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Culture... A Neglected Aspect of War

Major B. C. Lindberg, USMC

CSC 1996


Title:  Culture...A Neglected Aspect of War

Author:  Major B.C. Lindberg, United States Marine Corps

Thesis:  American political and military strategists continue to demonstrate their failure to adequately embrace the aspects of culture as a relevant factor in developing and planning military operations. Although the Marine Corps has made some efforts towards applying the significance of culture to military operations, a greater requirement must be placed upon the educational system to provide the needed emphasis on the cultural aspects of war.

Discussion:  The post Cold War era has given rise to a multi-polar environment where most wars are being fought within nations rather than between nations. Cultural differences are, once again, serving as the main impetus of war. The growing number of these conflicts have challenged the United States and its allies to take a more active role in world events in order to effect global stabilization and security. This environment provides new challenges for American political and military strategists and, more specifically, for the United States Marine Corps.

To confront the multi-faceted nature of war today, the role of the military has been greatly expanded; Operations Other Than War (OOTW) and coalition warfare are now considered the norm. Consequently, the primacy of political and economic considerations in military operations is being eclipsed by the cultural considerations as the precepts of OOTW are increased contact with a disparity of cultures, both friendly and foe. The current dynamism of the global environment places a greater emphasis on expeditionary forces to react to a wide spectrum of missions. Because the Marine Corps provides a continual forward-deployed force, it will likely be the first to respond and initiate actions in response to a crisis.

Conclusions:  The complexity of missions that Marines, at all levels, face in OOTW requires an increased knowledge and acceptance of the cultural aspects of war. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Marine Corps to further develop and expand its educational programs to better prepare its leaders for meeting the myriad of threats today and in the future.




Throughout the past few centuries, wars have been fought between nations for many different reasons, but today the nature of warfare is transitioning back to a cause of past centuries. Fewer wars today are being fought between nations, rather they are being fought within the nations. The media is flooded with accounts of peoples from the same ethnic group, religion, and race who have been awakened by the fervor of irredentism. Consequently, these calls to nationalism are spawning numerous secessionist movements throughout the world. Ethnic and tribal conflicts abound throughout the globe and have become a significant threat to regional and international stability. The intense savagery of "ethnic-cleansing' in the Balkans, Armenia, and India; and the return of tribal warfare in Rwanda and Somalia are only a few examples of the many clashes that continue to proliferate today's world. Each conflict may seem to have different origins, but cultural differences are providing the impetus for much of today's conflict.

Such conflicts have lain dormant for years, suppressed by the domination of totalitarian rulers, colonial powers, or the ideological straight jacket of the "Cold War." These eras of rule provided the framework for the coexistence of numerous, disparate cultural groups within the same nation-state. For many years, people were locked into countries to which they felt they did not belong. The demise of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism ended an era of ideological rule and subsequently ignited an explosion of demands for self-determination and democracy. Gone are the dividing lines that were once arbitrarily drawn on the global map by past conquerors. Secessionist movements are redrawing the global boundaries around cultural similarities. Thus, a new wave of culturally-based conflict has emerged and sparked the transformation of warfare.

The potential for cultural clashes is high throughout the world as the continued political disintegration of former states serves as catalyst for cultural confrontations between existing and emerging states. New states continue to emerge at an unprecedented rate, and this trend may continue into the future. The current chaos in the Balkans and Africa serve as a portent of future conflict. The growing number of these conflicts will challenge the United States and its allies to take a more active role in world affairs in order to effect world stabilization and security.

New strategies must be devised in order to prepare western governments to confront a broad spectrum of conflict for which they are neither properly trained nor equipped. Attempting to understand the origins and patterns of cultural conflict is an essential element of the development of a national and military strategy that will be able to successfully meet the challenges of a new generation of warfare. This importance cannot be over emphasized as each conflict varies in its underlying causes, its possibilities for escalation, and the probabilities of successful intervention.

The purpose of this study is to explore cultural conflict-- its causes and effects, and its significance to formulating national policy and military strategy. The focus will then shift to identify the role of the Marine Corps in future warfare and the impending need to acknowledge and educate Marines on the relationship between culture and war.


To better understand why cultural differences contribute to (or serve) as a primary cause of war, this study will begin with an analysis of the mechanisms of culture. Culture, as defined by Webster's Dictionary, is: "the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, actions, and artifacts, and depends upon man's capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations; the customary beliefs, social norms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group."1 According to Ralph Linton, anthropologists tend to define culture as "the sum total of the knowledge, attitudes, and habitual behavioral patterns shared and transmitted by the members of society.”2 Cultural geographers also study the imprints of culture to determine patterns of behavior throughout the globe; they seek to understand how the cultural themes of geography interact with the interrelationships of the natural environments and human societies.3 One noted geographer, Carl Sauer, oriented his focus around the concept of the "cultural landscape." He defines the cultural landscape as the "forms that are superimposed on the physical landscape by the activities of man." He emphasizes that forms result from the operation of cultural processes (causal factors that shape cultural patterns) that unfold over a long period of time and involve the cumulative influences of successive occupants.4

Hundreds of definitions exist; some experts refer to culture as being synonymous with civilization, but most definitions are similar in expressing culture as the dominant qualities of a specific area that collectively serve as the foundation for the development of that area's distinct environment.5 For the purposes of this study, the aspects of culture (or civilization) will include the: norms, values, religion, language, race, ethnicity, and heritage associated with a specific group that survive, change, and remain meaningful to future generations.


Another approach to the human and natural world is guided by the "spatial perspective."6 The focus of this approach is directed at the natural and man-made characteristics and features of the environs and its climactic patterns. A broad global framework (which consists of cultural realms, regions, and sub-regions) is then established and encompasses all the areas of the world; the largest element of the framework is called the "Cultural Realm."7

Noted cultural geographer, H.J. DeBlij, divides the world into 13 Cultural Realms.8 He theorizes that realms are formed as the result of the interaction between human societies and the natural environments and are a functional interaction that is revealed by the transportation networks; the farms and cities; languages and religions; and other countless features of the landscape. Cultural realms are rarely divided by a country's established borders, but by a line that represents an ever-changing zone of regional interaction. The area in which this line fluctuates is called a transition zone-- where two realms overlap. An example would be the convergence of the North African Realm (characterized by Islam) and Sub-Saharan Realm (characterized by traditional African cultures).

For the most part, these realms have remained relatively stable but are suspect to change. Significant occurrences such as colonization, imperialism, and communism were events that dramatically changed the global map and altered the realms. As the influences of imperialism and colonization faded, change continued to occur; however, most change remained relatively insignificant. For the past several decades, the world was contained within the ideological lines of communism and democracy-- which allowed for little change. Today, change is rapidly taking place as the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and America's Wilsonian democratic principles seem to encourage the unrestrained expansion of a "multi-polar" world.

