Arts Industries Policy Forum Conference, Accounting for Culture in the Military: Implications for Future Humanitarian Cooperation, Dec. 9, 2011
On Friday, December 9, 2011, at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., the Arts Industries Policy Forum will host a one-day conference addressing the U.S. military’s efforts to increase its cultural expertise.
While the military has made the goal of increased cultural knowledge and awareness a priority since the mid-2000s, these developments have yet to be accounted for as part of a broad inter-agency conversation among military and non-military stakeholders. The increasing relevance of the military’s approaches to cultural challenges to the work of other government agencies and non-governmental actors, including diplomacy, development, and humanitarian relief, makes the present moment opportune for a fruitful exchange regarding the relationship of culture to security.
The conference will be webcast here on Friday. The webcast will begin approximately 10 minutes after the posted meeting time. You will need Windows Media Player to watch the webcast. Download the free player here.
See Program and Overview below.
Accounting for Culture in the Military:
Implications for Future Humanitarian Cooperation
December 9, 2011
10:00 a.m. Welcome
Michael Van Dusen
Executive Vice President and COO
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Director, Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy
10:15 a.m. Cultural Education and Training
Moderator: Clementine Fujimura
Professor, Department of Languages and Cultures
U.S. Naval Academy
Deputy Director, Outreach, Planning and Policies
Air Force Culture and Language Center
Air War College
Professor, Anthropology and International Relations
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
Georgetown University; Wilson Center
11:15 a.m. Rise of the Military Culture Analyst
Moderator: Robert Albro
School of International Service
Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning
Director, Stability and Development Program
Center for Naval Analyses
12:30 p.m. Luncheon
Speaker: Steve Coll
New America Foundation
2:00 p.m. Military Cultural Heritage Resource Management
Moderator: Lynn Nicholas
Archaeologist and Program Manager
Cultural Resources Management
Archaeologist and National Geographic Fellow
National Geographic Society
Distinguished Research Professor
3:00 p.m. Summary Remarks
Director, Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy
Accounting for Culture in the Military:
Implications for Future Humanitarian Cooperation
This one-day conference, organized by Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy and hosted by the program in United States Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., builds directly upon the success of the Curb Center’s Arts Industries Policy Forum. Since 2003, this forum has convened cultural policy experts and government decision-makers to discuss the policy implications of key cultural issues through a participant-driven, nonpartisan program of information exchange. This has included attention to the implications of culture for national security, as represented by 2008’s Cultural Diplomacy and the National Interest, and which the present conference actively extends. As host, the Wilson Center’s program in United States Studies has a track record of attention to complementary concerns, including: the relationship between U.S. culture and Muslims in the U.S., the domestic impacts of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the work of citizen diplomacy. As partners, the Curb and Wilson centers are well-prepared to take the next step to examine the varied connections between culture and security in greater depth.
This conference takes that step focusing specifically upon the U.S. military’s efforts to develop cultural expertise and the forms that this expertise is currently taking. While the military has made the question of culture a focus of particular attention starting in the mid-2000s, in the process elaborating doctrinal, strategic, and operational ways both of understanding and applying cultural knowledge, this conference seeks to build a broader inter-agency conversation among military and non-military stakeholders about implications of the U.S. military’s several approaches to cultural problem-solving. If these approaches are non-traditional for the military, they are nevertheless becoming increasingly relevant to the work of other government agencies and non-governmental actors, across a wide array of efforts in diplomacy, development, and humanitarian relief, among others. This makes the present moment a good one for a fruitful exchange with stakeholders across government and outside of government regarding the ways that the military understands the relationship of culture to security.
That the purposes, methods, and organization of the U.S. military have changed dramatically since the Cold War is now taken largely for granted. Nowhere have these changes been more evident than in the pursuit by the military in recent years to increase its cultural understanding, and to incorporate cultural knowledge into its operations. And while the military’s cultural turn has been widely noted, most often as represented by the so-called “Petraeus doctrine” of culture-centric counterinsurgency, implications of the military’s turn to culture are still not widely recognized or well-understood beyond the military itself.
