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Contemporary and Future Operations

Canadians in Afghanistan

DND photo AR2007-2043-18

Brains and Brawn: Cultural Intelligence (CQ) as the ‘Tool of Choice’ in the Contemporary Operating Environment

by Emily Spencer

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Armed forces spend enormous amounts of money, time, and energy ensuring that their troops are trained on weapon systems, vehicles, and equipment. They spend small fortunes on preparatory exercises and training to test tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), drills, and general soldier proficiency and effectiveness should they need to exercise force protection, demonstrate a deterrent posture, or actually enter combat during an operation. This preparation and expenditure is only prudent. It makes perfect sense, particularly when lives are at risk. It is, after all, just due diligence. Moreover, it better positions an organization to be successful during operations. However, what makes less sense is that, comparatively speaking, very little effort is spent solving the ‘people puzzle.’

In reality, most stability and counter-insurgency operations are all about the people. Quite simply, people are a if not the key component to mission success in the contemporary operating environment (COE), a space characterized by complexity, ambiguity, volatility, change, and danger. The importance of people is true at all levels, whether dealing with adversaries, a host nation population, the international community, and even one’s own nation. To be successful in these potentially diverse environments, cultural intelligence (CQ), that is, the ability to recognize the shared beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviours of a group of people, and, most importantly, to apply this knowledge toward a specific goal, is critical.

The fact is, understanding the people one works with – whether other Canadians, international alliance members, or host nation inhabitants – makes for smoother relationships, better communication and comprehension, and, therefore, more effective results. Grasping differences with respect to how others think, behave, make decisions, view the world, and interpret actions assists in providing strategies and options in how best to engage them in order to achieve one’s own objectives. Effective relationships, based upon high levels of CQ, will assist in gaining support for operations, whether in the form of cooperation, information, or participation. Enhanced CQ will also enhance communications and interaction, with a direct impact upon improved human relations. High levels of CQ will ensure different parties actually communicate and hear what is meant, rather than simply what is being said. In essence, it helps to mitigate the gulf between the ‘intended message’ and the ‘received message.’ Proper, appropriate interpersonal skills (i.e., informal personal chat prior to getting to business), verbal expressions understood by both parties (i.e., avoiding jargon or slang known only to one party that may have ambiguous or potentially negative meaning to another), and proper body language (i.e., that may be innocuous to one party but offensive to another, or conversely, understanding and accepting practices in other cultures that are alien to one’s own) will enhance clarity and effectiveness of communications and ensure there is less confusion or breakdown, due simply to misunderstanding.

Furthermore, a better understanding of one’s adversaries is equally empowering. Abandoning preconceived, superficial, or erroneous perceptions, and actually endeavouring to fully comprehend the ‘enemy’ can provide invaluable insights into their attitudes, behaviours, decision-making processes, and motivations. This knowledge can provide options and strategies for disrupting, neutralizing, and defeating adversaries by potentially addressing real or perceived grievances, discrediting their informational/ideological messages with subsequent erosion of support bases, disrupting their decision‑making processes and alliances, and, possibly, co-opting the more moderate adversarial membership.

In fact, retired American Major-General Robert H. Scales explicitly described how, in the contemporary operating environment, military victory “… will be defined more in terms of capturing the psych-cultural rather than the geographical high ground.”1 Specifically, in the COE, the seminal battle is often about influencing the population to support the governing authority and denying support and information to the antagonists. To have any hope of influencing the masses, and, especially, to win their hearts and minds, it is vitally important to understand the population and its culture. Failure to understand its members’ beliefs, values, and attitudes, and how they view the world, is tantamount to mission failure. As Major Ben Connable of the US Marine Corps (USMC) appropriately noted: “Failure to refocus … on sustainable culture programs will lead to another wave of first-round operational failures.”2 Also speaking of the COE, retired French Colonel Henri Bore recognized: “… [that] operational culture is a combat skill that is critical to mission success.”3

