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Cultural understanding in military operations
Culture is viewed as the product of social structure and history where the historical processes limit the development of the culture. Culture is always under a constant and unchanging process of adjustment and it is often under change in order to accommodate the varying societies and times. In the Middle East, due to instability and internal pressures the leaders are unable to make flexible policies but with time and as the political situations resume to normal they will be able to make policies that will be very supportive and enhance peace. The culture in terms of religion of these people is mostly Islamic which comprises the highest percentage. In the Islamic world of religion, their norms play a crucial role in diplomatic practices because they have homogeneity in culture and mostly interact with other Islamic countries blurring sovereignties and borders. The Muslims aspire for unity at all times and this strengthens identifications and links among them. Islam is a source of allegiance and a symbol of identity.
Religion influences culture and also is able to express it. Although national values of culture may sometime overshadow the influence of the religion. This means that though there are many religions in a country, the national values of being citizens in the country could be common and are followed. The impact of religion practiced by the different religions express a particular system of various ethical beliefs that are quite important in the international systems. The theory of clash of civilizations by Huntington aroused so many discussions by the international relations that are still unfinished. He explains that in the world after the cold war, global politics have become multi-cultural and multi-polar. The Western civilization according to Huntington is very unique and not universal. A world that is full of cultural pluralism is not avoidable because it is the basis of building global empires. In order to safeguard the world security needs, we all need to accept global cultural diversity.
Secondly Huntington explains and supports that nation states are always and will forever be the crucial factor in global affairs, and their individual alliance, interests and conflict are largely influenced by the factors of civilization and culture. The clash of civilizations is the struggle among the Western civilization that is unified and the other growing civilizations. This thought has largely recognized the cultural diversity and the crucial role that culture plays in the international systems. The national policy makers should have the greatest responsibility of making policies and also have the moral responsibility as they make the policies. The soft power theory by Joseph Nye talks about the intangible attraction of ideology and culture that surpasses all military compulsions. Constructivism by Alexander Wendt in his book lays a solid foundation of the importance of culture even in international systems.
The theory of culturology shows the real importance of culture and regional factors that influence the international systems. The cultural factors include belief, behavior, religion, concept and many others. All these form the basic and primary structure of the international systems, politics and also relations. People living in a certain area realize their resources through culture and are able to use them by appreciating their culture and invention of technology in the local industry but very often the technologies come from the outside global world. Here we find that through the culture and the resources, international systems are encouraged. This helps a great deal to overshadow the racist prejudice. Many societies and almost all strive to pursue modernization, development and peace. The modernization in terms of culture is pursued in order to enhance international relations through embracing every culture in the globe so that they are able to relate well without prejudice.
The factor of cultural cognition is also very essential because we find that international and global relations are based on the mutual understanding between the ethnic groups that are involved. The cultural factors of language, proprieties, and manners show the position of intelligence of the people involved and these guarantee order, some predictability and normal social life. In the era of secularization, religion still remains a factor of culture that should be considered and should not be overlooked especially in relation to global relations. Religion allows us to exchange and consider dim life and consciousness process, to express the indescribable things and to substantiate and explain the abstract things. Religion shows cultural truth as it symbolizes the social dealings and reflects human hope and anxiety.
Technology which is modern is used in all cultures and religions and this is mostly used to evident that all the cultures in the world are converging. The use of the modern technologies is quite important in international systems and is highly encouraged. It makes international business much easier, effective and much cheaper. Some of the information technologies are widely used on the basis of groups in more collectivist cultures. They can and are used in the more individualist cultures in the individual capacities.
Role of Regional and cultural awareness in military effectiveness
Regional and cultural awareness enhances and improves military effectiveness in different ways. International relations have established a number of laws, mechanisms, and organizations which are often referred to as the international order which truly set order in the global world. There are cultural reasons why they were formed and these also govern the military forces that are employed in the different regions of the world and they carry their activities putting into consideration the set rules and regulations. This enhances the military forces because they will know how to handle every matter in accordance to the set rules and regulations. The obligation of effective international environment demands that they understand the global perspective and understand the various economic, cultural and political factors which influence the way of making decisions in the other countries throughout the world.
The prevailing influence of the religious groups, the national threats and the non-state actors go a long way in complicating the ability to form the alliances that are strategic. Therefore the strategic leaders must be aware of their potential enemies with whom they share common interests and what alliances they have formed with the involved factions. They should also know the diplomatic and political dynamics existing in the various countries either domestically or internationally. The strategic leaders should also be aware of the fact or fiction that all successful multinational operations have the requirement of the sensitivity to the impact of the deployment of the US military forces to the traditions, customs and laws of the hosting country.
This cross cultural and regional awareness helps to create acceptance and a friendly environment which should allow every culture to contribute its perspectives, behaviors and values in developing ways to enrich the military outcomes. The increased military multinational efforts cause so much cultural competition especially in the critical leadership requirements. Lack of the awareness could lead to negative results and public opinion that is very negative. Worse enough it could lead to endangerment of the troops and also the civilians. The military personnel are trained on the cultural and regional awareness, they are taught foreign languages, regional studies, international relations, geographical locations and the best hideouts in every area of operation that they will be allocated. This enhances good effective military personnel who are very competitive and are bound to win in every battle that they engage in. This is because they will be aware of the culture, region terrains and hideouts, the local language and this sets them at a better higher place.