To better understand how changes occur within a cultural realm, geographers descend the hierarchical ladder and study the "Regional concept."9 For example, regions within the North American realm would include the U.S. South, U.S Midwest, the Canadian Prairie Provinces, and so forth. Similar to realms, regions also exist without any distinct boundaries. Within the United States, regions are commonly referred to as a specific area to direct one's attention (e.g., the Southwest is experiencing a drought). Where exactly is the Southwest? One can easily visualize an image of its location, however, its boundaries in a map remain vague. Natural boundaries (mountains, seas, or deserts) and human boundaries (cultural, political, or economical differences) are the most common examples that serve as regional dividing lines; less obvious are the regional boundaries. Regions are normally marked by a certain homogeneity. These commonalties may lie in a region's cultural properties, its physical characteristics, or both; these are the elements that give the region its distinctness. Different regions may also be culturally, economically, or politically dependent upon other regions. These dependencies fuel cross-border relationships which enable one region to effect its influence upon the other.

Samuel Huntington maintains that a culture and a civilization are one and the same. He espouses that villages, regions, ethnic groups, nationalities, and religious groups all have distinct cultures at different levels of cultural heterogeneity. For example, a village in southern Italy may have some variations in its culture compared to a village in northern Italy, but both share common Italian cultural features that distinguish Italians from Germans. On a grander scale, Italy (as part of Europe) shares common European cultural features that are different than those of an Arab or Chinese culture. Therefore, Huntington believes that a civilization is the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity that separates one group of people from another.

Huntington further defines a civilization as a combination of both the common objective elements (language, history, religion, customs, and institutions) and the subjective self-identification of the people.10 For example, most Romans would be identified in the following hierarchical order: Christians, Italians, Europeans, and Westerners. As a member of Europe, Italy is included in the "Western Civilization.” Civilizations may include numerous nation-states (as is the case of the Western Civilization which includes North America and Europe) or one nation, such as Japan. The lines that divide the world into civilizations--like realms--are neither sharp nor easily distinguishable. Some civilizations overlap, such as the Islamic civilization which includes Arab, Turkish, Persian, Indian, and Indonesian cultures; however, the differences between civilizations are markedly distinguishable. Huntington, similar to DeBlij's division of the world into 13 realms, divides the globe into eight major civilizations. The significance of these divisions will be presented in a subsequent section of this paper.


The challenge of understanding the multifaceted nature of modern warfare has yet to be met by many of the political and military elites in the United States. At all levels of warfare, culture is a significant--although widely unrecognized--factor of war. The recent debacle in Somalia proves that most foreign-policy and military strategists continue to fall short in recognizing and analyzing the different and distinct cultural groups, and applying this knowledge to the development of national and operational strategies.

National policy must be developed by visionary senior policy makers and military strategists and must reflect a sound strategy. The demands placed upon the military must unequivocally state the mission requirements and the end state desired. Historically, America has successfully waged "total war" without significant consideration given to the aspects of culture. However, with the exception of Desert Storm, "limited wars" have often provided painful lessons of a failed strategy, leaving the credibility of the United States in question. The lack of success in such "limited conflicts" that involved disparate cultures provides a compelling argument for embracing "culture" as an integral component in the formulation of strategic and operational policy. The leaders of today must reflect on the past in order to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow.


The combination of several factors support the significance of culture as the premier focal point for study of future conflict. Observations of cultural conflict (as previously addressed) combined with reflections of the failure of American war-related policies (Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia) signify that cultural diversity remains unrecognized as a relevant factor of war. For these reasons, America has had needless difficulties in military conflicts against members of different cultures. These difficulties can be considered as the result of failed cultural analyses (of adversaries) compounded by the failure to properly analyze and apply (our own) American cultural attributes. Oftentimes, the neglect of these two elements sets tacit limitations on the use of applied force, duration, and the number of casualties that Americans are willing to tolerate.

Historically, Americans have been reluctant to differentiate between wars fought within a culturally unified sphere and those between societies of disparate cultures and ideal systems.11 Americans have a difficult time embracing culture as an integral component of warfare because America idealizes the denial of cultural differences. America evolved from a war against an oppressive government. To ensure the rights of mankind, the founding fathers instituted in the Bill of Rights the precepts of freedom and the fact that all men are created equal. The constitution provides additional rights to an individual (such as the freedom of speech and freedom of religion) and establishes the primacy of an individual's rights in politics and law. America is comprised of a diverse blend of different cultural groups, but all are accepted as part of the whole and (for the most part) remain unified in support of the state. The Christian tradition of Americans further strengthens the bond between many of the disparate cultural groups and further reinforces the belief that war and violence are undesirable.

In short, American culture is based upon the values of democracy, peace, and the rights of the individual. Violence, war, oppression of the weak, and human suffering are regarded as universal evils. The strength of these values are prevalent throughout America and institutionalize a common bond among Americans. Since these values are so dominant throughout society, Americans readily and incorrectly assume their values are universal, and that other countries should embrace and share these same views. However, history proves this untrue.

America's military tradition stems from Western civilizations, specifically, Napoleonic warfare and the writings of European strategists. These inherent traditions were further reinforced by the industrialization of war during the American Civil War and the Industrial Revolution.

The desire of American culture is to avoid armed conflict or to seek quick resolutions to a conflict once it has been initiated. Unless an act of war has threatened the sovereignty of the United States, Americans will normally go to war only after all other political measures of arbitration have failed. Once the decision has been made to enter a war, society expects victory quickly. Americans are impatient and resistant to protracted operations. The intolerance to accept casualties, ingrained in the value of the individual, also contributes to a lessened resolve of commitment in other than vital interests.

Many other cultures of the world do not share these views and stand in marked contrast to the preferences of most Western societies. To many non-traditional Western cultures, patience and casualties are acceptable consequences of war that are required to attain victory. Failure to recognize and integrate cultural differences into planning can lead to poor policies/strategies resulting in the withdrawal of U.S. forces without success.


In order to conceptualize the transformation in the nature of war, it is essential to first provide an analysis of the earlier eras of warfare. History is replete with examples of warfare and its causes--the most prevalent causes being political (ideological), physical (territorial expansion), economical, and cultural. Each has characterized an era, or eras, as the most dominant cause of conflict. Although cultural conflict has not specifically marked the past 50 years as the primary source of conflict, cultural differences have generally served as the rationale and root source for most conflict. Currently, world events indicate the transition to a past era of warfare has already occurred. Cultural differences are, once again, serving as the most prevalent catalyst for war.

Pure cultural-conflict, or clashes between civilizations, are as old as history itself. The conflicts between Jews and Romans during the first century, and the clashes between the beliefs of Christianity and Islam during the crusades are two examples of clashes between opposing civilizations. The violent upheavals of the Thirty Year's War that shook Europe from 1618-1648 demonstrate that cultural differences can ignite a war even within a common civilization. The on-going struggle between Islam and Judaism also shows that cultural-conflict has been constant throughout history, even when political or economical causes served as the root of conflict.

