. However, it’s different when the mom is the one leaving her daughter because of a deployment. S...
 

 
Watchara Phomicinda/LA Daily News staff photographer

Honor Guard members bury those who served

Watchara Phomicinda/LA Daily News staff photographer Members of the Blue Eagles Honor Guard practice with their training rifle at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. The new trainees must compl...
 
 
Vets-Access

Veteran’s Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014

Compliance by State – Map There is a recent change in the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”) that relates to the GI Bill Resident Rate Requirements. These new requirements will ensur...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kevin Mitterholzer

March Airman prepares for marksman competition

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kevin Mitterholzer Staff Sgt. Rodger E. Scrivner, communications specialist, 452nd Communications Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, participates in target practice at the Los Angeles Rifle and...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>