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Human Behavior in Military Contexts 2 Intercultural Competence When Kentucky Fried Chicken first tried to make inroads into the Chinese market it ran into difficulties because, when translated into Chinese, its traditional slogan “finger lickin’ good” suggested “eat your fingers off” (Ricks, 1999). In many countries, the gesture that in the United States signifies “OK” is actually an offensive gesture. Holding hands among men does not carry the same meaning in the Middle East as it does in other parts of the world. A former U.S. President was embarrassed when he gave the U.S. and British sign for “victory” while in Australia, where the sign has a very different, indeed obscene, connotation. Unfortunately, such cultural ignorance can have serious consequences. Recent U.S. interventions in the Middle East have been rife with cultural misunderstandings. In Mogadishu, in the 1990s, American commanders underestimated the intensity of loyalty to clans and, after command was yielded to the United Nations, also did not understand the level of reliability and professionalism in allied units that were supposed to back up U.S. forces. The result was a disaster, culminating in the “Black Hawk Down” incident, which led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces. This outcome repeated what happened when Americans withdrew from Lebanon in the 1980s, after sustaining many casualties. Such withdrawals led to a widespread perception that Americans do not have the sense of honor and revenge that pervades many Middle Eastern cultures. This perception seems to have emboldened both Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. They could not have succeeded without the belief by many of their followers that the United States was a “paper tiger.” These examples illistrate a tremendous dilemma for the American mili-
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts tary. There is no sense in taking needless casualties in a mission doomed to failure. Yet the consequences of withdrawal after casualties must be considered, not only in the tactical and strategic sense, but also in the cultural context. A significant aspect of functioning in society involves interpreting others’ behavior and acting accordingly. A shared understanding of appropriate and expected behaviors allows one to make predictions about the reactions and future behavior of others. In fact, a large part of the education process involves socializing children into the cultural norms and expectations of their societies. The situations described above demonstrate what happens when expectations are not shared and result in behaviors that are misinterpreted and misunderstood. Anthropologists have long identified this pattern of shared meaning, or culture, and have documented both the enormous and the subtle differences among societies (see, e.g., Beattie, 1964; Marcus and Fischer, 1999). Cultures are perpetuated and transmitted through stories, rituals, symbols, laws, values, and social norms. They evolve out of the shared experience of group members as they struggle to adapt to external demands and attempt to integrate group members (Schein, 2004). Fundamentally, cultures develop to help humans fulfill their need for stability, consistency, and meaning. Problems arise when people try to apply their cultural lenses to understand a society or group with a different culture. Intercultural interactions often result in misunderstanding because individuals are using different rules to interpret the same behavior or situation. Given that most military conflicts occur between countries, intercultural encounters have always been part of the military experience. However, modern conflicts such as the one in Iraq often involve more protracted engagement with local inhabitants and are rife with opportunities for intercultural misunderstandings. In addition, the military itself is becoming more diverse with recruits who come from different racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. These different groups can have different subcultures with different sets of shared meaning and interpretative schemas. DEFINITIONS The ability to navigate and adapt to different cultures is known as intercultural competence (Martin and Hammer, 1989) or cultural intelligence (Earley and Mosakowski, 2004). The latter term includes three components: cognitive (knowledge of language, customs, beliefs), physical (body language, gestures), and emotional (confidence, adaptability, openness). A key issue for the military is to select, train, and deploy individuals who possess these qualities and are able to function in multiple cultures. Within the broad field, two areas of research are particularly important
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts for the military: learning a second language and cross-cultural negotiation. The committee recommends that the military fund research in these areas as aspects of intercultural competence. Each of them is discussed in more detail below. Identifying the dimensions that underlie cultural differences has been the subject of a large body of research. Perhaps the most current and widely used framework for understanding differences among cultures was proposed by Hofstede (2001). In this framework, cultures are differentiated along the dimensions of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, and long-/short-term orientation. Of these, individualism/collectivism has been the most widely studied (Earley and Gibson, 1998). As fruitful as Hofstede’s framework has been, researchers have called for an expansion of the framework to include such dimensions as cultural fatalism (Aycan, Kanungo, Mendonca, Yu, Deller, Stahl, and Kurshid, 2000), cultural tightness-looseness (Gelfand, 2006), and cultural cynicism (Bond, Leung, Au, Tong, de Carrasquel et al., 2004). Even though these dimensions appear to explain most differences among cultures, the field is still evolving towards a commonly accepted framework that adequately explains cultural differences. The military should continue to monitor developments in theoretically motivated frameworks that could provide a basis for cross-cultural training. SECOND-LANGUAGE LEARNING The ability to communicate in the native tongue of a country is central to the development of cultural competence, and military history bears out its importance. The U.S. military has been heavily involved with non-English-speaking peoples since the clearing of Native Americans from their traditional lands in the 1800s, the Spanish-American War of 1898, and the Philippine insurrection of the early 1900s. During World Wars I and II, it was important to have U.S. liaison officers who spoke French and intelligence personnel who spoke German or, in the later war, Japanese (Devers, 1948; Counter Intelligence Corps School, 1951). The intensity of involvement is much greater when military forces are engaged in asymmetric warfare than when they are engaged in the field with an overt foe. In asymmetric warfare, it would be of unquestionable value if every patrol contained a person capable of communicating in the local language; for example, in modern-day engagements in Vietnam (Vietnamese, Yue Chinese, and Hmong), Iraq (Arabic, Farsi), and Afghanistan (Pashtu and Afghan Farsi). Such competence is required for two reasons. First, there is the obvious need to communicate with people who speak little or no English. The alternative is to use interpreters: however, some of them cannot be relied on either for competence in English or, more dangerously, for their loyalty
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts to the U.S. mission. The second reason is the more general issue of cultural awareness. Acquiring some competence in a language is the single most important thing a person can do in order to become aware of the customs and attitudes of another culture. Except in a very few cases, it is not necessary to acquire the second language at the level that one can blend in without being noticed. The current governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a past Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, both speak German-accented English. Their successes clearly show that they understand our culture. They could not have acquired such understanding without an ability to communicate to monolingual English speakers. The level of bilingualism required by military personnel varies greatly with the job. When a mission involves asymmetric warfare and nation building, some commanders may at times have to act as diplomats. Intelligence officers will have to deal with subtleties. At the platoon and squad levels, the communication problem is different, although the stakes might also be very high. A good analogy here is the sophisticated tourist: one who can speak enough of the language to get around in a city without a tour guide, even if he or she sticks out like a sore thumb when speaking. It may take months or even years to acquire the level of language that an intelligence officer needs, but the level of proficiency needed by lieutenants and sergeants may take only weeks or a few months. The short time needed at the field level is fortunate because what language will be required for a military operation is rarely known in advance. In the year 2000, how many people realized that the Army would have a need for Pashtu speakers in order to operate in Afghanistan? Or in 1990 that it would be helpful to have speakers of Somali and Maay, as well as Arabic, to operate in Somalia? It is useful therefore to break the second-language learning issue into two parts. One is the training of a relatively few individuals to substantial proficiency; the other is rapid training of many people to a level of adequacy. This is the useful approach that the military has already taken. We note, however, that it is likely that some people who are trained only to the “adequate” level will reach substantial proficiency on the job, as they interact with the local population. This occurred with the British Army in India in the nineteenth century—an experience that might be consulted for guidance on policies that encourage noncommissioned officers and junior officers to learn a language. The United States is not well suited, either educationally or culturally, for the production of second-language speakers. In spite of the fact that the country has traditionally received immigrant speakers of many languages, English dominates communication. Although Spanish is spoken by significant subgroups, English competence is both sufficient and necessary to participate fully in the U.S. society. This monolinguism contrasts with most of the world, where different languages exist on a more equal
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts footing. In the United States, both high school and college standards for second-language learning are lax by international standards. Therefore, the military services have to take on the burden of language training largely on their own. They have already done so for training people who need to be proficient, in the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California. Cooperative programs with colleges and universities are certainly a possibility. However, these programs require extensive time commitments, and speed may be important. Consequently, the military needs to know (a) who is a good candidate for second-language training for high levels of competency, and (b) what inexpensive training programs can be developed to produce adequate communicators, in the sense of “advanced tourist proficiency” described above. These topics are discussed in detail in the paper by Kroll in Part II of this volume. Here we present a summary of the main findings and issues in her paper. Who Should Be Selected? During the 1950s, the Air Force used a simple model for selection. Candidates were given the first lesson of a year-long program in spoken Mandarin, and then examined. The highest scoring candidates were then sent to Yale University for a year-long traditional course in Mandarin. This is a specific example of a more general paradigm, in which candidates are given minimal, inexpensive training, tested, and then selected on the basis of the test. Even within this paradigm, however, not everyone in the military is tested. The Air Force participants, for instance, were recruits who had high scores in English competency on