Other causal factors of war have dominated earlier eras. During the mid-sixteenth century, the crusades had ended and Europe experienced the birth of the nation-state.

Cultural similarities and geographical factors helped shape the boundaries of the emerging states. With few exceptions, the wars "of the kings" were over, and the wars "of the nations" had begun. Cultural-differences became subordinate to the political and economical needs of the nation, and the traditional cultural struggles were eclipsed by wars of territorial expansion (a physical cause). Nations fought to become the predominant political and economical influence in Europe and throughout the world. Balance-of-power politics characterized Europe from the period of the mid-seventeenth century through the beginning of the twentieth century.

The end of World War I marked the beginning of a new era of warfare --"ideological conflict." The first nation to yield to the conflict of ideologies was Russia. The Russian Revolution brought with it communism and its ideals to crush the bourgeoisie. Marxism in Russia did not tolerate any other political plurality. This ideology instilled upon Russians that the outside world was hostile, and it was their duty to overthrow all other internal or external political descent. Such a belief established the foundation for an ideological conflict that lasted approximately 70 years.

As communism gained its stranglehold on Russia, a second ideological front was developing--Nazism." Adolf Hitler sired Nazi-fascism in Germany in the 1920's. His intention was to create a "purified" society by eliminating the Jews, gypsies, opposing political entities, and any other non-Teutonic elements. The ultimate goal of the Nazis' was to effect indiscretionary power (over a subjugated people) to maintain and guarantee the German race.12 Hitler's ideological movement was motivated by the cultural differences of religion, race, and political beliefs.

The final example of ideological conflict pitted communism against democracy. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States became embraced in a conflict in which each defined its identity in its ideology. The ambition of the Soviets to defeat their political opponents continued a clash of civilizations in which the battles were waged through surrogate countries. The end of the Cold War concluded an era marked by ideological conflict and "bi-polarity." Since this time, polarization has multiplied and many once-silenced rivalries have resurfaced. Traditional cultural and territorial disputes continue to flourish and challenge world security. Consequently, the United States and its allies now face the emergence of intractable zones of hostility and are left without a clear strategy to effectively curb their proliferation.

The conflict in the former Yugoslavia provides the most recent example of cultural-differences serving as the prevalent cause of war. The war, still commonly referred to as an "ethnic-conflict," is based upon religion and not ethnic differences. Rarely in modern times has conflict been so simple as to come from one cause. A combination of the causes of war (political, physical, economical, cultural) is more likely, although one may dominate. When Yugoslavia first fragmented, ethnic-Slavic groups within the country attempted to form their own independent states. Soon after, a bitter civil war erupted when the Serbs attempted to expand their territorial claims. This action resulted in the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into the three distinct groups of Serbs, Croats, and Moslems. All are Ethnic-Slays; but the different cultural traditions (primarily religion) of each group served as the stimulus that fueled the duration and intensity of the conflict.13

Why will cultural conflict dominate the future nature of war? Demographic and environmental stressors, combined with the resurgence of irredentism, will cause people to seek similar cultural-preferences. Samuel Huntington supports this hypothesis and theorizes that the fundamental source of conflict in the future will stem from cultural differences. The boundaries that separate the world into Huntington's self-described eight major civilizations (or DeBlij's 13 realms) will replace the political and ideological boundaries of the past. These boundaries will act as the "fault-lines" of future conflict. Huntington believes that different civilizations compete for relative military and economical power, struggle over the control of international institutions, and competitively promote their political and religious values. Consequently, this results in conflicts among some adjacent civilizations that attempt to expand their influence and control over each other. As current economic and social disruption seem to be weakening the nation-state as a source of identity, rulers and rivals are appealing to ethnic and religious identities to coalesce. These differences in identities will revive and exacerbate past animosities.14

A.B. Bozeman believes that in pre-colonial Africa and Asia the territorial boundaries of tribes or clans were not clearly drawn as in traditional societies. The emergence of the nation-state and colonialism led to the establishment of geographical boundaries that are based on western prototypes rather than cultural similarity. According to Bozeman, the elements that once unified these states in the past have atrophied in recent decades. She states:

The concept of the state as a sovereign community--unified politically, morally, and territorally--is being subjected to the processes of erosion in all parts of the world. Its substance is being worn away by fragmentation and separatism along narrow ethnic or linguistic lines; by civil disobedience and a faltering faith in law; and by war, covert foreign interventions or military aggression from without.15

The erosion that Bozeman describes is clearly evident in the present-day events transpiring in Africa. The political and strategical impact of surging populations, mass migrations, the breakdown of borders, spreading disease, deforestation, pollution, and wasteful exploitation of natural resources symbolize Africa as a harbinger of the future conflict. The economies of Western Africa have been decaying for years. As a result, the central governments have lost much of their authority to govern. The rise of tribal and regional conflict continues to increase and spread throughout the continent like a cancer. Sierra Leone epitomizes the calamitous events which are unfolding in Western Africa. Considered to be a nation-state, its boundaries are clearly drawn on the map, and a centralized government is ostensibly in control; however, the country remains fractionalized into three separate entities: governmental forces, armies from the war in Liberia, and Sierra Leonian rebels. Moreover, many of the leaders of these three groups have aligned themselves with village chieftains, which establishes a tribal division based on past cultural commonalties. The borders of Guinea and Liberia have become meaningless as their cities become refugee camps to the fleeing Sierra Leonians. This hybridization of cultural groups further contributes to degradation of the established borders.16

The events that occurred in Rwanda prove that the "cancer" has spread to Central Africa. The differences between two tribal factions culminated in a three-year civil war between the Hutus and the Tutsis in which over a million people were murdered. The effects of the war (combined with a continued drought and famine, and the return of a large number of Tutsi refugees) set the stage for one of the worst examples of genocide in history. The death of the Rwandan president ended any form of central authority and ignited the bloody conflict. Tribal differences marked the dividing line of the combatants as the war between the Hutus and Tutsis resulted in the complete lawlessness, violence, and mass murder that swept the country. This unchecked violence forced a human tidal wave of refugees into Zaire and other neighboring countries. The impromptu refugee camps could not handle the mass exodus of people and forced some countries to close their borders to the mass migrations of people. As the overcrowded camps continued to grow, the lack of resources and unsanitary conditions spurred the diseases and epidemics that killed thousands more.

The fragmentation of Somalia, Sudan, and Mozambique exemplify the breadth of Africa's systemic problems. The loss of central authority in these failing states resembles the anarchy of the pre-nation state. According to the noted historian Martin Van Creveld:

“…failed-states are inevitably altered when the warring factions wrest the legal monopoly of armed force from official hands and create an environment in which the distinction between war and crime are lost in a rising tide of violence and anarchy."17 As the government becomes less capable of providing for the security and needs of its population, people return to their traditional tribes or clans for security. The synergistic effects of these problems demonstrate that Africa's current wars of border skirmishes, ethnic politics, and tribal warfare, etc. clearly serve as the paradigm of challenge for Africa today and the world tomorrow. One need not just look to Africa for such examples. The Canadian province of Quebec illustrates a similar situation where cultural differences also threaten the breakup of a progressive and wealthy western state.