Lt Jillian Dulle and Afghan women

DND photo IS2009-3076-05 by Master Corporal Angela Abbey

The Importance of CQ to the COE

The non-linear and asymmetric approach of the contemporary operating environment, particularly with respect to insurgencies and counter-insurgencies, demands that soldiers act as warriors and technicians, as well as scholars and diplomats. Kinetic solutions are no longer the panacea of warfare. Rather, individuals need to view ‘reality’ through the eyes of another culture, specifically, the one with which they are interacting, in order to adapt their attitudes and behaviours to better influence the target audience in order to achieve specific aims. Cultural knowledge contributes to this end, while an understanding of CQ, and, in particular, the four CQ domain paradigms, provides a fluid template on how to use cultural knowledge to attain desired objectives. Failure to do so can be lethal. As military experts Jacob Kipp, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Don Smith argue: “Conducting military operations in a low-intensity conflict without ethnographic and cultural intelligence is like building a house without using your thumbs: it is a wasteful, clumsy, and unnecessarily slow process at best, with a high probability for frustration and failure.” They continue their analogy by explaining: “… [that] while waste on the building site means merely loss of time and materials, waste on the battlefield means loss of life, both civilian and military, with high potential for failure having grave geopolitical consequences to the loser.”4 Certainly, as Philip Taylor, Professor of International Communications at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, noted: “… in a generational war of ideas, the two key elements to winning are credibility and trust. These take time to create and cultivate, to show potential adversaries what kind of people we really are, that indeed we are not their enemies.”5

The ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq highlight the fact that people are the prize in the COE. As Jacob Kipp and his colleagues further note: “… from the varied examinations of the historical record of insurgency is a broad consensus that civil society in Iraq and Afghanistan – as in past insurgencies – constitutes the real center of gravity.”6 Notably, as Benjamin T. Delp, Assistant Director for Policy and Administration at the Institute for Infrastructure and Information Assurance at James Madison University recognizes, these connections are best made prior to entering into conflict. He observes:  “While high‑ranking military officers and commanders on the ground have only recently begun to recognize the importance of ethnographic and cultural intelligence for success in Iraq, decision-makers in Washington, DC must understand the value of analyzing foreign populations’ cultural identities prior to, during, and after US military intervention for current US objectives to be realized.”7

Quite arguably, the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have served as a ‘wake-up call’ to Western militaries that adversary culture matters. While many soldiers serving in conflict zones acknowledge this important reality, this message needs to percolate to higher echelons and to be ‘actioned’ accordingly. As a returning US commander from Iraq noted: “I had perfect situational awareness. What I lacked was cultural awareness. I knew where every enemy tank was dug in on the outskirts of Tallil. Only problem was, my soldiers had to fight fanatics charging on foot or in pickups and firing AK-47s and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades].” He concluded: “Great technical intelligence. Wrong enemy.”8 This comment caused cultural anthropologist Montgomery McFate to assert, “… understanding one’s enemy requires more than a satellite photo of an arms dump. Rather, it requires an understanding of their interests, habits, intentions, beliefs, social organizations, and political symbols – in other words, their culture.”9 McFate continued, arguing: “… [that] culture matters operationally and strategically.” She then elaborated, “… misunderstanding culture at a strategic level can produce policies that exacerbate an insurgency; a lack of cultural knowledge at an operational level can lead to negative public opinion; and ignorance of the culture at a tactical level endangers both civilians and troops.”10 Conversely, she also noted, “… understanding adversary culture can make a positive difference strategically, operationally and tactically.”11

These ‘truths’ are not lost to the men and women who are serving in conflict zones. As one American veteran of Iraq observed: “American military culture interacts with Iraqi Islamic culture like a head-on collision.” He continued, “… massive deployments of American soldiers fighting a counter-insurgency now hurts more than it helps. When we focus on the military solution to resolve a social problem, we inevitably create more insurgents than we can capture or kill. As a consequence, the real ‘Islamic terrorists’ subverting their own tolerant religion will use this popular anger and sense of resentment to their advantage.”12

However, General Thomas Metz, who, from May 2004 to February 2005, commanded the Multinational Corps – Iraq (MNC-I), conceded: “The truth of the matter is that our enemy is better at integrating information-based operations, primarily through mass media, into his operations than we are.”13 He elaborated: “In some respects, we seem tied to our legacy doctrine and less than completely resolved to cope with the benefits and challenges of information globalization. We are too wedded to procedures that are anchored in the Cold War industrial age.”14 An anonymous source from inside the Pentagon echoed these sentiments, saying: “We’ve got to stop trying to ‘out-religion’ these people and we need to stop looking for a purely military solution to this insurgency [Iraq]. We need to give IO [information operations] officers and commanders comprehensive cultural training so they can tailor the right message to the Iraqi people.”15

Importantly, however, this type of education and training cannot be limited to the upper ranks in the military. After all, in this global age of media, decisions by soldiers in remote areas can have far reaching consequences for both home and host populations. As  Henri Bore observed, “… knowledge acquired does not depend on rank but on mission, task, and military occupational specialty.”16In the COE, which is almost always caught in the glare of international media, everyone who participates must be culturally ‘savvy’ to ensure they do not purposefully or inadvertently offend or alienate audiences, whether at home, abroad, or in the operational area.

As such, CQ should not be seen as merely a tool to be utilized, but rather a fundamental, critical enabler to success in the COE. Its importance extends beyond operations, and applies equally to networking and building relationships within Canada, with international allies, and with host nation nationals. It is also an important tool for understanding and defeating an enemy.

Canadians patrolling in Afghanistan

DND photo AR2009-1006-11 by Corporal Owen W. Budge

National Domain

Within the domestic realm, there are a number of audiences that are critical for the CF to fully understand – each with its specific beliefs, values, and attitudes, and, consequently, behaviours. The first target domestic audience is the general Canadian public. Understanding Canadian beliefs, values, and attitudes is vitally important for a number of reasons. First, public confidence and support is vital for the continuing vitality of the CF. The ‘decade of darkness’ of the 1990s, when a series of scandals eroded governmental and public confidence and support for the CF, demonstrated the danger of losing touch with Canadian societal sensitivities and beliefs in such basic concepts as accountability, integrity, and transparency.17 This erosion in CF support impacted the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CF in myriad ways, from budgetary support, recruiting, and the ability to investigate and regulate itself as an autonomous profession. In essence, public support engenders political support, which can lead directly to credibility and trust, which, in turn, leads to freedom of action. Indeed, continuing Canadian participation in Afghanistan is directly tied to public sentiment and support.18

A ‘cultural’ comprehension of the general Canadian public also has ramifications with respect to recruiting. An understanding of what is important to Canadians, what triggers their
commitment and support, is pivotal to developing the necessary approaches to attract young Canadians towards joining the CF. If Canadians at large understand the CF and its membership, if there is deep-rooted connection between the public and the CF, particularly its mission and importance to national security, temporary crises or scandals will be less traumatic and they will have a less lasting effect.

Finally, a cultural understanding of the general Canadian public constitutes an important source of information. As the threat to Western societies grows through the interconnected globalized world, as well as through radicalization of homegrown terrorists through the Internet, or simply from domestic disenfranchised elements, the CF will increasingly be called upon to assist law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in a domestic context. As such, understanding what is important to Canadians from a cultural, ideological, and/or attitudinal perspective will be critical for ensuring active support of the CF, and, equally, to prevent alienation, passivity, or even active resistance while assisting LEAs in Canada.

Another key domestic audience for the CF – and one for which CQ is a vital enabler – are members of other government departments (OGDs). In the current complex security environment, integrated operations, that is, security operations that require the cooperation of all military services (i.e., joint operations), as well as LEA and other governmental departments, (i.e., Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), Public Safety, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Public Health Agency of Canada and Transport Canada), will be consistently increasing. Therefore, close personal relationships and trust will be essential. However, the military has a starkly different culture than that of the OGDs. Relations between the different entities have constituted a tale of mistrust, misunderstanding, alienation, and awkwardness. Much of this reality is due to a complete lack of understanding of the
cultural make-up, decision‑making processes, and expectations of the various OGDs. In order for Special Operations Forces (SOF) to gain, nurture, and maintain the necessary relationships that engender cooperation, influence, and trust, it will require a conscious effort at increasing levels of CQ with regard to OGDs, as well as educating the OGDs with regard to the capabilities afforded by Canadian Special Operations Forces (CANSOF).

Success in this realm will have a direct impact upon cooperative ventures, whether operations, policies, or the sharing of information, TTPs, or resources. Cultural understanding will remove suspicion and build credibility and trust, which, as noted earlier, equates to freedom of action. It will promote cooperation and mutual assistance, which, in turn, will help dissipate bureaucratic inertia and build protocols and frameworks necessary for crisis decision making and cooperative action. It all starts with being able to see reality through the eyes of the other government departments, and utilizing that knowledge to help shape and influence the outcomes desired and required.

