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page reviewed/updated 7 Dec 2010


It is a fundamental mistake to see the enemy as a set of targets. The enemy in war is a group of people. Some of them will have to be killed. Others will have to be captured or driven into hiding. The overwhelming majority, however, have to be persuaded.
--- Frederick Kagan, "War and Aftermath," Policy Review, Aug 03

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
--- Sun Tzu

The real target in war is the mind of the enemy commander, not the bodies of his troops.
--- Captain Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Thoughts on War, 1944

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
--- Albert Einstein

It can be very dangerous to see things from somebody else's point of view without the proper training.
--- in Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams

Need in General ___return to top

  • See also strategic culture

  • See also cultural intelligence

  • See also Peck's Postulates, a short primer on international relations and the importance of perceptions
    • First, there are NO absolutes; perception is everything. It is not what we say or even what we do that matters. The only thing that matters is how the other party(ies) PERCEIVE what we're doing - because that is what controls how they react. Differing perceptions do not make one side wrong and the other right, but they do dictate what does or does not happen.

  • See also 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report
    • The QDR identified capability gaps in each of the primary supporting capabilities of Public Affairs, Defense Support to Public Diplomacy, Military Diplomacy and Information Operations, including Psychological Operations. To close those gaps, the Department will focus on properly organizing, training, equipping and resourcing the key communication capabilities. This effort will include developing new tools and processes for assessing, analyzing and delivering information to key audiences as well as improving linguistic skills and cultural competence. These primary supporting communication capabilities will be developed with the goal of achieving a seamless communication across the U.S. Government.
    • Finally, by emphasizing greater cultural awareness and language skills, the QDR acknowledges that victory in this long war depends on information, perception, and how and what we communicate as much as application of kinetic effects. These cultural and language capabilities also enhance effectiveness in a coalition setting during conventional operations.

  • Cross-Cultural Skills for Deployed Air Force Personnel - Defining Cross-Cultural Performance, by Hardison et al, RAND report, 2009

  • On the Uses of Cultural Knowledge (local copy), by Jager, SSI, Nov 2007

  • Every Airman an Ambassador, 7 Feb 2007 Letter to Airmen, by the Honorable Michael W. Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force
    • "As your Secretary, I am committed to boosting your regional, cultural and language skills to make you a more capable Ambassador so that you can help build lasting long-term relationships with our allies and coalition partners."

  • Skills for a global mission: Culture and Language Center’s goal is training airmen to work anywhere, by Holmes, in Air Force Times, 20 Feb 2007

  • Iraq Study Group Report, 6 Dec 2006, from U.S. Institute of Peace
    • All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage. There are still far too few Arab language– proficient military and civilian officers in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. mission. [PDF page 92]
    • RECOMMENDATION 73: The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of National Intelligence should accord the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training, in general and specifically for U.S. officers and personnel about to be assigned to Iraq. [PDF page 92]
    • As mentioned above, an essential part of better intelligence must be improved language and cultural skills. As an intelligence analyst told us, “We rely too much on others to bring information to us, and too often don’t understand what is reported back because we do not understand the context of what we are told.” [PDF page 94]

  • Clausewitz in Wonderland, by Corn, in Policy Review, Sep 2006
    • Infatuation with technology has led in the recent past to rhetorical self-intoxication about Network-Centric Warfare and the concomitant neglect of Culture-Centric Warfare.

  • Airmen train to prepare for 'in-lieu-of' taskings (local copy), by Drinnon, Air Force Print News Today, 6 July 2006
    • Commonly referred to as "in-lieu-of," or ILO, taskings, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines from a cross-section of all military specialties are performing nontraditional missions to provide temporary augmentation.
    • The aim of ILO training is to prepare Airmen for nontraditional combat environments in support of the combatant commanders' requirements where Airmen are deployed to assist Army personnel.

  • Getting Inside the Enemy’s Head: The Case for Counteranalysis in Iraqi Counterinsurgency Operations, by Gyves, in Air & Space Power Chronicles, Mar 2006

  • Center of Gravity and Asymmetric Conflict: Factoring In Culture (local copy), by Jandora, in Joint Force Quarterly, Oct 2005

  • Why Culture Matters: an Empirically-Based Pre-Deployment Training Program (local copy), by Chandler, Naval Postgraduate School thesis, Sep 2005

  • Cultural Intelligence, Meeting Today’s Challenges (local copy), by Anderson, Naval War College, May 2004

  • The Role of Cultural Understanding and Language Training in Unconventional Warfare (local copy), by Beleaga, NPS thesis, Dec 2004

  • Cultural Barriers to Multinational C2 Decision Making (local copy), by Klein, Pagonis, and Klein - a DARPA sponsored report, 2000
    • National cultural differences present barriers to successful coalition command and control. The challenge is compounded by distributed decision making that characterizes many operations. If we are to work effectively in coalition operations, we have to understand the complexities presented by national cultural differences. This paper reviews cultural differences that can disrupt situational awareness, decision making, coordination, and communication in multinational coalitions. These differences are in power distance, dialectical reasoning, counterfactual thinking, risk assessment and uncertainty management, and activity orientation.

  • Global War on Terrorism: Understanding the Long-Term Strategy - Why Education Is Key - (local copy), by Caslen, MECC briefing, 3 Feb 05 (PDF)

  • "Baffled Occupiers, or the Missed Understandings," by Tierney, in The New York Times, 22 Oct 2003
    • Pollsters and journalists have been busy asking Iraqis how they feel about the Americans on their streets, but there is a potentially more important issue. How do the Americans here feel about the Iraqis? Will they ever feel comfortable enough in this alien culture to finish the job they started?
    • It's hard enough working in a dangerous, uncomfortable place far from home and family. It's tough enough hearing constant criticism from politicians and journalists. But the job can look terminally thankless if you cannot even understand the people you're trying to save.

  • Dr. Rice Addresses War on Terror (local copy) - 19 Aug 2004 Remarks by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to the U.S. Institute of Peace
    • Americans also need to hear the stories of the people of the Muslim world. We need to understand their challenges and their cultures and their hopes; to speak their languages and read their literature; to know their cultures in the deepest sense. Our interaction must be a conversation, not a monologue. We must reach out and explain, but we must also listen.

  • spiffy Avoiding a Napoleonic Ulcer: Bridging the Gap of Cultural Intelligence (Or,Have We Focused on the Wrong Transformation?) (local copy, pdf), CJCS award winning essay, by Smith, Marine Corps War College - with historical and current cases
    • If the current modus operandi of insurgents in Iraq is an indicator of the total disregard that future adversaries will have toward global societal norms, the joint force will, in many respects, be operating with one hand tied behind its back. The U.S. military can ill afford to have the other hand bound through the development of comprehensive campaign plans not grounded in solid cultural understanding of countries and regions within which it will likely operate. To do so risks adding yet another footnote to history highlighting an intelligence gap between combat and stability and support operations.

  • Utilizing Social Science Technology to Understand and Counter the 21st Century Strategic Threat (local copy), by Popp, at DARPATech 2005

  • spiffy Cultural Intelligence & Joint Intelligence Doctrine (local copy), by Coles, in Joint Operations Review, 2005, published by Joint Forces Staff College

  • Marketing: An Overlooked Aspect of Information Operations (local copy), by Trent and Doty, in Military Review, Jul-Aug 2005
    • "Defeating enemy formations on the field of battle is merely the first, and often the easiest, phase of a military operation. Ultimate success (accomplishing the political goals of the National Command Authority) hinges on a successful post-high-intensity conflict occupation in which the population comes to accept the new state of affairs. In all phases, understanding and influencing the people is critical to reducing the cost of victory in terms of lives, dollars, and time."

  • McFate

  • Final Report for Defense Science Board 2004 Summer Study on the Transition to and from Hostilities (local copy)
    • The knowledge required to be effective in conducting stabilization and reconstruction operations is different from the military knowledge required to prevail during hostilities, but no less important. ... We need to treat learning knowledge of culture and developing language skills as seriously as we treat learning combat skills: both are needed for success in achieving U.S. political and military objectives.

  • Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and Their Strategic Cultures, from USAF Counterproliferation Center

  • Military Cultural Education (local copy), by McFarland, in Military Review, Mar-Apr 2005 - includes tables of comparison of American cultures with others, and of Continuum of Progress indicators

  • Understanding the “Victory Disease,” From the Little Bighorn to Mogadishu and Beyond (local copy), by Karcher, Global War on Terrorism Occasional Paper 3, Combat Studies Institute, 2004

  • Skelton

  • Cognitive Transformation and Culture-Centric Warfare (local copy), by Scales, Congressional testimony, 15 Jul 04 - samples below
    • More than a year after the Iraq war began soldiers are rotating home with a sense of unmet expectations. Consensus seems to building among them that this conflict was fought brilliantly at the technological level but inadequately at the human level. The human element seems to underlie virtually all of the functional shortcomings chronicled in official reports and media stories: information operations, civil affairs, cultural awareness, soldier conduct…and most glaringly, intelligence, from national to tactical.
    • This new era of war requires soldiers equipped with exceptional cultural awareness and an intuitive sense for the nature and character of war. Where should this culture centric learning take place? Unfortunately higher-level military colleges and schools fail to meet the learning needs of the services.

