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Northeast Asia--Cultural Influences on the U.S. National Security Strategy


Northeast Asia--Cultural Influences on the U.S. National Security Strategy - Cover

Authored by Mr. Larry B. Rogers.

June 2004

17 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The U.S. core interests and National Security Strategy are founded on Western cultural operatives that assume all nation-states will respond to its influences in a predictable manner. When states do not respond appropriately, we assume they are either recalcitrant or irrational. A decade ago, this approach towards the states of the Northeast Asia region was highly effective as their economic or military dependency upon us, or their fear of both, usually forced them to respond within the scope of our objectives. Today, we no longer have the preponderance of economic or military power in the region, and old tactics will not continue to work effectively. Even within those states considered our allies, tolerance of what is deemed an abrasive U.S. presence is decreasing while anti-Americanism is growing. To continue to maneuver successfully to attain and sustain our interests requires that we carefully consider the perspectives, biases, and influences of these cultures to devise strategies that provide the most effective application of our elements of national power. This paper will discuss the Northeast Asian regional cultures, our current security strategy in regards to them, and recommendations for addressing regional cultural influences to meet our objectives and protect our interests.

Introduction

The development and implementation of the U.S. core interests and National Security Strategy (NSS) in regards to the Northeast Asia (NEA) region requires careful consideration of the cultures that we are attempting to influence. The effect of Western culturally-based persuasive strategies upon non-Western based cultures can easily lead to serious problems as evidenced by the issues we are facing today in postwar Iraq. Other cultures, even those within our own borders, do not always agree with our perspectives or see a need to adopt our cultural systems over their own. This is true particularly of cultures that existed for thousands of years before our own came into world prominence. To be successful in both the development and subsequent implementation of our security strategies for NEA, we must understand the cultural operatives1 at work to better apply our strategic influences.

The social sciences have addressed intercultural interaction for many years. Publications abound that address the differences between the cultures of NEA and our own and offer solutions for addressing them. If we rely on might makes right, then the effects of cultural differences are of little concern. Coercive strategies, vice persuasive ones, will obtain the results we want. However, this will not continue in the long run. The key to effecting lasting change within a NEA culture is to recognize its cultural operatives and form persuasive strategies that leverage them.

We accept the importance of knowing our enemy (or opponent) and knowing ourselves. Yet we limit our knowledge of both during intercultural relations as we seek our cognitive comfort zones. Diplomats who negotiate intercultural agreements know diplomacy, not sociology. Fortunately, many are aware of the cultural operatives at play through experience or from information provided by their staffs. Even so, they are still trained in Western diplomacy that is influenced heavily by Western cultural operatives. For example, negotiation can be learned in many Western institutions that focus their course content on how to apply Western psychology to persuade a counterpart. This works fine when negotiating with a Western culture, but applying these tactics and techniques on NEA cultures is not effective and can leave counterparts confused and belligerent.

This paper will discuss and contrast potentially critical cultural operatives that exist within our own and the NEA cultures and describe possible pitfalls that should be avoided during the development and implementation of the U.S. NSS.


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