This turn is not illustrated by a single overarching approach, so much as by multiple parallel approaches across the services meeting a variety of different needs, among them: training and education, cultural intelligence and analysis, and culturally-informed decision-making in theater, including cultural heritage resource management. As the military has developed a variety of culture-based policies, programs, and operational goals to meet its current mission requirements, these developments have remained largely siloed within the DoD. But, as present and future military missions increasingly include traditionally non-military dimensions, forms of expertise, and priorities, civil-military collaborations are becoming more regular and routine. This makes the need for a more comprehensive inter-agency understanding of the military’s particular approaches to culture more urgent, both at present and during peacetime after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down.
Since the military’s commitment to cultural capacity-building has been widely discussed, we will not rehearse the details of this story here. But, briefly, the more important drivers include the following: 1) In broad terms, post-Cold War and post-9/11 realities have been regularly referenced by the U.S. policy community using “clash of civilizations” frameworks, for which soft power becomes a crucial tool, and which are understood in essence as cultural conflicts; 2) for the military this has meant refocusing basic objectives toward waging asymmetric warfare, that is, unconventional conflicts among non-state actors and with culturally distinct populations; 3) for which counterinsurgency doctrine, requiring significant awareness of and sustained engagement with non-combatant cultural communities, has become the answer; 4) and where its ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have spurred the military to seek to rapidly raise its perceived “cultural knowledge gap” and to build up a sustainable cultural capacity.
5) Paralleling these developments, as the U.S. military’s global footprint has shifted significantly away from preparing for the next large conventional conflict, its logistical capabilities have been utilized as a first responder and global backstop for diverse humanitarian disasters, ranging from the 2004 Banda Aceh Tsunami to the 2010 Haiti earthquake; 6) As a humanitarian agency, the military must frequently coordinate with such diverse civilian and NGO actors as the United Nations Development Programme, USAID, the Department of State, other development, refugee, and human rights organizations, and including the Smithsonian; 7) If many of these activities are incorporated into counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan (often in the form of civil-military cooperation on provincial reconstruction or civil affairs teams), they are also recognized parts of military doctrine as “operations other than war” (MOOTW) or as “stability, security, transition and reconstruction operations” (SSTR), 8) which complexly combine work in development, diplomacy, peace-keeping, human rights, governance, and reconciliation, among other activities, requiring an in-depth concern for relevant “socio-cultural dynamics.”
The increase in civil-military collaborations in this changing environment of military cultural initiatives has also been characterized by regular reaching out to new interlocutors, in government, in academia, and in the private sector. This involves a broad range of “culture experts” historically not looked to by the military, and including: sociocultural anthropologists, archaeologists, cultural geographers, cultural psychologists, people with backgrounds in communications, international relations, cultural studies, and other subject matter experts from the humanities (e. g. experts in Arabic literature). However, such military-academic relationships can present conceptual, practical, and even ethical, dilemmas, where differences in background and training, in conceptual framing, and in modes of analysis can mean that potential collaborators find it challenging to bridge these divides. They are often working with different definitions of culture and its relationship to policy in the first place, which makes constructive exchanges about cultural interpretation, analysis, assessment, or metrics, difficult to achieve.
Another collaborative challenge, in the context of inter-agency whole-of-government efforts, is that the different historical roles of stakeholders lead to distinct assumptions about best practices and tools, which can be perceived as competitive rather than complementary. Finally, discussions of new cultural initiatives that require coordination across agencies, such as standing up rapid cultural response teams dedicated to helping secure national heritage or patrimonies in the aftermath of humanitarian disasters, also create new working relationships between the military and counterparts, which would benefit from substantial ground clearing. For these reasons, this conference seeks to open up a space for dialogue about military-culture efforts along the frontier of potential collaborations between military and non-military counterparts.
Organization of the event
This is a one-day conference, and expanded version of the Curb Center’s Arts Industries Policy Forum, which seeks to convene military and non-military stakeholders to promote constructive dialogue about the relationship of the military’s cultural work to that of counterparts, in the context of broader inter-agency discussion and engagement with culturally-relevant challenges in development, diplomacy, and humanitarian work, and related efforts. The conference will be organized around three round table-style panels, each of which will address a distinct and emerging area of military cultural capacity-building: 1) cultural education and training; 2) cultural analysis and assessment; 3) and cultural heritage resource management.
