That the West could build a state and military in its own image, from the outside-in and from the top-down, without an adequate—much less a deep—understanding of Afghan society and culture was a dangerous assumption. One might say this notion represents our most fundamental error, generative of many missteps. Perhaps the earliest strategic failure in Afghanistan was the distracting invasion of Iraq in 2003, a campaign that also suffered from a similar set of fundamental, faulty assumptions. Iraq was yet another intervention with no real planning it seems for the aftermath—for all the social and political variables that must be considered to mitigate chaos and prevent prolonged conflict. Just design the exquisite air and ground campaigns, shock and awe, and rebuild the infrastructure, re-engineer the society itself with our models as templates. There seems to be a pattern, a way of thinking, so deeply embedded one might call it cultural, upon which we need to reflect.
This introduction applies the “Hindsight 20/20” theme to the history of the symposium as an event, while making the argument for continued language, regional expertise, and culture (LREC) education across the force. It begins by reviewing the history of the symposium, followed by a reflection on lessons learned from the 2020 event, before concluding with a summary of the enclosed papers that collectively suggest the need for greater LREC research and teaching on the themes discussed herein.
This article will explore the current status of our military and diplomatic relations with allies in the Indo-Pacific theater through published research and the authors’ anecdotal experiences from working with multinational partners during different assignments, exercises, and distinguished visitor support to highlight Department of Defense successes, failures, and areas for improvement. These qualitative experiences will illuminate how cultural understanding is the key to the multilateral success of the United States’ alliance network.
Interoperability is a priority for operational concepts, modular force elements, communications, information sharing, and equipment. It is also a key element for strengthening alliances and partnerships under the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The Air Force Language Enabled Airmen Program (LEAP) is a valuable tool for deepening interoperability but may be currently underutilized in some regional and cultural settings due to the scarcity of program participants. This article will illustrate the importance of building up such a pool of LEAP-trained workforce talent from the perspective of an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance mobile training team (ISR-MTT) deployed by the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to drive Philippine military independence on producing actionable intelligence from organic capabilities. It will describe the recruitment and training process; highlight key milestones that were achieved to elevate the ISR-MTT’s efforts as a benchmark for training other regional partners; address operational gaps; and provide recommendations to diversify the reach and potential of LEAP in support of the expansion of Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships.
On a regular basis, there are incidences of intercultural conflict between local non-US communities and Airmen at outside continental United States (OCONUS) bases. Even when illegal infractions are not occurring, there are moral or social transgressions that erode the appearance of the US Air Force (USAF). The aim to build, maintain, and expand alliances and partner nations cannot be accomplished until there is an understanding of allies’/partners’ histories, cultures, religions, and languages. This understanding must be gained through intentional training and exposure. The training should be mandatory for all Air Force-affiliated personnel who are stationed outside the United States, including Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, General Schedule, and contracted employees. Preparation for living overseas should include language, culture, history, and geopolitics courses for representatives of the USAF. The purpose is to equip American individuals with a baseline knowledge of the people and region of the country to which they are assigned. With this education, USAF-affiliated individuals will be able to expand their cultural competencies, decrease cultural faux pas, increase collaborative efforts with partner and ally nations, and better focus on the tenets of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
Volume 04 Issue 4 - Special Issue 2021
The views and opinions expressed or implied in JIPA are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents. See our Publication Ethics Statement.