The final domestic audience for which CQ is fundamental in order to achieve success is the internal CF audience. Often overlooked, the CF consists of a large number of sub-cultures, the most obvious being the four distinct services, i.e., the navy, army, air force and special operations forces. Without a deep and solid understanding of the CF over-riding culture and the specific sub-cultures, each sub-unit will be condemned to repeatedly fighting the same tedious battles for resources, whether for personnel, money, or other matters. Understanding what drives competitors and/or potential allies is critical. In addition, simply knowing the
beliefs, values, attitudes, traditions, and decision‑making protocols – in short, what is important to the other services – in essence, understanding their outlook and respecting who they are, will assist in eroding suspicion, animosity, and rivalry. More importantly, it will build the foundations for cooperation, resource sharing, and operational support.

Soldiers from Recce Sqn

DND photo IS2010-3031-36

International Domain

The benefit of CQ for the CF with regard to the international audience, whether allies, coalition partners, government agencies, international organizations or agencies, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) follows a similar rationale as already noted above. Quite simply, understanding those you work with makes for smoother relationships, better communication and understanding, and therefore, more effective operations.

Allies and coalition partners, including our closest allies, the Americans and British, have distinctly different cultures from our own. Moreover, it goes without saying, our other
European allies and other coalition partners have cultures that vary even more from our own. Therefore, it is critical to understand these differences and to know how decisions are made: why; what is important to a specific ally or coalition partner; and how best to engage them to influence or shape them as required. Effective relationships, based on high levels of CQ, will assist in gaining support for operations, whether in the form of intelligence, enablers, or troop commitment. It can also lead to cooperative ventures and access to sensitive equipment
and/or technologies.

Effective CQ will also enhance communications and interaction with a direct impact upon improved relations. High levels of CQ will ensure both parties actually communicate and hear and share what is actually meant, rather than simply what is perceived to have been said. It
will also build potentially long lasting relationships.

Additionally, this level of understanding will assist in comprehending why partners act the way they do. Much frustration and criticism can be avoided, with the resultant impact that that has on coalition operations and relations. It is important to comprehend that not all nations/armies operate as we do, and, therefore, delays in decision making, approval processes, and expectations of what can be done on a given day will differ. In order to have impact upon
those systems or organizations, it is sometimes best to operate within their parameters, as opposed to ‘butting heads’ and building walls through an aggressive, myopic approach that is centred upon an inward perspective of ‘reality.’

This applies, equally, if not more so, when dealing with international organizations and agencies (i.e., the United Nations [UN], World Food Program) or NGOs.19 A strict military approach may alienate individuals and organizations who philosophically and institutionally already, in many cases, have a negative bias against the military. Understanding these biases and utilizing CQ to make these civilian partners feel at ease, open, and receptive to CF advice and requests will pay huge dividends, since these actors play an important role in the security environment of today and tomorrow, especially with respect to counter insurgency operations. These institutions represent the development and reconstruction pillars, as well as political governance and reform. Moreover, they have information and access to individuals and information that may not be as easily accessed, if at all, by CF personnel. Therefore, they represent a potential, if not vital, pool of information. As such, a failure to access and leverage these domains and work within an integrated manner will equate to operational failure. That undesirable end state can be avoided through the effective application of CQ.

In addition, CQ is vital to when helping train host nation forces. Quite simply, whenever
training foreign or indigenous forces in counter-terrorism, internal defence, guerilla warfare, or any form of security operations, it is primordial to understand one’s audience. What resonates with them? What engages them? How does one get them to listen and fully participate? How does one develop bonds of trust and credibility? How does one appeal to their sense of duty and honour? How does one create lasting bonds of friendship and commitment?

In short, CQ is a vital force multiplier for the CF in its relations and operations with international forces, both military and civilian. The proper utilization and application of CQ will enhance comprehension of, and communications with, our partners, resulting in more effective outcomes. After all, CQ is a tool to assist in the achievement of a specified goal.