The schedule will feature two morning panels, a lunch with plenary speaker, an afternoon panel, and a concluding summation. Each panel will feature between four and six participants, and each panel will convene a diversity of perspectives representing military, non-military, academic, policy and practitioner backgrounds. As a round-table discussion, each panel is designed to be maximally participatory as a way to generate productive exchanges between panelists and between each panel and the other conference attendees. To best orient each panel conversation, brief framing discussions that lay out pertinent issues will be shared with all panelists beforehand, to which they can both refer and respond. In anticipation of the meeting, in addition, a landscape document will be shared with all participants, laying out the broad framework for the discussion to follow. We anticipate this conference will result in a published summary that can be used as a roadmap for constructive military-civilian dialogue about shared cultural policy and practice, going forward.
Panel I: Cultural Education and Training
The U.S. military establishment also includes an entire Professional Military Education System internal to the Department of Defense. This system includes more than the four service academies, educates both undergraduates and graduates, and employs full-time faculty in ways comparable to the civilian system of higher education in the U.S. In addition, the PME system also provides significant training, including pre-deployment training and mid-career development. More recently, this has included more emphasis upon language, area studies, and cultural training. At the Naval Academy, the Marine Corps’ Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning, the Air Force Culture and Language Center, the Army’s Training and Doctrinal Command, and the Naval Post-Graduate School, among other institutions, cultural skills and “cross-cultural competence” are receiving priority. This panel will discuss what cultural education and training looks like in the military, including curricula, foreign area studies, authoritative scholarly and other influences, the uses of gaming and simulation technologies for culture training, and compare these to the sources of culture knowledge, experience, and expertise, among non-military counterparts engaged in collaborative work with the military, in particular as these either overlap or clearly diverge.
II. Rise of the Military Culture Analyst
In particular in the context of counterinsurgency, the military has sought ways to obtain better cultural understanding of theaters of conflict. This knowledge is, in turn, institutionalized in ways conversant with already established military priorities and information needs. Cultural knowledge, therefore, has become knowledge of the “cultural terrain,” and “human terrain analysis” has become a basic part of the work of “cultural intelligence,” or the “cultural preparation of the environment.” In short, military cultural analysis reflects specific forms of training and military priorities, and it is being integrated into the DoD landscape in particular ways, such as the interdisciplinary development of computational and predictive sociocultural modeling tools. Another way is as part of a new area studies-type capacity that emphasizes the incorporation of civilian sociocultural expertise in centers of excellence, as these are made an integral part of the capacity of regional combatant commands like AFRICOM or CENTCOM. If AFRICOM is any indication, these commands will become a particular locus for the kinds of non-kinetic and non-traditional culturally-informed humanitarian work of “defense, diplomacy, and development.” These are also examples of new kinds of civil-military partnerships, where academic and inter-agency expertise will be routinely mobilized in the analysis and interpretation of global regions. This panel will address the role of military cultural analytics for such collaborative enterprises.
III. Military Cultural Heritage Resource Management
The military has belatedly come to recognize the importance of both tangible and intangible heritage as dimensions of cultural security in Iraq, Afghanistan, and more recently, in Haiti and elsewhere. This is in part a response to the global emergence of “heritage” as a source of conflict, and as the subject of new international legal frameworks supporting its identification and conservation. For the military, cases like the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the looting of the Baghdad museum, as well as the illegal antiquities trade, have demonstrated the negative consequences of ignoring cultural heritage in the battle for public support and cooperation in theaters of operation. At the same time, the military-civilian efforts to preserve Haiti’s cultural treasures after the recent earthquake have demonstrated the cultural diplomacy potential of military humanitarian intervention. The military continues to incorporate methods and best practices that combine both cultural resource management and participatory cultural mapping, working with local cultural communities to articulate their own cultural priorities. Such efforts have clear parallels in the work of international development and human rights professionals, but as yet there has been little to no conversation among stakeholders about the implications and methods of this work.