Out of the Wilderness: Prime Time for Strategic Culture   [open pdf - 168KB]

"Strategic culture has come of age, at last. After years in the wilderness, the defense community has adopted it officially as an important concept with significant implications. There are some difficulties, however, in finding a methodology to study it and, indeed, in understanding just how it 'works'. In the spirit of Sun-tzu and Jomini, there is a danger that culture is in the process of being identified as the Philosopher's Stone for policy and strategy; the magical element that will transform ignorance into knowledge. Also, there is some likelihood that culture is becoming fashionable. This means that it must also become unfashionable, after a period of prime-time prominence. Scholars cannot agree on how to define strategic culture. This is rather foolish since there is general agreement on the content of the subject and, roughly, on how it functions. The principal disagreement is between those who include behavior within their definition, and those who exclude it. This is a burning issue for theory builders but otherwise is not really of any great significance. If we have resort to an educated common sense, a most unscholarly proposition, the difficulty evaporates. All people are 'cultural creatures'. Everything we think and do is performed in the context of culture, perhaps cultures. But culture need not dominate. It is an ever present potential influence, sometimes pressing hard, sometimes not. Its principal function is to make sense of the world for us. Some scholars misunderstand the nature and variable character of strategic culture and, as a consequence, they contrast 'culturalist' with realist approaches to security. This is wrong. All realists, including neorealists, are, to repeat, 'cultural creatures', whether they like it or not. [...] Strategic culture is vitally important. There are no persuasive arguments to the contrary. But, a little theory goes a long way in a highly practical field like strategic studies. And culture is no panacea. It is not the golden key that can transform military losers into winners. Cultural change happens, but it will not change suddenly by order from above. Finally, if strategic culture is indeed the concept of the moment, its lustre will soon vanish as it is replaced by the next fashionable wonder solution to our strategic problems." Note: This document has been added to the Homeland Security Digital Library in agreement with the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) as part of the PASCC collection. Permission to download and/or retrieve this resource has been obtained through PASCC.

2006 National Institute Press. Downloaded or retrieved via external web link as part of the PASCC collection.
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