Prospects of the aforementioned will continue to multiply in the years ahead. Van Creveld notes that, "...the period of the nation-state is ending, and with it the clear threefold division of government, army, and people."18 Furthermore, he advocates that armed conflict in the future will be characterized by low-intensity conflicts based upon cultural-differences. Conflicts may not be low-intensity, but they certainly will stem from cultural differences. Author, Homer Dixon, also theorizes that as environmental degradation proceeds, the size of potential social disruption will increase. He purports that future wars will rise from the scarcities of natural resources and will cause people to reunite in similar cultural regimes.19 The potential for such confrontations abounds throughout the globe as the world is characterized by the perpetual political fragmentation of failed states. The examples cited in this section clearly demonstrate: a) that the differences which exist between cultures are real and must be recognized, b) that these differences influence the nature of war, and c) that they serve either as a contributor to, or as the main cause of, most conflicts. These trends are not necessarily indicators of an inevitable dark age of world turmoil and conflict; but rather, an indication that cultural differences are likely to be a major cause of future wars that will present many unique challenges to world leaders.



The events of the Vietnam War exemplify failure at the highest level to appreciate culture as an aspect of war. Had senior leaders integrated preliminary cultural studies throughout policy development, America may have experienced a more favorable outcome. The former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara professes in his book, In Retrospect:  I had never visited Indochina, nor did I understand or appreciate its history, language, culture, or values. The same must be said, to varying degrees, about President Kennedy, Secretary of State Rusk, National Security Advisor Bundy, Military Adviser Maxwell Taylor, and many others. We found ourselves setting policy for a region that was terra incognita. Worse, our government lacked experts for us to consult to compensate for our ignorance about South East Asia.20

If senior leadership had been receptive to available expert cultural analyses prior to and during Vietnam, the U.S. forces could have been poised for the persistent, and diverse nature of Vietnamese warfighting, given its history marked by constant internal and external conflict.

The Sinic culture is comprised of China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and both Koreas. This region has been marked by kingdoms, each with its own commitment to deeply rooted indigenous beliefs, for much of history. Many have been locked in conflict ranging from full-scale wars to limited invasions or guerrilla fighting for centuries. Furthermore, within this region, as well as in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, internal war merged with external war to form webs of violence and conflict sanctioned by religion, accepted by the people, and celebrated throughout history.21 Therefore, cultural tolerance of war has developed over centuries and has enabled Asians to contend with the long-term suffering, the cost of casualties, and the many other consequences of war.

The Sinic culture follows the teachings of the Asian military strategist Sun Tzu who acknowledged the constant interplay between war and politics rather than their separation. These ideals are deeply ingrained and have traditionalized war as an acceptable means of policy. This philosophy of war is employed by American military strategists, but their viewpoints are also greatly influenced by Jomini and Clauswitz (whose theories in some regards distinctly contrast those of Sun Tzu). Accordingly, the United States followed its more traditional methods of past wars and attempted to defeat the Vietnamese by military mass rather than a better balance of force and political or cultural methods. Actions were based upon the "American way-of-war" and utilized superior firepower, technology, and military skill (elements vital to winning a conventional war) against a perceived inferior and under-equipped enemy. Some battles and campaigns fought by the U.S. against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong units were in fact conventional; however, these major campaigns were only periodic. Accompanying the conventional aspect was the continuous unconventional (guerrilla) nature of the war that became protracted. Ultimately, America was forced to withdraw as the casualties, cost, and duration of the war exceeded America's level of tolerance.

There is no evidence that a detailed cultural analysis would have affected the overall outcome of the Vietnam War; however, one can safely conclude the war was both conventional and unconventional and each side effectively used both methods. Overall, the U.S. tactically defeated the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, but the grand strategy was flawed in that the objectives of total victory was not in balance with American commitment, political will, and the guiding policies.

The collapse of the Soviet Union ended the "bipolar era" marked by the two superpowers. The uprising and diverse sources of power in a "multi-polar" environment fuel global conflict and demand world attention. The involvement of the United States (and its military forces) in world affairs continues to expand as cultural clashes multiply, and foreseeable missions will focus on non-traditional methods. Three decades have passed since America's incursion into Vietnam; nevertheless, the repetition of comparable planning deficiencies continue to plague strategists. Failure in Washington to recognize the relevance of culture stupefied the United States in Vietnam and has, again, effected difficulties in post Cold War interventions.


Sub-Saharan Africa has many divisions of different tribes, villages, or other sub-groups, but its main assemblage is the clan. Although each community projects its own social order and exhibits a limited radius of inter-community relations, Black Africa is characterized by a culture and mode of thinking not common to the rest of the world.22

Throughout history, warfare has been endemic to the cultures of all the Sub-Saharan regions of Africa. Sanctioned by values and beliefs, violence has provided the structural principles for the education of men and the administration of society and does not elicit any moral qualms. Aristide Zoldberg believes that these cultural attributes are so deeply ingrained that the, "...values, norms, and structures have survived to an extent everywhere, even where their existence was not legally recognized during the colonial era."23 It is widely accepted that warfare is a logical and necessary process to sustain, rather than disrupt, existing organizational structures and schemes. Moreover, war and martial activities embody the meaning of manhood in tribal life and symbolize the workings of the universe. Death is believed to be the result of supernatural forces and is not manifested as it is in Western civilizations. War and the organization for war thus assured the continuous identity of the group or clan as they centered on their ancestors, myths, customs, and rights.

Today, many African regions continue to be guided by many of the indigenous traditions of the past. A.D. Bozeman commented that: Africans are more at ease with conflict than their European and American contemporaries. They also view conflict being positive, as a source of values, and as a determining or integrating factor in life.24

During "Operation Restore Hope," the failure to address the Somali traditions and culture precipitated the withdrawal of United Nations and U.S. Forces. A fundamental precept for military interventions in Operations Other Than War (OOTW) is to maintain neutrality between warring factions. If, at any time, the intervening force is perceived as demonstrating favoritism to a belligerent-- in this case a clan-- it will loose its impartiality and effectiveness, jeopardizing the success of the entire mission.

In Somalia, genuine American efforts to encourage an amicable relationship between U.S. forces and the warring clans in Mogadishu were misinterpreted as demonstrating favor to selected clans. Adid sensed that he was losing his power and status as a prominent warlord. He believed that by disrupting the peace process, the tribal wars would continue and he could reassert himself. Subsequently, his forces ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani troops. The result was a Security Council resolution that not only condemned the ambush, but authorized the arrest and detention of Adid. This action transformed a humanitarian effort into a calamitous mini-war directed against Adid.25

Many Somali clans viewed this event as an attack against Adid, his clan and sub-clans, and all other politically allied clans. This unified many of these clans to wage a war against the "outsiders." Consequently, the violence escalated, Adid continued to slip away, and the credibility of the United States was once again in question as U.N. and U.S. armed forces were forced to withdraw.

