Cultural Understanding: Is it Possible to Understand Another's Culture Without a Firm Grasp of One's Own?
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPT
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Hard lessons learned in both Iraq and Afghanistan appear to indicate that technology, intelligence, and training cannot prevail if Americans do not understand their adversaries andor the people they are trying to protect. As a result, an undue focus has been placed on the need to understand foreign cultures within the context of conducting military operations. While this knowledge is important, an understanding of another culture can only be reached through first understanding American culture and the subsequent inherent biases. Ones own culture is what forms the lens through which others are perceived. This paper will provide an understanding of what constitutes culture and will examine how the United States U.S. military currently conducts cultural orientation training. It will then explain some aspects of American culture that provide the basis for a worldview, which must be considered in the attempt to understand others. Finally, the paper will provide an examination of how culture has affected U.S. military goals and activities in previous operations, illustrating how blindness to ones own culture can potentially lead to failure.
- Sociology and Law