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Thread: Cultural Intelligence (merged thread)

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    Default Cultural Intelligence (merged thread)


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    Default Cultural Intel: Marines Are From Mars, Iraqis Are From Venus

    May 2004 article by Major Ben Connable - Marines Are From Mars, Iraqis Are From Venus posted to the SWJ Cultural Intelligence page.

    Marines find themselves regularly frustrated by the behavior and reactions of the Iraqi people. There are very fundamental cultural differences between Americans and Arabs, but for a variety of reasons these differences are exaggerated between the Marine tribe and the Iraqi tribe. Our fundamental differences lead to fundamental misunderstandings. As we enter a period of ambiguity leading up to the transition, it may be helpful to look at how we deal with our Iraqi counterparts from a fresh perspective.

    American Marines and Iraqis are hardwired at far ends of a cultural void not by genetics, but by social conditioning. These descriptions are necessarily simplified, skewed and hyperbolic toward the ideal to make a point. No two people are the same, not everyone lives up (or down) to the ideal. I’ve used very sweeping generalizations that may not match preconceived notions or reflect common wisdom on the nature of our two cultures. Both the Iraqi and the American people share the same human spark. Not every American or Iraqi will find themselves in these descriptions. The purpose of this paper is to help Marines in the Al Anbar Province find patience and understanding to help an embattled people...

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    Default Leathernecks Sharpen Focus on Cultural Awareness

    March issue of National Defense - Leathernecks Sharpen Focus on Cultural Awareness.

    The Marine Corps has launched an effort to improve the ability of its troops to cope with the complex cultural issues that they are encountering in anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.

    Here, at the headquarters of the Corps’ Combat Development Command, the Marines in May 2005 established a center for advanced operational culture learning...

    Until now, cultural and language training have been uneven and uncoordinated throughout the Corps...

    In 2004, the Marine commandant, Gen. Michel W. Hagee, decided to centralize pre-deployment training within the Combat Development Command at Quantico.

    Later that year, when Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis took over the command, he saw the need for enhanced cultural training. Mattis had commanded troops in first Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and most recently in Iraq, where he headed the 1st Marine Division. “General Mattis ordered all of the cultural training gathered together in this one center,”...

    An immediate focus is to help the service’s new foreign military training unit—a component of the emerging Marine Corps Special Operations Command—prepare for its mission. The FMTU was stood up in October 2005 to provide basic military schooling and advisors for the troops of friendly nations.

    Eventually, however, the center wants to offer the training to all deploying Marines through a combination of briefings, role-playing, and distance learning.

    Courses already are being developed, starting with Quantico’s Basic School, where newly minted second lieutenants polish their skills, and the Expeditionary Warfare School, where captains learn the fine points of command and control, air-ground coordination and amphibious operations...
    Cultural Awareness Links:










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    While I understand the significance of cultural intelligence, maybe I am missing something. How many acts of unnecessary force or cultural insensitivity have we had in the Marine Corps that were the product of cultural ignorance? How many times have we created grievances or attacks based off our cultural ignorance? When this happens, is it the product of cultural ignorance, or is it the product of poor leadership or lack of discipline by mentally and physically fatigued forces? I am not aware of this being the monster problem that others imagine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Strickland
    While I understand the significance of cultural intelligence, maybe I am missing something. How many acts of unnecessary force or cultural insensitivity have we had in the Marine Corps that were the product of cultural ignorance? How many times have we created grievances or attacks based off our cultural ignorance? When this happens, is it the product of cultural ignorance, or is it the product of poor leadership or lack of discipline by mentally and physically fatigued forces? I am not aware of this being the monster problem that others imagine.
    Hey sir. I am not sure if it is a product of Marines being more culturally sensitive or if the Marines have had fewer problems because they are unapologetic about it. I am reminded of the Marine General who made comments about "its fun to shoot people" and making comments about guys who "slap women around and make them wear veils and how its fun to shoot them." In response to these comments, Rumsfeld brushed aside the comments with something like "he's a Marine, thats what they do." By being fairly unapologetic about the comments, it became a non-issue.