Analogous to the experience in Vietnam, Americans were forced to withdraw before they had accomplished their intended mission. It remains unknown if a cultural analysis would have influenced the planning process and affected the outcome of the operation; but one can surmise that it may have provided a significant difference.

It has been discussed and demonstrated that many senior policy and military strategists overlook the impact of culture when formulating national policy. Focusing on the development of policy and strategy at the higher levels, policy-makers seem to ignore an existing condition, or political-military relationship at the tactical level. Therefore, the failure to integrate culture in the formulation of policy at the strategic and operational levels does not always influence the operations developed at the tactical level. Many times the requirement to achieve success has caused leaders to overlook or to modify existing policy or doctrine. The following case-studies will clearly amplify the importance of factoring culture into strategy development.

The Banana Wars

From 1915 to 1934, Marines participated in small war interventions in Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Nicaragua. Referred to as the "Banana Wars," these operations were conducted in a nebulous political-military environment, often without any clearly stated policy or guidance. The nature of these "Low Intensity Conflicts" (LIC) produced many unique challenges to the Marines. Their unconventional complexities required the Marines to develop, often through painful experiences, new methods and doctrine to contend with the multi-faceted demands they faced.

In 1915, a brigade of Marines was sent ashore in Haiti to protect American lives and property and to restore political order in a country beset by civil war. The Marines quickly defeated any opposition and soon found themselves in control of the political and civil responsibilities of Haiti. One of their first milestones was the establishment of the Gendarmerie as the country's constabulary to maintain law and order. The Gendarmerie was comprised of a group of Haitians and a small detachment of Marines, and was led by a Marine officer. These combined-units enforced the laws and were responsible for many social, economical, and political developments that were non-military in nature. The Brigade later assumed responsibility for additional civil affairs projects, turning to the tasks of nation-building and aiding the people. Training facilities were established for Haitian recruits and officer candidates; both were being trained to replace many of the Marines in the Gendarmerie. Most often, these civil-affairs tasks were accomplished with little political guidance or supervision. For instance, the State Department and President had entrusted the Navy to oversee the intervention in Haiti and the Navy, in turn, delegated much of the responsibility to the Marines. The progress the Marines made was impressive, although it later became plagued with numerous problems.26

Concurrent with the operations in Haiti, a second Marine Brigade was ordered to Santo Domingo. Like Haiti, the Marines promptly ended a bitter civil war, restored order, established a democracy, and built a constabulary (the Guardia Nacional de Dominicana) based upon framework of the Haitian Gendamerie.27

In 1927, the Marines were given another opportunity to restore order and establish a government. A Marine Brigade was sent ashore in Nicaragua and, initially, the intervention proceeded much like those in Haiti and San Domingo. A constabulary (the Guardian of National de Nicaragua) was established and followed the guidelines of the Gendamerie. The Marines focused on training the Guardia, patrolling, and civil affairs projects.28

While each intervention produced unique challenges, the Marines were able to initially gain success through superior firepower and, later, by gaining an understanding of the country's culture. As the Marines lived among and shared the hardships of the local populace, fierce loyalties became a common bond. These combined units proved most effective at combating the guerrillas and shifted the fighting to a national (rather than American) endeavor. Marines learned that survival and success were dependent upon their relationship with the indigenous countryman. Those who failed to cultivate this relationship (and disregarded the importance of cultural awareness) did so at their own peril. The most telling example was when Nicaraguan troops murdered nine Marines who demonstrated overbearing arrogance and cultural disregard to their Nicaraguan soldiers.

Perhaps the most important experience gained by the Marines in Central America was the recognition of the anomalous political and cultural dimensions that characterized these interventions. Many years later this would be referred to as "winning the hearts and minds of the people." The Marine Corps reflected upon these small war experiences and recognized the special qualifications required of Marines that confront the uncommon and demanding peculiarities of unconventional warfare. Subsequently, the Small Wars Manual was published and established the guidelines for the conduct of small wars. In particular, it addresses the importance of the different cultural attributes and specifies that Marines participating in small wars need to be physically fit, highly educated, professionally equipped, and possess a language capability and cultural understanding of the country.29 Much of the knowledge for conducting low-intensity conflict was gained from the experiences in Central America and would later serve as the foundation for the Combined Action Platoon Program (CAP) in Vietnam.

The Combined Action Program (CAP)30

Many regard the Marine Corps Combined Action Program as one of the most innovative and successful initiatives of the Vietnam War.31 The Combined Action Platoons were first conceived near Phu Bai airfield in August 1965 and reflected many of the lessons and experiences of the "Banana Wars." During this battle, a Marine battalion had successfully cleared opposition at the airfield but continued to receive mortar and harassment fire from some local hamlets. Faced with fighting the unconventional nature of these attacks, the local Marine commander decided to combine a detachment of his Marines with the local Vietnamese forces and position them in the surrounding hamlets. This arrangement resulted in an amiable relationship with locals and quickly expelled the enemy from the hamlets. Consequently, the successes gained from this initiative served as the model for an expanded program known as the Combined Action Platoon Program. The CAP's combined a 14-man Marine rifle squad and a Navy Corpsman with a Vietnamese village militia platoon of the Popular Forces (PF). Individuals who served in the CAP's received rudimentary Vietnamese language and cultural training prior to being integrated with the Vietnamese platoons. A Marine squad leader commanded the combined force, and the Marines ate, slept, and operated in the hamlets with their counterparts. This enabled the Marines to earn a sense of identity within the hamlets. The CAP's success was predicated on establishing and nurturing this bond created between the Marines and local inhabitants. The CAP's mission sought to provide security for selected hamlet populations, restore political authority, and disrupt the local Viet Cong infrastructure. Thus, the actions of the CAPs were divorced from the methods of the high-tech conventional war; they conformed to an unconventional manner that gained success against an enemy that seldom waged conventional war. As General Walt, the senior Marine in Vietnam in 1965, stated: "The struggle was in the rice paddies, in and among the people; it was about living with them and in sharing their victories or defeats, and sufferings if need be."32 Although the CAP's prescribed to this with proven success, the program was never fully embraced by many of the senior leaders who followed conventional warfare traditions.


Since the passing of the Cold War, world events are unfolding at an alarming rate. A plethora of political, economical, and technological developments, and the evolving use of America's forces to meet a diverse number of global challenges have significantly increased the requirement to integrate culture into the planning processes at the highest levels. This section examines these trends.


Post-Cold War developments have profoundly altered the previous bipolar security challenges of the United States. To confront today's dynamic and ambiguous challenges, America has redefined its National Security Strategy as one of Enlargement and Engagement. One of its central goals is to promote democracy abroad which emphasizes the enlargement of the community of democratic nations.33 This requires the current and projected strategic defense to encompass forward presence and global engagement. Accordingly, the revised National Military Strategy--termed Flexible and Selective Engagement--reflects these changes and supports National Strategy. Both strategies emphasize the use of the military to participate in a broader range of operations in order to effect global stability. Forces are now required to train both for their traditional missions (of fighting and winning wars) and to conduct missions that are non-military in nature. Current non-traditional missions already include peace-keeping/enforcement, humanitarian assistance, nation building, counter-drug operations, and other peripheral missions designed to achieve national security goals. The demands placed upon the military will, undoubtedly, continue to mount as global problems continue to rise.

It is anticipated large-scale conventional warfare will be rare. The patterns of cultural-conflict described earlier will continue to broaden and produce territorial disputes, economic dislocations, civil conflict insurgencies, and regional conflicts. The complexity and diversity of these issues are intangible. Recent and current world events attest to the broadened use of the military to meet a multitude of new challenges. The recent use of the military in Somalia and Rwanda, and the ongoing missions in Haiti, Iraq, and Bosnia demonstrate the military's expanded participation in a wide range of operations other than fighting and winning wars as Operations Other Than War have supplanted traditional military missions.

As a result of the numerous and growing challenges, the U.S. can no longer afford to "go at it alone," particularly in a time of decreasing resources and a shrinking military. Coalition Warfare has been, and will continue to be, the trend of most future military operations. This presents many unique challenges for the U.S. military. As it is important to understand the culture of one’s enemies, it is just as important to understand the culture of one's allies. Acknowledging and planning for these differences will establish a professional and effective working relationships.

The precipitous events in the Balkans and the systematic disintegration of Africa demonstrate that the nature of warfare, its causes, and its conduct have fundamentally changed. Accompanying rarer large-scale conflicts are more frequent smaller, complex regional wars that include both conventional and unconventional methods. Undoubtedly, the factor of "cultural clashes" will continue to underlay and drive the actions of a new generation of war. It is this author's estimate that these wars will continue to proliferate as world problems force cultural groups to coalesce in order to gain the security and resources necessary for survival.

The importance of recognizing and understanding the uniqueness of American cultural attributes cannot be overemphasized. Factors that are shaped by society (such as casualty intolerance, lack of patience and endurance, preoccupation of time and materialism, and universalism) are the very elements that seem to have a profound impact on the willingness of the American people to either support or oppose military involvement. Failure to understand and incorporate these aspects to the process of national strategy development will result in implementing a policy that falls short of desired goals.

Technology, global transparency, the omnipresent media, and the political nature of coalitions and peacekeeping operations have forged an unprecedented convergence of the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war. As OOTW continue to broaden, military forces have now, more than ever, become an extension of national and international politics.

Today's environment presents a myriad of unique challenges to junior leaders; challenges that traditionally been those of much more senior officers. Greater responsibility must be entrusted to company grade and non-commissioned officers who are in close contact with combatant and non-combatant forces in situations where decentralized diplomacy and on-the-spot negotiating skills can either defuse or infuse a volatile situation. The actions of the small-unit leader can affect the operational and strategic levels of war as the entire world reacts to success or failure through the lens of disparate cultures. Accordingly, the success of future operations will be contingent upon educating leaders--at all levels--to address the importance of culture in strategy development and of the sensitivity of working with disparate cultures.


The nature of war in today's dynamic global environment places a greater emphasis on the use of expeditionary forces to react to a wide spectrum of missions as set forth in the U.S. National Security Strategy. This requirement establishes the need for a forward-deployed, self-sustainable, dynamic force that is capable of conducting a variety of missions ranging from OOTW to serving as the initial echelon force in a high-intensity conflict. The Marine Corps is, and will remain, the force of choice that will be called upon to meet many of these challenges.

Why the Marines? The downsizing of the military has caused many Army and Air Force units to return to the continental U.S. and, therefore, they may not be in the best geographic position to quickly respond to meet many of the growing challenges. Reduced appropriations will also preclude many of these units from participating in operations as the costs for funding their deployment will normally exceed allocated funds. Additionally, the nature of conflict today requires a smaller footprint in theater. Many countries receiving assistance are acutely sensitive to any infringement of their national sovereignty; therefore, gaining overseas basing and overflight rights may become more difficult.

The Naval Expeditionary Force (NEF) provides the most prominent and visible forward-deployed deterrent today. Projected forward and required to maintain a continual rotation cycle, the NEF will likely be the first on scene to initiate actions in response to a crisis, or to provide the enabling capabilities for the introduction of a larger joint or combined force, The Navy's renewed strategical concept of "Forward...From the Sea" articulates its vision to shift its emphasis in power projection from sea to land and coveys the importance of maintaining forward-deployed Navy and Marine forces.34

The Marine Corps (with forces as a component of the NEF) maintains its forward presence through the deployment of the Marine Expeditionary Units--Special Operations Capable (MEU(SOC)). Each MEU brings with it a combined-arms package that is capable of conducting a multitude of missions. Fully supported from the sea, a MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) capable of operating in environments with a limited infrastructure, or when diplomatic constraints or security issues restrict land basing. These units provide the CINC's with a forward-deployed force that possesses the force structure to meet a myriad of contingencies.

It cannot be better stated than by noted historian, Lidel Hart: The U.S. Marine Corps is a three-in-one service that has gained much experience in combining land, sea, and air actions that it forms the nucleus and a pattern for further development. A self-contained and sea-based amphibious force, of which the U.S. Marine Corps is the prototype, is the best fire extinguisher, because of its flexibility, reliability, logistic simplicity, and relative economy.35

The long standing tradition of the Marine Corps stems from many successes in past involvements of non-traditional missions. Marine Corps history is replete with examples of participation in the non-traditional roles of humanitarian and small war experiences which today would be labeled as OOTW. As a result, the ideas, concepts, and doctrine of past interventions remain pertinent in today's multi-threat environment. One of the most important lessons Marines have learned in non-traditional missions is that the focus of success is customarily based upon the political and economic development of the community, village, etc. In such settings, cultural awareness is an integral component to success. Commenting on the nature of warfare today, Lt. Gen. Anthony Zinni has stated: The missions today are certainly non-traditional, I have trained and established police forces, judiciary committees; resettled refugees; negotiated with warlords, tribal leaders, and clan elders; and distributed food and provided medical assistance. Nowhere in my military career did anybody prepare me for this…these are the kinds of non-traditional tasks we have to do better and will be required to accomplish in the future.36

Furthermore, he purports that critical to success today are the training, education, and the depth of knowledge about cultures and the humanitarian aspects of an operation.37 Numerous after-action reports from recent Marine Corps operations also support the importance and need for cultural awareness training to prepare Marines for future missions.

The complexity of the missions that Marines face today and in the future will require greater "cultural-awareness" in order to achieve success with minimum casualties and material cost. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Marine Corps to further develop and expand its education programs to better prepare its leaders for meeting the multi-faceted threats of today and tomorrow.