  • Cultural Awareness for an Expeditionary Military (local copy), 23 Jun 2004 remarks by Air Force Chief of Staff General John P. Jumper

  • Unconventional Airpower, by Downs, in Air & Space Power Journal, Spring 2005
    • Until now, in-depth training in cultural awareness has primarily been reserved for special operations forces. As Lt Gen Norton Schwartz has said, those forces must enhance their own cultural perception, but this acuity belongs in our expeditionary air and space forces as well.2 Air Force officers should set the example by learning at least one foreign language fluently. But we also need more forces that specialize in bridging cultural divides. In the US Air Force, one finds these individuals predominantly in three specialties: embassy team members, foreign area officers, and combat-aviation advisors. The number of Air Force members assigned to embassies is limited, but members of the other two specialties should form a corps to develop cultural awareness in the Air Force.

  • The View from the Tower of Babel: Air Force Foreign Language Posture for Global Engagement, by Conway, in Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2005

  • Strategic Leadership Competencies (local copy), by Wong et al, Strategic Studies Institute, Sep 2003 - one of the necessary metacompetencies described is cross-cultural savvy
    • On December 21, 2001, the Chief of Staff of the Army tasked the U.S. Army War College to identify the strategic leader skill sets for officers required in the post-September 11th environment. The following report is the result of that tasking. ... They [the authors] distill the essence of strategic leadership into six metacompetencies that not only describe strategic leadership, but also provide aiming points for an integrated leader development system.
    • Cross-cultural savvy, however, refers to more than just the ability to work with non-U.S. militaries. The metacompetency crosscultural savvy includes the ability to understand cultures beyond one’s organizational, economic, religious, societal, geographical, and political boundaries. A strategic leader with crosscultural skills is comfortable interacting with and leading joint, international, interagency, or interorganizational entities. Future strategic leaders must be able to work with a diverse group of people and organizations ranging from 24-year-old congressional staffers, to Northern Alliance warlords, to representatives from nongovernmental organizations.

  • Cultural Sensitivity Makes a Difference (local copy), from Defend America

  • Coalition Leadership Imperatives (local copy), by Forster, in Military Review, Nov-Dec 2000

  • Culture... A Neglected Aspect of War (local copy), by Lindberg, 1996 CSC paper

  • Strategic Implications of Cultures in Conflict, by Belbutowski, in Parameters, Spring 1996
    • "Understanding culture may help to answer important military and civil questions such as the will of the enemy to fight, the determination of resistance groups to persevere, or the willingness of the populace to support insurgents or warlords. Culture, comprised of all that is vague and intangible, is not generally integrated into strategic planning except at the most superficial level. It appears increasingly in scholarly work, however, on problems associated with emerging nations."

  • Paradoxes of War (local copy), by Hammond, in Joint Force Quarterly, Spring 1994
    • Billions of dollars are bet on the outcome of contests conducted by the force of arms. But if one knows an adversary and his orientation; understands his culture, language, and personality; grasps his frame of reference; and shapes his choices, one might influence his actions and reactions without resorting to force.
    • Knowing an adversary’s culture, religion, and perceptions is as important as training, organizing, and equipping forces. Again, this is not a novel insight but it is underemphasized. Our infatuation with national technical means often eclipses more basic knowledge. Cultural anthropology may be as important to success in war as intelligence gathered from satellite imagery
    • Knowing how one’s adversary-the leadership and society-sees things is paramount and may well determine success or failure in a contest.

Need by POWs ___return to top
  • Captivity and Culture: Insights from the Desert Storm Prisoner of War Experience (local copy), by Anderson, Naval War College, Mar 1996
    • A study was performed for the purpose of utilizing the hard won insights of the Desert Storm POWs to enhance training programs which promote honorable survival as a prisoner of war. The paper begins with a brief historical overview of encounters of American prisoners of war (POWs) with opposing cultures. The history provides a background for the analysis of a survey completed by the Desert Storm POWs which addresses the question, 'Does knowledge of the opposing culture improve adaptability and survivability for a prisoner of war?'
    • Suggestions are made for making cultural training more widely available in a way that would make it relevant, interesting and affordable.
    • Though the small size of the Desert Storm POW group limits the scope and the strength of conclusions that can be unequivocally supported by this survey analysis, two important findings are highlighted. First, knowledge of the culture of an enemy appears to offer survival benefits for a prisoner of war. The degree of benefit that can be derived from cultural knowledge varies inversely with the intensity of the situation that the captive is experiencing. Cultural knowledge is of greater survival benefit during the long-term phase of captivity rather than during the initial period of capture shock.