Host Nation Domain

Once again, the importance of CQ for SOF when dealing with host nation populations, political decision-makers, and military or police agencies follows rationally from what has already been discussed.20 For instance, host nation governmental officials or organizations represent another of our coalition partners. As such, the importance of CQ as given to date remains extant.

CQ, as applied to the host nation populace, is equally important. As has been touted in many forums, in today’s security environment, particularly in the counter-insurgency context, “people are the prize.” They represent the centre of gravity in the struggle for dominance between governmental authorities and the insurgents who wish to usurp them. Therefore, both groups try to win the hearts and minds of the populace to get their support and deny it to their antagonists. However, without a solid grasp of CQ, it is impossible to establish credibility and trust, and, thus, win over a population. Instead, a lack of CQ will work to alienate, insult, and marginalize the very people one wishes to influence. At worst, a lack of CQ will drive a population to the enemy, or at best, win their neutrality or passivity. But even neutrality is failure, as it will not assist military forces in leveraging a population to help win the fight
against insurgents.

BGen Milner, Haji Baran, and Ibrahim Karimi

DND photo IS2010-3024-1 by Corporal Shilo Adamson

After all, demonstrating and practising a high level of CQ, that is, understanding their culture – what is important to them, their value system, how they make decisions, what is acceptable behaviour in their eyes, and respecting their traditions and behaving accordingly will earn respect and trust. It will ensure CF actions do more good than harm. In turn, this will generate the support of a populace, which has a direct effect upon operations. The support and cooperation of a population will create a more effective operating environment for friendly forces and deny the same to an enemy. Globally, it can enhance force protection, increase information flow, and enhance reconstruction and development. Specifically, it can:

  • Provide information on adversary movements, identities and intentions;
  • Warn of adversary weapons and explosive caches, safe houses, ambush locations, and IED placements;
  • Provide information with respect to ‘communities,’ and define who belongs and who does not; how authority and power are defined and codified; who are the power brokers, and how resources are managed;
  • Provide information on key personalities, decision-makers, and facilitators that can assist in mobilizing a target audience;
  • Define rules for interaction;
  • Explain relationships and social networks;
  • Provide information on local/regional considerations with regard to culture, economics, demographics, and social issues;
  • Provide information on topographical issues, such as best routes, environmental/ground limitations, and restrictions;
  • Enhance cooperation and participation in development, governance, and reconstruction initiatives;
  • Generate support and participation for local security initiatives; and
  • Increase overall support for national government and a supporting coalition.

In sum, to win the support of a people, that is, their respect and trust, or, in terms of popular military jargon, their ‘hearts and minds,’ it is critical to truly understand them. Specifically, it is essential that CF members see reality through the eyes of the host nation populace and comprehend completely how their own words, behaviour, and actions are actually seen, interpreted, and understood by a host nation population. This requires detailed CQ.

Enemy Domain

The final domain is normally the area that intuitively receives the most attention, but often not in the correct context. Lieutenant-Colonel Adrian Bogart, a SOF officer with extensive experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, observed: “We continually fail to understand our enemy.”21 Bogart’s criticism is valid. Too often, the enemy is analyzed, assessed, and rated, based upon being viewed through our own cultural lens. Adversary strength, organization, hierarchy, TTPs, weapons, and equipment are rightfully important areas of concern. But so are an adversary’s beliefs, values, attitudes, motivational drivers, tribal affiliations, networks, and history, essentially, their culture.

Importantly, to properly apply CQ to the enemy domain, it is necessary to actually carefully define exactly who the ‘enemy’ is. For example, frequently, the Taliban and Al‑Qaeda are defined as the enemy/threat in Afghanistan, and, equally as often, they are used interchangeably. From a CQ perspective, this is problematic. They are fundamentally different. In fact, from an attitudinal, ideological, motivational, and organizational perspective, they are clearly dissimilar.

Similarly, such an unrefined outlook on the enemy/threat also limits the benefit that can be derived from CQ analysis. For instance, using the example of Afghanistan once again, it must be noted that threats also emanate from criminal organizations, narco-traffickers, warlords, regional state rivals, and proxy forces supported by third party state actors with geo-political goals and aims at play.22 From a CQ perspective, each of these actors presents a potentially very diverse profile. As such, it is critical to understand the exact audience in each and every domain.