Efforts to formalize cultural-awareness programs for military service members are not new. The first large-scale effort to modify the attitudes of service-members towards their overseas hosts was manifested through an Army Research Office contract to the American Institutes for Research in 1964. The project, named the Troop-community Relations Program, was an effort to develop in two American Army divisions a higher regard for their Korean hosts. This program was eventually expanded to include Army and Marine forces in Thailand.38 A similar initiative, The Personal Response Program, was introduced by Lieutenant General Victor Krulak in Vietnam. A Navy Chaplain was sent to Vietnam to study the religious and cultural data that would aid United States personnel in understanding the Vietnamese people.39 His program was initially intended only as a humanitarian project; however, its resultant successes led to its expansion into a cultural-training program.

In 1966 the general attitude of Marines towards the local Vietnamese people was scored as follows: 37% like 35% dislike and 28% mixed--two years later cultural training programs caused the scores to increase as follows: 59% like, 17% dislike, and 24% mixed.40 Additional research in 1967 concluded that of two regiments studied, it was found that Vietnamese assistance (which included providing warnings of enemy attack, turn-in of enemy weapons, enemy mine and booby-trap positions, and enemy movements) was exceedingly higher in the culturally-trained regiment.41 These studies support the theory that distinct achievements can be attained when a cultural-awareness training program is established.

Efforts to recognize the significance of culture have recently been expanded within the Marine Corps but still fall short of providing the required knowledge at all levels. Success in future conflicts will demand an emphasis on developing cultural-training and educational processes at all levels. The following section will explore the educational programs that currently provide cultural-awareness training within the Marine Corps educational system; the subsequent section will provide recommendations to further cultural educational programs.


Marine Corps University

The Marine Corps War College provides a course titled "War, Policy, and Strategy" which presents culture as an aspect of study in analyzing past wars. Culture remains a recurring theme throughout the course and weighs heavily during the subcourse of "Regional Studies." Here, studies focus on the important political, economical, and cultural dynamics of selected regions and how they relate to formulating military strategy.42 The School of Advanced Warfare introduces culture as one of the "enduring realities" of conflict in its regional case-study of the Middle East. This subcourse identifies cultural influences as a recurring theme for subsequent blocks of instruction.43 The Command and Staff College addresses culture in the OOTW course. This course covers the unique nature of OOTW, and the cultural aspects of war are emphasized in the sub-course "Warfighting in Third World Countries."44 Additionally, an elective, titled Military Geography, is offered which includes the cultural aspects of war and regional studies in its syllabus.

The Amphibious Warfare School provides a 3.5- hour "Cross-Cultural Communications" class included in its Revolutionary Warfare package. Its focus is on identifying and understanding problems associated with cross-cultural relations.45 The Senior Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Advanced Course provides a 10-hour course that requires students to conduct an information brief on a regional conflict. The brief covers the significant aspects of the selected country to include some of its cultural traits.46 The Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Career Course conducts a 2.5-hour class on Effective Oral Communication which includes a one-hour requirement to present limited cultural review on a particular country.47 Neither The Basic School nor the Sergeant’s Course address the significance of culture in their curriculum.

The Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program

This program assigns foreign area experts to high-level planning staffs, intelligence billets, or duties as a Defense Attach6 for a three-year tour. Selected officers are educated in the languages, military forces, economics, politics, culture, sociology, and geography of their specific regional assignment and receive a masters degree upon successful completion of the program.48 However, too few officers are selected per year which, consequently, limits its geographical coverage of countries of interest.

International Officer Presentations

Schools in which foreign officers attend include International Officer Presentations. This provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the participating foreign officer's country. Each officer is allotted 40-50 minutes to discuss the geographical, political, economical, cultural, and military aspects of their country as well other specific issues. This exposes, however brief and general, students to dynamics of different countries and cultures.

As this review has demonstrated, the educational emphasis placed on addressing cultural variables of war is limited and inconsistent. The overlapping levels of war and OOTW demand that a greater emphasis on the cultural aspects of war be included in Marine Corps educational institutions--to include the non-resident programs. The higher echelon schools of MCWAR and SAW place significant emphasis on the importance of culture in their curriculums as compared to that of other career-level schools, but these two schools produce only about 25 Marine graduates per year. The remaining schools under the auspices of the Marine Corps University and other service schools would greatly benefit by furthering their curricula to include culture and geography as a core topic-- with equal value to politics and history-- in the study of foreign countries.


Broadening PME

The responsibility for implementing PME in the Marine Corps resides not only with the educational system, but also with the commander and the individual. Commanders have the flexibility to include a variety of tools to emphasize the significance of culture to military operations during "in-house" training. Reading programs, war games, and battle studies are only a few of the many methods of conducting informal PME. Guided discussions regarding past conflicts (such as: Napoleon's Peninsular War, France's involvement in Indochina and Algeria, and America's involvement in Vietnam or Lebanon) could effectively provoke interests and instill fundamental basics throughout the ranks.

Secondly, cultural case-studies and articles of interest should be given more emphasis and featured in professional military journals (Naval Proceedings, The Marine Corps Gazette, and Leatherneck, etc.). Additionally, books comparable to the aforementioned examples which focus on the cultural dynamics of war could be added to the commandant's reading list (see bibliography for examples).

Thirdly, the cultural aspects of war need to be introduced and study enhanced throughout the Marine Corps University educational programs. For example, the NCO Course could offer a class (or classes) that emphasizes cultural considerations involved when engaged in military operations with foreign military personnel and civilians. The objective would be to gain an appreciation for the differing cultural values, behavior, and perceptions of foreign countries, and to address how these have influenced past wars. This type of focus would be continued and expanded up the hierarchical tier of the other career-level schools. The Command and Staff College curricula could be expanded to provide studies on how to determine and evaluate the cultural aspects of a country and their influences when developing military operational objectives for future concept plans. This would better prepare students for staff assignment to HHQ, joint, and combined staffs.

The significance of the cultural aspects of war, its causes and nature, and end-state must be understood as the nature of past debacles closely parallels that of warfare today. Therefore, training and producing intelligent Marines (at all levels) who will fight and win our country's next battles must be the provenance of creative leaders and PME.

Commissioning Opportunities

The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a highly competitive recruiting tool that offers a "Marine Option" for applicants. In order to initiate foreign area expertise at an early stage, applicants could be required to take foreign language and geography classes as a mission prerequisite, or selection boards could give special attention (or weighting of points) to applicants who meet these prerequisites. This concept could also be instituted as a requirement for Military Academy graduates desiring the Marine Option.

Expanding the FAO Program

This program, if expanded, could serve as the core of a strengthened cultural-awareness model. The education and experience of FAO's must be recognized and managed to maximize their unique qualifications. When not serving in their primary MOS, officers with a secondary FAO MOS should be programmed into billets where their qualifications can be used to further the cultural education process or serve as a regional staff advisor. This program could also be expanded into the reserves. A formalized syllabus could be developed that requires reservists to study foreign particulars at local colleges. After successful completion of the syllabus, Marines would earn an MOS and, perhaps, additional incentives. More significantly, promotions must remain on par with all other Military Occupational Specialties.


The events that mark the world today indicate that the nature of war, its causes, its conduct, and its unconventional tactics and strategies have fundamentally changed. Conflicts today range across a spectrum that encompasses not only conventional war between large-scaled armed forces, but also includes unconventional warfare between smaller groups at lower-intensity levels based on political, socio-economical, religious, or resource issues. As the United States addresses its security interests in the framework of a new global perspective, it is essential to comprehend the cultural imperatives that drive the actions of a new generation of warfare. As Michael Howard wrote, "Wars are not tactical exercises writ large... they are… conflicts of societies, and they can be fully understood only if one understands the nature of the society fighting them."49

Cultural conflicts, often embodied with their unbridled savagery, are an ominous portent of the twenty-first century. The cataclysmic response of cultural war, combined with natural and man-made disasters, will require that the United States become even more actively engaged in world events in order to effect stability. The daunting temptation to view the problem, its causes and solutions exclusively from the American perspective will likely continue. However, in the multi-cultural environment of the modern world, foreign policy-makers and military strategists must recognize and analyze the multiple and distinct differences of cultures, as well as the different political and economical systems of both their enemies and allies. The approaches to the issue of culture and conflict may be diverse, but without embracing culture as a contributor to conflict, we will fall to develop the correct political and military means for their solutions.

It remains the responsibility of the military leadership and its educational institutions to acknowledge, accept and develop its cultural awareness programs to fully integrate, reconcile and balance the benefits of technology with the human approach to formulate effective strategies. The nature of war today underlines the importance of quality of leadership as technology and unconventional conflict will place greater responsibility on small unit leaders. A Chinese philosopher stated over 2,500 years ago:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. lf you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. lf you know neither the enemy or yourself, you will succumb in every battle.50 

Today, we must study and understand more than our enemy's order of battle; we must begin by first understanding and factoring our own cultural attributes into the processes of formulating policy. Secondly, the focus must address the enemy's culture and way of war. The ability of our senior leaders to comprehend the inseparable relationship between culture and conflict may be the difference between success or failure in future operations.


1             Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster, 1977.

2              H.J. DeBlij and Peter 0. Muller, Geography Realms, Regions, and Concepts, New York, NY: Wiley and Sons INC, 1985, pp.19.

3              Ibid., pp. 20.

4              Ibid., pp. 20.

5              Adda B. Bozeman, "War and the Clash of Ideas." Orbis, Spring 1976, pp.78.

6              H.J. DeBlij and Peter 0, Muller, Geography Realms, Regions, and Concepts, pp.2.

7              Ibid., pp.3.

8              Ibid., pp.4.

9              Ibid., pp. 4.

10            Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations"?, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, pp. 24.

11             A.D. Bozeman, pp. 79.

12             Peter Paret, Makers of Modern Strategy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986, pp. 566-583.

13              H.J. DeBlij and Peter 0. Muller, Geography Realms, Regions, and Concepts, pp. 21.

14              Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations," pp. 29.

15              A.B. Bozeman, "War and the Clash of Ideas," Orbis, Spring 1976, pp. 73.

16              Kaplan, Robert D, "The Coming Anarchy." The Atlantic Monthly, February 1994, pp. 46.

17              Martin Van Creveld, "Future War," The Transformation of War, pp.197-207.

18              Ibid., pp. 192-227.

19              Robert D. Kaplan, "The Coming Anarchy," The Atlantic Monthly, February 1994, pp. 59.

20              Robert S. McNamara, "In Retrospect," Newsweek, April 17, 1995, pp.46.

21             A.D. Bozeman, pp.92-93.

22             Ibid., pp.80.

23             Aristide R. Zoldberg, "The Structure of Political Conflict in the New States of Tropical Africa," American Political Science Review, March 1968, pp.70.

24             A.B. Bozeman, "War and the Clash of Ideas," Conflict, Culture, and History in Regional Dimensions, Air University Press: Maxwell Airforce Base, Alabama, 1993.  Conflict, Culture, and History in Regional Dimensions, Air University Press: Maxwell Airforce Base, Alabama, 1993.

25             George, J. Church, "How the Somali Mission Failed," Time, Vol. 142, No. 6, October 18, 1993, pp. 40-46.

26             Major Scott R. Moore, "Small War Lessons Learned," Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 74, No, 3, February 1993, pp. 33.

27             Major Scott R. Moore, "Small War Lessons Learned," Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 74, No. 3, February 1993, pp. 33.

28            Major Scott R. Moore, "Small War Lessons Learned," Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 74, No. 3, February 1993, pp. 34.

29          United States Marine Corps Small Wars Manual. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940.


30           A distinction needs to be made between CAP and CAPs. CAP refers to the overall Combined Action Program, whereas CAP's refers to the individual platoons within the program.

31           Michael E. Peterson, The Combined Action Platoons: The US. Marines' Other War in Vietnam, New York, NY: Praeger Publishers, 1989.

32          General Lewis Walt, Strange War, Strange Strategy, New York, NY, Funk and Wagnalls, 1970, pp.77.

33          President W. Clinton, A National Security Strategy Of Enlargement And Enlargement, The White House, February 1995, pp.i.

34          J.M. Boorda, CNO, USN, "The Navy-Marine Corps Team: Looking Ahead," Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 79, No. 3, March 1995, pp.22-25.

35          Lidel Hart, "Marines and Strategy," Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 74, No. 5, May 1990, pp. 25-32.

36          Lt. General Anthony Zinni, "It's Not Nice and Neat," Naval Proceedings, Vol.121, No. 8, August 1995.

37          Ibid.

38          Richard McGonigal, pp.61.

39          Ibid., pp.62.

40          Richard McGonigal, pp.72.

41          Richard McGonigal, pp.73.

42          Marine Corps War College, War, Policy, and Strategy Syllabus, AY 1995-96, pp.

43            School of Advanced Warfare, USMC, Student Requirements for the Middle East AY 1995-96, pp.3

44            Command and Staff College, USMC, Warfighting from the Sea--Operations Other Than War Syllabus, AY 1995-96, pp. 7.

45            Amphibious Warfare School, USMC, Revolutionary War Syllabus--Cross-Cultural Communications, AY 1995-96, pp.3.

46            Staff Non-Commisioned Officer Advanced Course Program of Instruction, 1995-96, pp.8.

47             Staff Non-Commisioned Officer Career Course Program of Instruction, 1995-96, pp.6.

48             Marine Corps Order 1520.1lC, "Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program," March 21, 1989.

49             Michael Howard, "The Use and Abuse of Military History," Parameters, March 1981, pp.14.

50             Sun Tzu, The Art of War New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1963, pp. 18.


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