    Personally, I think the Marines are just as culturally ignorant as the majority of DoD, but they refuse to apologize for it. Its hard to write stories and get everyone in the U.S. worked up if you close the dialogue before it gets a chance to get started. In my experience, it is the Marines that are the most gung-ho about putting toe tags on bad guys (a flawed strategy in COIN), but they get away with it because of their history and culture they have built around themselves.

    That being said, perhaps that is the best way to approach COIN in the future. If you look back in history, few successful COIN campaigns were won by being "culturally sensitive." Most were won through the strict implementation of violence (in some cases) and brutality towards a population (like you noted in Malaya). It is worth considering the Marines as a great unit to conduct ops like this in the future simply because of the culture and stigma they bring with them. It now becomes a problem of dealing with instantaneous media and international perception.

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    Default Cultural "sensitivity"

    Since when are Marines supposed to be sensitive to a culture that slaps around women? That is what the General was talking about after participating in the defeat of the Taliban.

    I am reminded of the British officer who stopped the Indian practice of seti (sp?). An Indian defended it as being a part of their culture and practice to burn the widow in a bonfire after her husbands death. The British officer said that it was part of his culture and practice to hang people who roast widows. I think India is a better place because of his cultural insensitivity, and most Indian widows do too.

    One of the aspects of nation building is changing the culture. For Iraq to be a successful country the pervasive corruption of government officials has to be stopped as it recently was at a border post near Jordon where the Marines have significatly increased revenues for Iraq.

    Destroying the enemy is still the objective whether we have to do it with bullets or bs. If we can persuade them to stop fighting we should, but we should not do it at the expense of certain core values.

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    Default Police officer's view of Cultural Intelligence

    Cultural Intelligence to a police officer is knowing how to behave in the presence of someone who has different customs and traditions then you do.
    This is why it would be such a good idea for Police and Infantry to train with each other. Police officers are trained to be assertive, Marines are trained to be aggressive. Both are needed!! Each force could give life saving and war winning advice to each other. Major Strickland go for it ! You are on the right track. When you are reaady I can hook you up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson
    One of the aspects of nation building is changing the culture.
    Maybe but there are real limits to how much outsiders can change a culture, especially if they don’t understand it.

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    This is about overcoming ethnocentricity and developing a sense of empathy. A soldier that interprets a culture can exploit mores, norms, and values as leverage; it can also advert a widespread pitfall. We must also understand the power of the weak in insurgency(see MLK and Ghandi). Just as was mentioned in this journal, hatred towards the enemy is counterproductive in COIN. Without sacrificing honor, a warrior should maintain the discipline to deny the enemy from controlling their emotions and provoking a desired response- be it sympathy or hatred.
    Last edited by GorTex6; 03-03-2006 at 02:04 AM.

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    Cultural sensitivity isn't about dealing with our enemies - it's about dealing with our friends. We don't want to needlessly irritate our allies, those Iraqis who join the police and security services, for example. That makes it hard for our forces to cooperate and creates political and tactical divisions which an enemy can (and does) exploit. Cultural sensitivity is also about keeping neutrals at least neutral. The goal isn't to create "empathy" from our soldiers for their enemies - it's to teach our soldiers to behave in a way that the local population views as human, moral and polite. Excessive force issues are something to be resolved with traditional unit discipline and leadership - no amount of sensitivity training will stop a Marine from lighting up an insurgent who's firing from the middle of a crowded market, but strict ROE, good leadership and high levels of discipline might convince him to wait for a designated marksman to do the job instead of just using his M240 . . .

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    Default MIPB Article Link - Using Cultural Belief Sets in IPB

    My boss sent me this one to read over on "Using Cultural Belief Sets in IPB".

    I thought the authors had some good points, but I think the recommendations may be out of reach for most units though.

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    Default Hmmm...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    My boss sent me this one to read over on "Using Cultural Belief Sets in IPB".

    I thought the authors had some good points, but I think the recommendations may be out of reach for most units though.
    Sounds like a JFCOM J9 self-licking ice cream cone press release to me. I could be wrong - the J9 is under new leadership - a good thing - but I still have to get past their history of shoving out 'new concepts' that are PowerPoint deep and relevant only to the contractors who have a vested interest in keeping a particular concept alive.

    That said and as I said - the J9 is under new leadership and things are looking up down in Suffolk.

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    Hi Rob,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    My boss sent me this one to read over on "Using Cultural Belief Sets in IPB".

    I thought the authors had some good points, but I think the recommendations may be out of reach for most units though.
    When I hit the link originally, I got this weird propaganda piece on Joint Transformation - I thought I was reading something written by a post-Mdernist on the war on drugs; everything was "joint" this and "joint" that. I'm still trying to figure out what a "born joint product" is!

    Anyway, I searched and found the ne you were actually referencing. Here if anyone else has problems accessing it. Sheesh!!! Shades of Selznick's Sociology! This is stuff that the Sociology crowd was laying around with in the 1950's and 1960's. I'm not saying that it's "bad", I just think it's flawed because the are relying on a US culture centric taxonomy.

    As just one small example of the flaws in this taxonomy, there is an inherent split between "religious" and "political", and no definitions of either term. Rob, remember the djinn thread? If djinn are "real" and interact with humans in a systematic manner, under this particular taxonomy, they would be listed as either "religious" or, more probably, as psychological abberations. And yet, for the Iraqis, they are "real" (Dave Kilcullen raises this piint in his latest SWJ blog when he is talking about "objective" and "subjective".

    Marc
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    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I guess I got hung up on what bothered me. The reason I said it was out of reach is because I don't like statements like "with minor adjustments" which really mean units are supposed to do all the stuff they are currently doing, plus all the "good idea fairy" products put forward by folks with good knowledge, but a frame of ref. that may be a bit distant on what these guys on tactical staffs are being asked to do with limited resources.

    The authors had some good points about types of info to collect, but did not offer up ideas on how to collect all this great info from unbiased residents, how to set the criteria for what it meant or how to ensure the analysis on the info would be unbiased.

    BN and BDE level staffs are generally tapped out with tasks. Its possible they might be doing the wrong stuff, but if so it may be because that is what the CDR told them to do. If we want taffs to be able to do the many things we'd like them to do, its going to take allot more then "minor changes" I think.

    Sorry about the link - I should have tested it first (but it worked in the email I got )

    Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Hey Marc - busy day here today

    I'm not saying that it's "bad", I just think it's flawed because the are relying on a US culture centric taxonomy.
    Could you elaborate on that one for me. I know its important, but I'm smoked right now and can't think straight - which is why I'm calling it quits for today. A couple of short examples would be cool - I think your explanation will help me with something else I'm working through, but can't quite find away around - hard to explain - but I need to know why I'm not able to think this one through (to know where I'm tripping up) before I can fix it.

    Thanks, Rob

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Rob,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I guess I got hung up on what bothered me. The reason I said it was out of reach is because I don't like statements like "with minor adjustments" which really mean units are supposed to do all the stuff they are currently doing, plus all the "good idea fairy" products put forward by folks with good knowledge, but a frame of ref. that may be a bit distant on what these guys on tactical staffs are being asked to do with limited resources.
    I've had the same problem with people "tacking on 'minor' questions" during my fieldwork. Half the time they made no sense . That "minor adjustments" is really a key phase saying "get us what we want but we can't tell you what we want 'cause our model sucks except in ppt presentations to the brass".

    Ron, I've read a couple of the papers you've written and, on the whole, I would say that you probably have a much better idea of what is going on than the "academic" types who came out with that article. If you want, I can track down the references that they are basing that entire system on (95% sure it's Selznick's stuff on groups from the 50's and 60's). Honestly? I think yu are learning more and getting a better view of "their" reality by sitting around chatting and doing whqat you normally do. Forget acting as a data collection device. If they want to "know" what's happening, tell them to get their fundaments over to Mosul and stick around for a couple of months.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    The authors had some good points about types of info to collect, but did not offer up ideas on how to collect all this great info from unbiased residents, how to set the criteria for what it meant or how to ensure the analysis on the info would be unbiased.
    Therefore, this is pie in the sky modeling - you get blamed for not getting the right data, and they get more money to build useless models. One of the tricks of doing social science research is to figure out how to communicate it. The model in this article is brilliant at communicating results to funders but, on the whole, I really wonder about how well the taxonomy they use applies to the people they are supposed to be studying.