With respect to the ‘enemy’ domain, applying CQ presents a valuable return on investment. Specifically, it can:

  1. Provide insight into enemy motivation that could allow for diffusion of grievances or the co-opting of moderates;
  2. Assist with debunking enemy information operations, propaganda, and recruiting messages by highlighting discrepancies, contradictions, and falsehoods;
  3. Provide understanding of decision‑making processes and value systems, and thus, furnish possible weaknesses or stress points that can be manipulated;
  4. Assist with the understanding of a pattern of behaviour that can provide insight into targeting both the enemy’s and one’s own) attack preferences (i.e., timing, locations, type, targets); likely reactions, given situational circumstances (i.e., if faced with military or police actions), and normal pattern of life;
  5. Assist with understanding history and regional symbology, which, in turn, provides insight into possible ‘safe areas’(sanctuary), historical and/or preferred attack positions/zones, targets and dates (i.e., historically, religiously, or ideologically significant);
  6. Provide insight into historic alliances and sponsors, which can lead to illuminating financing, supply nodes and routes, leadership engagements, and possible sanctuaries;
  7. Provide insight into social networks, which, in turn, provide information on targeting of key personalities (i.e., leaders, facilitators, specialists) and intelligence-gathering activities.

The list provided is not meant to be definitive. Rather, it is meant to highlight the types of information that can be obtained from applying CQ when analyzing an enemy domain. It is always important to remember it is not one’s own cultural interpretation of an enemy that is being engaged. Instead, it is an understanding of an enemy, as they view themselves, which is important, since it is this interpretation that will yield the greatest benefit in the struggle to vanquish one’s adversaries.

BGen Vance with BGen Mirwais and Haji Baran

DND photo AR2010-0196-02 by Sergeant Daren Kraus

Notably, CQ and the four paradigm models are not a ‘silver bullet’ that will magically tame the ambiguous, chaotic, and volatile contemporary operating environment. However, it will assist and empower CF members, as well as any military or para-military force, or any other entity operating in the security environment, in making better sense of the environment in which they operate, and increase their ability to influence and shape the attitudes of important target audiences. In this way, enhanced CQ is an excellent tool to assist the CF in achieving its aims. Consequently, it is worth the time and other resources invested to develop these skills within the CF.

There is no question that in order to operate effectively in the COE, both cultural education and training are necessary. Several recommendations can thus be made in order to best achieve this end:

  • The ‘so what’ factor of the importance of CQ to the COE should be continuously underscored by commanders, subject matter experts, and intelligence analysts;23
  • Appropriate education should be encouraged, facilitated, and rewarded throughout members’ careers;24
  • Specific reading lists should be developed, and material should be readily accessible, preferably on-line;
  • Appropriate language training should be made readily available;25
  • Subject matter experts should be retained, and they should contribute to identifying what reference material needs to be made available, and they should update reading lists and other available teaching tools;26
  • Discussion groups, led by subject matter experts (which can include academics, veterans, as well as foreign nationals), should be made readily available;
  • Professional Development (PD) sessions should regularly have a CQ component;
  • Relevant personal experience should be shared and built upon, including the experiences of SOF operators, members of OGDs, NGOs, and other professionals, as well as expatriates living in targeted countries;
  • ‘Real life’ scenarios should be recreated with role playing, particularly “Red-Teaming,”27 and feedback from subject matter experts should be provided ‘on the spot;’ and
  • Time must be allocated for these activities by commanders to underscore the importance of the activities.

What it essentially boils down to is that leaders must allocate time and other resources to properly educate and train subordinates in areas related to the ability to assimilate enhanced cultural intelligence. In essence, leaders must first recognize the importance of CQ to the COE, and its importance as a force enabler, if not also a force multiplier. They must then convey that belief to their subordinates. As Henri Bore remarked: “Ultimately, the battalion commander’s operational culture training is driven by the idea that teaching leaders and soldiers how to think and operate in a foreign environment matters more than just teaching them what to think about it.”28 By inculcating the importance and benefit of understanding the attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavioural idiosyncrasies of other cultures, as well as one’s own societal and organizational culture and sub-cultures, leaders can better prepare and arm their subordinates for success in the COE.