standard instruments, such as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Findings since then have suggested that better methods for selection could be developed. Second-language learning is an area in which a relatively small investment of resources might provide considerable benefit to the military, in terms of identifying individuals who have a knack for learning second and third languages. Several research projects have developed promising ideas for the identification of people with the potential to learn second or third languages. The first line fits into the paradigm used by the Air Force in the 1950s: giving large numbers of people a small amount of training and then testing them to see who should be offered more extensive training. One of the ways to do this is to do what the Air Force did—develop a test to see who does well after the initial training, assuming an appropriate test can be developed. There are interesting alternative techniques that could be the subject of longer term research (10-20 years). One of these involves the event-related potential (ERP), the brain’s electrical response to an event. Early findings indicate that the ERP in response to syntactic or semantic anomalies, spoken in the language being instructed, can differentiate between people who have grasped the language to a higher or lower level of skill. Appro-
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts priate recordings can be obtained from electrodes placed on the surface of the skull, obviating the need for expensive imaging techniques. Those techniques have recently yielded information that might in time and with much development be useful for personnel selection. Researchers recently discovered that subjects who were the least successful in learning an artificial tonal language (most of the world’s languages are tonal) had a brain structure (the left Heschl’s gyrus, which includes primary auditory areas) that was significantly smaller than that of those who were more successful (Wong et al., 2007). Another line of research is trying to determine who can best understand small artificial languages, using computers. It is possible that tests of the ability to learn an artificial language might identify people who have the capability of learning second languages in general, which may be much less expensive than offering instruction in a natural language, and then testing the learning. This could be tested in the very near term, 1-5 years. Yet another approach to selection is to examine the language learning skills of individuals who already speak two languages. This is attractive to the military because many service personnel are bilingual in English and some other language, predominantly but not exclusively Spanish. Would such bilingual men and women be more adept at learning a third language than someone who has yet to learn a second one? As Kroll points out, the answer to this question depends on the answer to a basic research question about language learning. If second and third languages are essentially learned by a transfer-of-skills method, then the individuals selected for training should ideally already be familiar with a language similar to the target language. If transfer is the issue, an English-Spanish bilingual person would be better prepared to learn a language similar to Spanish (e.g., Italian or Romanian) than a comparably talented English monolingual person would be; however, an English-Spanish bilingual person would have no advantage over the English-only speaker in learning Farsi or Indonesian. In contrast, if learning a second language involves the acquisition of skills required for adult language learning in general, then an English-Spanish bilingual person would have an advantage over a monolingual person regardless of the target language. This unresolved issue is one for which a modest research investment could have high payoff for the military in the near term, 5-10 years. How Should a Second Language Be Taught? It appears to be generally agreed that becoming truly proficient in a second or third language almost always requires a full-time experience of immersion, an approach in which only the target language is spoken. Such training may require months. This approach is cost-effective only for those individuals who will be in key positions in the military, such as intelligence or liaison officers. The Defense Language Institute has an excellent reputation for doing this well.
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts How to train rapidly for minimal competency is much less clear, although the Peace Corps has had some success with its methods in teaching competence in 2 months. The classic method used to teach business-level language is to offer in-class instruction by instructors who are both fluent in the target language and trained in language instruction, for roughly 2 hours a day, 2-3 days a week. This approach assumes that there are enough instructors available, and it seems clear that such a method of instruction is not feasible in the case of a rapid deployment of forces to an area outside of Europe, Latin America, or Northeast Asia. For example, suppose that the U.S. military was planning a deployment to Uzbekistan in 3 months. Are there enough language instructors fluent in Uzbek in the United States to train the captains, lieutenants, and sergeants in a division needed for that mission? Over the next 10 years, no one can be confident about where or when U.S. forces will have to be deployed. Faced with this situation, considerable commercial and military efforts have been directed toward development of computer-presented instruction, which often involves trainees’ conversing with realistic avatars of native speakers or playing serious training games like Alelo Inc.’s Tactical Iraqi™ Language and Culture Training System. Although these programs are impressive as feats in computer science, their effectiveness in training to a relatively low but appropriate level of proficiency has not been scientifically validated (see Chapter 4). Both the effectiveness of the existing programs and the principles by which such programs ought to be designed are topics for research that is both feasible now and very