    Years ago I was asked to critique an interview schedule by an MA student who wanted to look at modern Witchcraft (this was just after I finished my MA looking at it). One of the questions on the schedule was "When did you decide to worship Satan?" Since 99.9% of modern witches consider Satan to be a member of the Christian pantheon (long story that I won't get into), the question was, actually, meaningless to the group being studied. However, since her supervisor was a fundamentalist Christian, it had great meaning for him. This is the type of disjuncture I see happening in this article.

    [quote=Rob Thornton;8865] BN and BDE level staffs are generally tapped out with tasks. Its possible they might be doing the wrong stuff, but if so it may be because that is what the CDR told them to do. If we want taffs to be able to do the many things we'd like them to do, its going to take allot more then "minor changes" I think.[/QUOTE}

    In my totally biased and un-humble opinion, I would suggest that everyone who is embedded in an IA or ISF unit get a quickie lesson in Anthro fieldwork. My grandmother gave me a saying that really synopsizes Anthro fieldwork well - "God gave you two ears and one mouth - that's a hint!" Listen and learn how people see things; ask questions, and don't act like an arrogant know it all (yeah, I have had troubles doing fieldwork ). Pretty soon, you end up with a fairly god idea of what te people you are working with / living with think and how they see the world. Then you can explain it to the REITIs (Rear Echelon Ivory Tower Idiots).

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Sorry about the link - I should have tested it first (but it worked in the email I got )

    No worries - it was a "current article" link rather than the permanent one.

    Marc
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    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Could you elaborate on that one for me. I know its important, but I'm smoked right now and can't think straight - which is why I'm calling it quits for today. A couple of short examples would be cool - I think your explanation will help me with something else I'm working through, but can't quite find away around - hard to explain - but I need to know why I'm not able to think this one through (to know where I'm tripping up) before I can fix it.
    No worries, Mate. I think the last post covered some of it ut, basically, the taxonomy they are using sucks and isn't the same as the taxonomy of the folks you are working with. Added on to that is he probability that theguys who came up with the model haven't thought about how to "map" from their taxonomy onto the one used by your BTN. Think Djinn for an example.

    On another note, for some reason my hardware seems bolixed up. I can't get my microphone to work so Gtalk may be out for a while <sigh>.

    Marc
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    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    On another note, for some reason my hardware seems bolixed up. I can't get my microphone to work so Gtalk may be out for a while <sigh>.
    Marct...

    Blatant thread hi-jack. I just came into the 21st Century at the beginning of this month and procured a web headset/microphone. It was purchased for an online class my wife is taking, but I'm wondering if there is potential to set-up a roundtable on some of the issues we discuss here on the SWC.

    Any chance of getting one of the esteemed bloggers in front of a computer to answer questions about their writings?

    My wife uses a software product called Centra, but are there other venues online for such an endeavour?

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Hihg Jack!!!!!!

    Hi JC,

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Blatant thread hi-jack. I just came into the 21st Century at the beginning of this month and procured a web headset/microphone. It was purchased for an online class my wife is taking, but I'm wondering if there is potential to set-up a roundtable on some of the issues we discuss here on the SWC.

    Any chance of getting one of the esteemed bloggers in front of a computer to answer questions about their writings?

    My wife uses a software product called Centra, but are there other venues online for such an endeavour?
    Sure, Selil was talking about one of the options here. If I remember, he was saying that we could have up to 9 people on a Skype connection and then podcast it. There are also other options running around as well but, since he's the CompSci guy, I'll let him talk about them

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Through the Lens of Cultural Awareness


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