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Everyone Else is They: A New Framework for Operational Culture
by Megan Kraushaar
I t is unlikely that the conflicts the U.S. military and intelligence communities will face in the future will be simple, conventional clashes. Rather, horizontal and vertical integration of the world add layers of complexity and competing alliances and identities that will continue to muddy the operational environment. Second-, third-, and fourth-order effects will result from even minor interventions in the increasingly complex system of the international environment. Trade relations and commercial business decisions could affect the internal dynamics of a failing state, sparking conflict or creating stability more effectively than an armed intervention might. The U.S. military must recognize the competitive influences within these complex systems and acknowledge that seldom can a line of effort or course of action be imagined within a vacuum or without the influence of a myriad of outside, uncontrolled actors.
As the U.S. continues to be engaged in the far corners of the world, its leaders cannot rely on laminated cultural “smart cards” when attempting to evaluate the desired end states and outcomes of intervention. The cultural understanding necessary to foresee the type of catastrophe that occurred in Iraq requires extensive consideration of complex social science theory and true openness to realities other than liberal democratic traditions. The “tactical culture” that governs interpersonal interaction does not provide any tools for decisionmakers to consider alternate approaches and end states not derived from the American worldview. Debating the definition of culture in Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, draws focus from the more relevant question: Are the concepts of culture in FM 3-24 useful in operational planning? The answer, unfortunately, is they are not...
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Megan K. Kraushaar is an intelligence officer in the Defense Intelligence Agency. This paper was written under the auspices of the Local Dynamics of War program at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth.