Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Building a Second-Half Team: Securing Cultural Expertise for the Battlespace

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Building a Second-Half Team: Securing Cultural Expertise for the Battlespace

Article excerpt

Editorial Abstract:

The United States and its allies have necessarily adapted to a new form of "urban and asymmetric" warfare preferred by the enemy. To remain effective, the United States needs nonkinetic, "softer" solutions, such as civil affairs, public affairs, and psychological operations-informed by cultural expertise-to meet its national-security objectives in present and future conflicts.

AMERICANS LOVE FOOTBALL. Sports talk shows earn high ratings, and numbers of fans call in to forecast and vent about their favorite team's recent and future performances. The periodic spectacle of two relatively similar teams-their actions governed by a wellknown rule book, meeting within visible boundaries to smash helmets and maneuver toward the end zones-has become part of our national identity.

Perhaps this popular sport has colored the American psyche's grasp on war. For instance, a portion of our population still waxes nostalgic for the Cold War. Back then, everyone chose between two favorite "teams," each of whichthough endowed with different strengths and weaknesses-brought similar capabilities to the global playing field. Each side made a huge effort to peek into the enemy's playbook to ascertain his capabilities-President Eisenhower, for instance, created a serious diplomatic donnybrook by attempting to find out via the U-2 the number of bombers the Soviets could bring to the game. One can understand our national-security apparatus's assumption of success in this endeavor and the big resources committed to it. After all, in 1959 we had one principal enemy with one Big Red playbook, so learning its contents became a high priority.

Fortunately, the two teams never crossed the Fulda Gap line of scrimmage; nor did Coaches Khrushchev and Kennedy take their teams to the Cuba Bowl in 1963. Now, however, the United States has no near-peer competitor and needs to adapt its team accordingly. Each of the numerous potential opponents in the world today uses a different playbook. Analysts can no longer watch the postgame show to prepare for future competitions. Briefing coaches on mission, enemy, terrain, time, and available troops is no longer sufficient. Each enemy will use a playbook tailored to local conditions as well-those of the indigenous culture. Combatant commanders will need advisors, warriors, practitioners, theorists, and strategists educated in human terrain to help them best utilize their people and equipment before, during, and after hostilities. This array of professionals will also hone nonkinetic tools like public affairs (PA), civil affairs (CA), and psychological operations (PSYOP). These are important activities, especially for the postconflict phase of military operations-a phase inherently asymmetric and increasingly conducted in cities. The end of the Cold War, therefore, does not demand a new metaphor but a modification of our previous paradigm, and the Department of Defense (DOD) will need a bench crowded with oncall regional expertise to meet this demand.

Simply put, the enemy is going urban and asymmetric. The Russian approach to Grozny-pulling forces back beyond rocket-propelledgrenade range from city limits and flattening the population center with shells and bombswill not work in Fallujah. The United States needs nonkinetic, "softer" solutions like PA, CA, and PSYOP to meet its national-security objectives in future conflicts. We can enable and maximize these activities by means of cultural expertise, a craft worthy of the DOD's investment and cultivation.

Heading into the Stands: A Useful Analogy for Counterinsurgency

As Maj Raymond Finch describes in his article on the Chechen guerrilla Shamil Basayev, the superpowers are still ready to take the field and prosecute conventional force-on-force conflict. The opposition, however, has discarded the Cold War rule book as nation-states erode and "away games" occur more frequently in venues like Chechnya and Somalia, where the opposition's athletes "have moved up into the stands, wreaking all sorts of havoc. …

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