Essay Campaign #9: Cultural Impediments to Negotiating Complex Challenges

Summer Essay Campaign #9: “Cultural Impediments to Negotiating Complex Challenges”

To Answer Question #7: “In what ways does strategic culture influence military operations?”

By Richard Maltz

Our efforts to negotiate complex challenges, to include the ability to establish and exercise a significant capability to operate, compete, and prevail in the Cognitive Domain, are principally constrained, as is everything else that we think, say, and do, by our own culture of productivity (human interaction with the goal of accomplishing shared objectives).  This constraint will be manifested in several ways, at multiple levels.  Salient among these are:

1.  Inertia.  In actively and consciously engaging complex challenges (notably campaigning in the Cognitive Domain), we are challenging our existing habits.  We are habituated to focus on the Physical and Information Domains.  We have staffed our ranks, built our organizations, structured our processes, and refined our culture to focus on these, and to largely ignore the complex, especially in the Cognitive Domain.  Reversing that approach will require defeating tremendous organizational inertia, and transformation of our manning, organizations, processes, and culture.  An undertaking on this scale will be daunting, and will be viewed my many (likely most) as more difficult than it’s worth.  The alternative however is to continue to institutionalize the tremendous waste and opportunity costs imbedded in and emblematic of our existing culture.

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Essay Campaign #7: Strategic Culture Makes the Difference

Summer Essay Campaign #7: “Strategic Culture Makes the Difference”

To Answer Question #7: “In what ways does strategic culture influence military operations?”

By Second Lieutenant William Reach

On the night of July 13th, 1755, General Braddock lay dying in a little moonlit clearing deep in the wilds of western Pennsylvania.  Shot through the lung and slowly expiring, the British general reflected on his defeat four days prior, where a 2400-strong expeditionary force of British regulars and colonial Rangers suffered a brutal beating from 330 Delaware, Miami, and French fighters.  A massed column of English Soldiers and colonial Rangers marched, and then retreated, from the withering fire that unseen enemies poured onto their ranks from the thick underbrush.  When the Colonial militiamen began breaking formation and attempted to fight behind cover, British officers mounted on horseback beat them back into ranks with the broadside of their swords and berated them for their cowardice.[i]  [ii]  Reflecting on the slaughter, the distinguished general uttered these final words before his death: “Who would have thought it possible?”

Poor General Braddock.  Ensnared in a strategic culture oriented towards victory on the agrarian battlefields of Europe, he and his well-disciplined officers proved to be no match for the desperate, loosely organized coalition of enemies who attacked him.  His pre-conceptions of war, grounded in his distinguished military career, demanded that he march his men in a tight echelon through the dense wilderness and guided the English force towards defeat[iii].  Like so many other leaders, an invisible web of military history, force structure, and doctrine-based training had shaped the nature of his military and geopolitical worldview.

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