Next, they must ensure they allocate the appropriate resources to achieve the necessary effect. Words are not enough. They must underscore their commitment with action. The list provided earlier itemizes ten recommendations with respect to how commanders and leaders can begin to work at strengthening CQ within their organizations. They must clearly demonstrate that CQ training and education is important to them. They must clearly dispel the notion that it is a ‘nice to have’ or a discretionary activity. The best way to achieve this end is to dedicate the necessary resources and personal attention to the appropriate education and training.

Thus, leaders have a tremendous responsibility to instill CQ among their subordinates; to neglect to do so is akin to knowingly sending a soldier off to battle without the necessary equipment to get the job done. Few would argue that this would be unconscionable.

Lt Nicholas White speaks to local afghan workers

DND photo AR2009-1010-17 by Corporal Owen W. Budge

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Emily Spencer, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Continuing Studies Division of the Royal Military College of Canada.


  1. Robert H. Scales cited in Helen Altman Klein and Gilbert Kuperman, “Through an Arab Cultural Lens,” in Military Review, May-June 2008, p. 100.
  2. Ben Connable, “All Our Eggs in a Broken Basket: How the Human Terrain System is Undermining Sustainable Military Cultural Competence,” in Military Review, March/April 2009, p. 58.
  3. Henri Bore, “Complex Operations in Africa: Operational Culture Training in the French Military,” in Military Review, March-April 2009, p. 70.
  4. Jacob Kipp, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Don Smith, “The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century,” in Military Review, September-October 2006, p. 8.
  5. Philip Taylor cited in Tony Skinner, “Shaping Influence,” in Jane’s Defence Quarterly, 23 August 2006, p. 29.
  6. Kipp et al., p. 9.
  7. Benjamin T. Delp, “Ethnographic Intelligence (ETHNINT) and Cultural Intelligence (CULINT): Employing Under-utilized Strategic Intelligence Gathering Disciplines for More Effective Diplomatic and Military Planning,” IIIA Technical Paper 08-02, April 2008, p. 2.
  8. Cited in Montgomery McFate, “The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture,” in Joint Force Quarterly, 38, 2005, p. 43.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid., pp. 43-44.
  11. Ibid., p. 45.
  12. Bill Edmons, “A Soldier’s Story,” posted on-line, 29 November 2006, at  <http://www.then ation.com/doc/20061211/soldiers_story>
  13. The NATO definition for Information Operations follows: “Info Ops is a military function to provide advice and coordination of military information activities in order to create desired effects on the will, understanding and capability of adversaries, potential adversaries and other NAC-approved parties in support of Alliance mission objectives.” Cited in Colonel W.N. Peters (ret’d), Shifting to the Moral Plane: The Canadian Approach to Information Operations (Kingston: Canadian Forces Leadership Institute Technical Report, 2007), pp. 20-21.
  14. Thomas Metz cited in Ibid., p. 26.
  15. Cited in Ibid., p. 27.
  16. Bore, p. 69.
  17. See Peter C. Newman, Canadian Revolution 1985-1995: From Deference to Defiance (Toronto: Viking Press, 1995). For an account of the impact of the changes to the CF in the 1990s, see Bernd Horn, Bastard Sons: The Canadian Airborne Experience (St. Catharines, ON: Vanwell, 2001); Bernd Horn and Bill Bentley, “The Road to Transformation: Ascending from the Decade of Darkness,” in R.W. Walker (ed.)., Institutional Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Contemporary Issues (Kingston: CDA Press, 2007), pp. 1-25; and “An Absence of Honour,” in Alister MacIntyre and Karen Davis(eds), Dimensions of Military Leadership (Kingston: CDA Press, 2007), pp. 245-280.
  18. 71 percent of Canadians said “no” to any extension of the mission in Afghanistan and bring the troops home on schedule in 2011. Despite the Harper Conservative government’s ‘hawkish’ approach to military affairs, in light of the overwhelming public sentiment, they have stuck to the withdrawal pledge. Ipsos-Reid/CanWest Global Afghanistan Mission, January 2009 poll. DND, “Public Opinion Research,” Presentation to PAPCT, 28 January 2009.
  19. See Russell D. Howard, “Intelligence in Denied Areas. New Concepts for A Changing Environment,” JSOU Report 07-10, December 2007.
  20. For example, see Richard D. Newton, Travis L. Homiak, Kelly H. Smith, Isaac J. Peltier, and D. Jonathan White, “Contemporary Security Challenges: Irregular Warfare and Indirect Approaches,” JSOU Report 09-3, February 2009.
  21. Adrian T. Bogart III, “Block by Block: Civic Action in the Battle of Baghdad,” Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) Report 07-08, November 2007, p. 5.