necessary. In conclusion, we reiterate that the best single way to achieve “cultural awareness” is to learn to speak the language of the culture. Reliance on translators is at best a clumsy alternative and, at worst, risky because communication between U.S. forces and local residents is then controlled by individuals who may have their own agendas. The military should consider funding studies of a two-tier training system for second-language learning, in which the first tier would require a substantial mastery of a second language and cultural practices, and the second tier would train basic proficiency akin to the level of “advanced tourist.” CROSS-CULTURAL NEGOTIATION The situations that call for military intervention are, almost by definition, conflict situations. Although one might think that force is the only strategy used by the military to deal with conflict situations, troops on the ground often find themselves negotiating with the local population and even mediating disputes among locals. Thus, a promising avenue of research for the military concerns the role of culture in the management of conflict situations. Anthropologists and political scientists at the U.S. Institute of
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts Peace study the impact of cultural differences on international negotiation and provide convincing arguments that culture is a primary factor in communal conflicts. This school of thought is represented in the works of Avruch (1998) on the nature of culture and its role in negotiation, Cohen (1997) on cross-cultural negotiation, and Solomon (1999) on negotiations between high-level American and Chinese officials. Gelfand (in this volume) presents a thorough discussion of this topic from a cultural psychologist’s viewpoint. An outline of the critical issues is presented below. Although the field of conflict and negotiation has made tremendous strides in recent years, most of the research has been conducted in Western and, in particular, U.S. populations (Triandis, 1994). However, recent research clearly demonstrates that cultural perspectives directly affect how conflict situations are perceived and acted on. For example, in the United States, conflict situations are typically perceived as being about finding out who is to blame; in Japan, a more typical approach is to achieve compromise. In fact, Gelfand, Nishii, Holcombe, Dyer, Ohbuchi, and Fukuno (2001) argue that intercultural conflict is particularly difficult to resolve because the very definition of conflict itself is often in dispute. Clearly, more research is needed across a wider variety of cultures to understand the cultural “conflict frames” that exist and to help interpret conflict situations. This research could yield results in the mid-term 5-10 years. How one seeks to resolve conflicts through negotiation is also influenced by culture. It influences the extent to which information is directly shared among disputing parties, the specific tactics used to negotiate, and even the metaphors that guide the process itself. Research suggests that when negotiators adopt similar goals and perceptions of the negotiating task itself, the outcomes of the negotiation are much higher. Gelfand, Nishii, Godfrey, and colleagues (2003) have argued that, when conducting negotiations across cultures, it is critical to first “negotiate the negotiation.” However, what is not known is which negotiation metaphors are relatively easy to adopt, are more likely to be embraced by different cultures, and are more likely to lead to effective outcomes. A related finding is that culture affects how individuals respond to social pressure during the negotiation process. For example, negotiators from individualist cultures assume that their constituents expect them to be competitive; in contrast, negotiators from collectivist cultures assume they should cooperate during a negotiation. This effect is present when the negotiators expect to be held accountable for the outcome of the negotiation (Gelfand and Realo, 1999). When accountability is not an issue, negotiators are, in a sense, “released” from normative pressures to do what the culture dictates, as Gelfand points out. Military forces on the ground can be much more effective negotiators if they understand the nuanced role that social pressure plays in a particular culture.
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Human Behavior in Military Contexts What triggers conflict in the first place is of fundamental importance to the military, and research suggests that culture plays a role in how events are interpreted in this context. For example, violations of face and the ensuing shame that results is a powerful motivator of conflict within collectivist cultures; in contrast, while in individualistic cultures, conflict is often triggered by violation of personal rights. Gelfand, Bell, and Shteynberg (2005) found that shame is more contagious among collectivist cultures than in individualistic ones and often leads to actions aimed at seeking revenge. Interestingly, even witnessing another person experiencing shame is enough to trigger revenge seeking among collectivist individuals, according to Gelfand. Given these findings, research on the cultural basis of events that spark conflict is critical to the military, as are historical analyses (see, e.g., Mahoney and Rueschemeyer, 2003) and sociological analyses (see, e.g., Moskos, Williams, and Segal, 2000) of the interpretations of those events. Finally, it is lamentable that little is known about the effectiveness of various strategies for reducing conflict across cultures. For example, Gelfand notes that researchers have documented the effectiveness of apologies for reducing aggression, fostering forgiveness, and repairing trust, but they have failed to examine the role that apologies play in reducing intercultural conflicts (Tavuchis, 1991). Other strategies that may be even more effective in reducing aggression and building trust need to be identified and studied. A systematic effort to document the prevalence of various conflict reduction strategies across cultures as well as their effectiveness when applied in different cultures warrants research attention by the military.