They are made aware of the values, language, customs, ideas, and patterns of thinking, beliefs, geopolitical situations and the behavior of the people that they will work with. Cultural understanding and knowledge integrated in the operational level courses of actions benefits combatant commander's mission especially when the wanted outcome is to win and use the famous support in the indigenous population of the area. A cultural consultant is also encouraged in the area of operation who is a resident expert with the access to the other experts in the professional and academic arena.
In the strategic level, there is great importance in infusing the structure of the national security with policy makers that are culture aware and also with anthropologists. The aim of an anthropologist is to develop the cultural patterns and help find the inherent causes for their traditions and practices. Any anthropological cultural analysis should provide the information to a staff which is required in order to complete the mission planning, execution and analysis. This is in pursuit of creating awareness of regional and cultural aspects to avoid any wrong interpretations of the culture of the host country.
Difficulties that are encountered by any operational commander are choosing the information that is essential to the military mission and where to source the information from. Therefore these leaders should have the basic understanding of the differences that are very major between different groups, tribes, factions and the organizations that are involved, they should also understand the public opinions in the different regions, they should be well versed with the tension points that are present in their areas of operations and should be well aware of the centers of power again in their areas of operation. They should understand the local religions and their belief systems that are basic, their sources of pride and wealth, their sources of shame and guilt, and the aspects of their culture that could be influenced in pursuit of initiating positive change.
Another challenge caused by culture is the expensive cost of hiring the tutors that teach the military personnel on the culture of the community. The costs of training are quite high and risky and in fact the military personnel could as well feel unsecure when undergoing the training and this could result to their backing off. This endangers the security of the indigenous people because of their culture but through the army knowing what it expects may lower down the threats and ensure that they are all ready for the exercise.
The departments of Defense should realized and some have already realized that culture and regional factors play a very important role in the current military operations and are taking measures in order to curb the existing deficiencies in this field. These problems especially in the United States include lack of dedicated programs to enhance cultural and regional awareness and also lack systems and models to enhance the same. There is also the lack of organizations and personnel who could train the military personnel on the regional and cultural values in the areas of operation and who could instill the cross cultural and cross regional awareness across the whole structure of national security. The military operators should incorporate the cultural knowledge of the adversaries into the training, doctrine, education, planning, intelligence, operations, and leadership.
The over-reliance on the technical technology and intelligence is not enough and even other experienced have concurred that it is quite important to understand the habits, intentions, interests, social organizations, beliefs, and the political symbols of the enemies or the adversaries. The soldier concurred that it was not enough seeing the picture of the arms dump but it was more important to know the hide-outs of the enemies and may be where the enemies have dug the enemy tanks. This would help to know whether the military operators would charge in pickups or on foot and firing the AK-47s or they would use rocket-propelled grenades. The information and awareness of the regional and cultural would provide all these important aspects that they need to have before heading out for the actual battle so that they will be bound to win.
A good example is when the kinetic era of fighting in Iraq came to an end, the Marines and the soldiers found themselves in a culture that they did not understand and were not even able to differentiate the people of the land from their allies. They did not even have the slightest idea on who they could trust the useful information with and the tactical intelligence that was timely. They relied on the intelligence-gathering methods and tools that were not enough to show how to handle the existing problems and in this we derive that it is quite crucial to have all the information at hand to avoid such situations that could lead to comprising and losing the battle which could then lead to the indigenous people being in danger from their allies.
Ralph Peters described in Fighting for the Future, “We need to struggle against our American tendency to focus on hardware and bean counting to attack the more difficult and subtle problems posed by human behavior and regional history.” In the many years between operations in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, the military of the US made incredible technological strides with the efforts to raise all aspects of the joint war fighting capability, more specifically the general lethality of the force in question, joint information on management of the military force and situational knowledge driven by improved collection capabilities. Although it is apparent that the joint force did not actually place the same weight on gaining sufficient understanding of the Iraq's people and their culture, This brought the tremendous worse effect on winning the battle. From this we find that is quite important to understand the region and the cultural practices that are practiced.
The over-reliance on the available conventional operations is another problem that should be overcome. We should be able to do so through training of the soldiers to ensure security in all aspects. In today's operating surroundings victorious counterinsurgency depends on attainment of a holistic, total understanding of the local culture. The cultural understanding should be deep and thorough if it is expected to have numerous practical benefits. This reality is not lost for the Army and the military personnel. In this language of FM 3-24 (Counterinsurgency): “Successful conduct of counterinsurgency operations depends on thoroughly understanding the society and culture within which they are being conducted.” Therefore, knowing the local society and having its support is really critical and vital to success. For the U.S. forces to operate efficiently among the local population and grow to maintain their support,
It is then very important to expand and enhance a thorough understanding of the country, society and its culture, including its values, customs, history, tribal, family, social structure, religions, and needs.
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