  22. It is not uncommon for rivals to denounce their competitors as Taliban or Al-Qaeda, or simply as terrorists in order to have the Coalition remove their business (criminal or otherwise) rivals from the scene.
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  24. Every soldier and officer needs to know that cultural intelligence is an important force multiplier. They need to appreciate that applying enhanced CQ to the COE is operationally effective, not just ‘politically correct.’
  25. Moreover, education should be available to all military members regardless of rank or occupation, and selection for specialized education should be based upon aptitude and performance in learning. See also, Scales, testifying before the House of Armed Services Committee, 15 July 2004, at  http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/congress/04-07-15scales.pdf
  26. The importance of language to culture has been recently underscored. For example, researcher Clifford F. Porter wrote: “Truly ‘knowing our enemy’ requires understanding the culture, politics, and religion of the terrorists, which in turn requires experts in their language. Two earlier lessons learned from Afghanistan are that foreign language skills were absolutely critical for overthrowing the Taliban regime so quickly and that the military does not have enough foreign language capability.” Clifford F. Porter, Asymmetrical Warfare, Transformation, and Foreign Language Capability. Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Combat Studies Institute, 2006. See also Prisco R. Hernandez, “Developing Cultural Understanding in Stability Operations: A Three Step Approach,” in Field Artillery, January-February (2007), pp. 5-10.
  27. This is not to say, however, that cultural understanding should be farmed out to contractors. Human Terrain Systems (HTS) and Human Terrain Teams (HTT) are steps that the Americans are taking to help bridge the cultural gap. D. Jonathan White explains: “The United States has attempted to improve the cultural knowledge of US forces conducting counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan by employing Human Terrain Teams (HTTs). HTTs consist of anthropologists, political scientists, or historians that possess or build knowledge of the culture in which the US forces operate.” The verdict about their utility, however, remains to be seen. White continues: “This knowledge is certainly important in conducting effective counter-insurgency operations, yet the importation of foreign HTT members into a culture provides maneuver commanders with a form of artificial knowledge of the culture in which US forces are operating. This knowledge is artificial because it is exogenous and must be built over time by the HTTs.” D. Jonathan White, “Legitimacy and Surrogate Warfare,” in Richard D. Newton, Travis L. Homiak, Kelly H. Smith, Isaac J. Peltier, and D. Jonathan White, Contemporary Security Challenges: Irregular Warfare and Indirect Approaches. JSOU Report 09-3, February 2009 (Hurlburt Field: The JSOU Press, 2009), p. 89. For a further discussion on the debate about HTS see: Kipp et al., and Connable. While the verdict may still be out on the utility of HTS and HTTs, with respect to SOF, there is no doubt that they require an organic growth of CQ within their ranks. As such, while experts may be called upon to help with education and training, they are no substitute for instilling the knowledge to CF personnel.
  28. In essence, ‘red teaming’ involves one group of people acting as the adversary. According to military affairs analyst Williamson Murray, writing for the Defense Adaptive Red Team, red teaming “… provide[s] a means to build intellectual constructs that replicate how the enemy thinks [because the constructs] rest on a deep intellectual understanding of its culture, [the] ideological (or religious) framework through which it interprets the world (including the battlefield) and its possible and potential strategic and operational moves. Such red teaming is of considerable importance in estimating the nature of the future battlefield. But it might be even more important in providing military leaders and staff officers a wider and deeper understanding of how the enemy will fight.” Williamson Murray, cited in Gregory Fontenot, “Seeing Red: Creating a Red-Team Capability for the Blue Force,” p. 5. In the Canadian context, Defence Research Development Canada (DRDC) is also improving its ability to ‘red team. ’ According to Carol McCann, head of DRDC’s adversarial intent section, this task “… requires expertise in culture, but it also requires imagination, and the ability to challenge in a constructive way.” Carol McCann cited in Chris Thatcher, “Forecasting Adversarial Intent: Unraveling the Human Dimension.”
  29. Henri Bore, p. 71.