Cultural Diplomacy ___return to top
  • See also State Department

  • Friction in U.S. Foreign Policy: Cultural Difficulties with the World (local copy), by Stewart, pub. by Strategic Studies Institute, June 2006
    • The United States is so culturally different by virtue of its “New World paradigm” that its direct leadership style is becoming counterproductive. If the United States were more “street smart” on the world scene, it could better identify nuanced subtleties and better leverage allies, who, in turn, are better positioned to further American ideals abroad. ... Americans must learn to work in more indirect ways with like-minded allies to create a world favorable to U.S. interests. This paper examines the ideological threats confronting the United States and America’s lack of cultural savvy, along with its implications, proposing a new outlook for policy leaders and strategists.

  • White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy, Nov 2000

  • Dialogue among Civilizations, United Nationals Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
    • Globalization and the emergence of new contemporary challenges and threats to humankind make the need for dialogue among peoples ever more topical. A principal objective of a dialogue is to bridge the gap in knowledge about other civilizations, cultures and societies, to lay the foundations for dialogue based on universally shared values and to undertake concrete activities, inspired and driven by dialogue, especially in the areas of education, cultural diversity and heritage, the sciences and communication and media.

  • National Cultures & Foreign Affairs: Personal Observations on Their Importance, by Melbourne, in American Diplomacy

  • Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD)

  • Cultural Diplomacy Initiative, Center for Arts & Culture, George Mason University affiliated think tank

  • USC Center on Public Diplomacy

  • additional resources

Peacekeeping and Stability Operations ___return to top
  • Language Familiarity, Cultural Awareness Critical to Iraq Fight, by Garamone, for American Forces Information Service, 13 Dec 2006
    • Language training and awareness of Iraqi and Arab culture are absolutely necessary for servicemembers deploying to Iraq, the outgoing commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said in Baghdad yesterday.
    • Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who gives up command tomorrow, told Baghdad-based journalists that a poll conducted among 1st Cavalry Division soldiers following their 2004 deployment to Iraq pointed out how important they believed language skills to be.
    • The need for this type of training highlights the complicated nature of the conflict in Iraq. Cultural sensitivity helps prevent soldiers from creating problems for themselves through ignorance, and this improves force protection, Chiarelli said.

  • Changing Tires on the Fly: The Marines and Postconflict Stability Ops, by Hoffman, September 10, 2006 - posted by Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI)
    • Culture Matters; In Fact, it is Crucial
      All interviews emphasized the absolutely essential need for accurate and relevant cultural intelligence when operating in urban environments with direct and recurring contact with the local population. Marine intelligence experts realize that what they call “cultural terrain” can be difficult to navigate. One young Marine squad leader said it best “Learning the language is just as important as live fire training. In some situations it’s even more important.” From planning to interfacing with key leaders at the village and town level, some appreciation of the nature of the culture and its implications is simply indispensable.

  • Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations (local copy), by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, British Army, in Military Review, Nov-Dec 2005 - a critical assessment of American actions in Iraq - especially cultural issues when in contact with the population

  • Managing Peace Operations in the Field, by Walsh, in Parameters, Summer 1996
    • Similarly, the mission's political initiatives must be inspired by cultural sensitivity. More often than not, local ratification of the mission's political strategy for ending the crisis is a prerequisite for success. This condition needs to be recognized and provisions made to involve broad and diverse segments of the local citizenry in mission activities, notwithstanding the time delays and extra effort required to persuade and accommodate such participation.

  • Joel B. Krauss, “Cultural Awareness in Stability and Support Operations,” Infantry, vol. 89, no. 1 (January/April 1999)

  • Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York: HarperCollins, 1999)

  • Cross-Cultural Considerations in Complex Peace Operations, by Rubinstein, in Negotiation Journal, Jan 2003
  • Cultural Aspects of Peacekeeping: Notes on the Substance of Symbols, by Rubinstein, in Millennium Journal of International Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, Winter 1993

  • Peacekeeping English Project (PEP)
    • "The aim of PEP is to reduce, resolve and prevent conflict worldwide through improved English language communication."
    • "English is the language of interoperability. It enables multinational forces taking part in NATO, EU and UN peace support operations to communicative effectively with each other."
  • Mililtary English
    • "This Military zone is to help military personnel improve their English. Violent conflict continues throughout the world, along with civilian killing and suffering. Consequently the United Nations is conducting an ever-increasing number of peace support operations. These operations involve the armed forces of several different nations working together. This is invariably done using English - the international language. We aim to help you improve your English, so that you will be able to play a full and effective role in future peace support operations should you ever be required to do so."

Deterrence ___return to top Cross-Cultural Negotiation ___return to top Commerce/Business ___return to top





















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