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Operational Culture for the Warfighter

30 July, 2008

Marine Corps University Press has just published a book by Barak A. Salmoni and Paula Holmes-Eber called “Operational Cultures for the Warfighter: Principles and Applications.”  Word got out that they were offering free copies of the book for a short time, and I wrote to request my own copy.  Dr Holmes-Eber, who is an anthropologist trained at Northwestern who now teaches at Marine Corps University, wrote back to say that they couldn’t ship free copies outside of the US but she sent me a PDF of the book instead and said that I was free to make it available to my colleagues as it is a U.S. government publication and its distribution not limited by copyright laws.

So, if you want a copy, feel free to write to me at lisa [dot] wynn [at] mq.edu.au, or you could write to Dr Holmes-Eber yourself.  If you’re curious to see at a quick glance how culture is being “operationalized” for the military, I’m pasting below the table of contents.  I’ll review the book once I’ve had time to read it.

–L.L. Wynn

Contents
Foreword……………………………………………………………………………vii
By General James N. Mattis, USMC
Acknowledgments………………………………………………………………ix

Introduction ………………………………………………………………………..1
Purpose of the Book…………………………………………………………2
Framing the Problem: “Irregular” Warfare and…………………….3
the Significance of Culture
Back to Clausewitz……………………………………………………………4
Integrating Culture in the Military Domain………………………….6
Purpose and Structure……………………………………………………….8
As We Cross the Line of Departure…………………………………….9

Part I
Terms of Reference

Chapter One: Context ………………………………………………………..15
A Historical Approach to Culture in Operations ………………..15
The Conceptual Context ………………………………………………….22
The Five Operational Culture Dimensions ………………………..24

Chapter Two: Defining Culture………………………………………….29
Military Definitions of Culture ………………………………………….29
Culture: An Operational Definition…………………………………..36
From “Culture” to “Operational Culture” …………………………..43

Part II
Five Operational Culture Dimensions for Planning and Execution

Chapter Three: Dimension I –
The Physical Environment
…………………………………………..53
How Culture Groups Relate to their Environments ……………53
Features of the Physical Environment……………………………….55
Water
Land
Food
Materials for Shelter
Climate and Seasons
Fuel and Power

Chapter Four: Dimension Two – The Economy ………………..73
Formal and Informal Economic Systems …………………………..74
Goods and Services in the Informal Economy
People Who Participate in the Informal Economy
Economy as a Dynamic Network of Exchange………………….86
Egalitarian and Communal Distribution
Direct Reciprocal Exchange
Symbolic Directional Exchange
Economy as a Way of Structuring Social Relationships ………94
Pastoralism
Agriculturalism
Industrial Production

Chapter Five: Dimension Three – The Social Structure…..103
Understanding Social Structures ……………………………………..105
Factors Affecting Position Within the Social Structure ………110
Age
Gender
Kinship and Tribal Membership
Class
Ethnicity and Ethnic Membership
Religious Membership

Chapter Six: Dimension Four – The Political Structure…..147
Political Organization…………………………………………………….149
Political Structures Defined…………………………………………….151
Bands
Tribes
Chiefdoms
States
Who Holds Power: Cultural Forms of Leadership…………….155
Formal and Informal Leadership
Leadership in Acephalous Societies
Episodic Leaders
Councils and Oligarchies
Hereditary Leadership
Dictators and Strongmen
Elected and Selected Leadership
Conflicts Over Power: Challenges to
Existing Political Structures…………………………………………….161

Chapter Seven: Dimension Five – Belief Systems ……………167
Some Features of Belief Systems…………………………………….169
History,Imagined Memory, and Folklore
Icons
Symbols and Communication
Rituals
Religious Beliefs ……………………………………………………………193
Formal Religion
Informal Religion

Part III
Toward Applying Operational Culture

Chapter Eight: From Models to Dimensions to
Observable Realities
…………………………………………………………203
Case Study I Nigeria: Oil and Burgeoning Insurgency ……..206
Case Study II Darfur: Environment,
Economy, Ethnicity, and War……………………………………..213
Philippines: Kinship Politics and the Geographic-
Religious Divide ……………………………………………………….220

Chapter Nine: Operational Culture Learning ………………….237
in Training and Education
Initial Issues for Consideration ……………………………………….238
Learning Domains …………………………………………………………240
Samples of Operational Culture Learning
Across the Domains ………………………………………………………248
Keying Operational Culture Learning ……………………………..251
to the Appropriate Domains
Professional Military Education
Pre-Deployment Training
Metabolizing Operational Culture …………………………………..265
Who Teaches ………………………………………………………………..267

Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………….273
Militaries as Cultures: The Marine Corps …………………………274
Principles of Military Doctrine: Congruence with
Operational Culture……………………………………………………….282
Doctrinal Considerations are Operational Culture Themes
Doctrine Misused is Operational Culture Misconstrued

Appendices
Appendix A: Glossary of Terms ……………………………………..295
Appendix B: Culture Operator’s Questions ……………………..307
Bibliography…………………………………………………………………….321

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Глупав permalink
    30 August, 2008 4:30 am

    NUKE ALL THE DAMN CULTURE THERE IS

  2. roger Noble permalink
    24 October, 2008 4:51 am

    Looks like a great book – how can I get a copy?

  3. Björn E. de Heer permalink
    26 February, 2009 4:04 am

    Hai,

    I’m currently studying at the Netherlands Defence Academy (Advanced Staff College. My previous experience includes combat tours as a bat S9 and Task-Force G9. I’m very much interested in this subject, especially since wh’re starting to take a deeper look at COIN in the course I’m enrolled in shortly. Could I ask you to send me a PDF copy of this book?
    Thanks in advance for any trouble from your side,

    Björn de Heer
    Major
    RNLDA

  4. Philip permalink
    16 June, 2009 2:02 am

    Major Heer,

    Here’s a link to the PDF. Your academy probably has an exchange program with the Marine Corps University, which publishes this book, and might be able to get you and fellow students paper copies of this book. I’ve read it and it is useful.

  5. Philip permalink
    16 June, 2009 2:03 am

    Oops…forgot the link: http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/mcu/mcupress/opculture.pdf

  6. anon permalink
    11 January, 2010 7:51 am

    I would like to email Dr. Holmes-Eber for information on Arab/Middle Eastern culture in general and non-military sense. How do I contact her, please?

    Thank you.

  7. Paula Holmes-Eber permalink
    11 March, 2010 6:28 am

    HI You may email me at pholmeseber@gmail.com. I’m always happy to talk to people about my work and our book, Operational Culture for the Warfighter. Paula Holmes-Eber

  8. Kevin G. permalink
    28 March, 2010 10:03 am

    I want to thank you for posting this table of contacts and link to this text published by the Marine Corps University Press. This seems to be a great resource and I hope the entire U.S. joint force as well as other allied militaries will benefit from the salient principles and applications. Thanks again!

  9. Bert Allen permalink
    23 November, 2010 6:45 am

    Dr. Holmes-Eber,
    Some months ago I had the privilege of hearing your work on NPR Weekend Edition. I was amazed that you are doing this wonderful orientation to military officers about the cultures of the nations which we are entering. I am jealous of those whonow have this opportunity. When I trained 40+ years ago for my deployment to Nam, we got nothing but constant use of derogatory terms for all Vietanmese. That continued throughout my 14 months in-country. I don’t have to tell you the arrogance and cruelty that creates. And, we certainly do not have to breed more of that when we are entering combat. That arrogance makes troops find easy kicking in doors, harassing the locals, and torturing the enemy (and the noncombatants who get in the way – get in the way in their country, no less). I appreciate your start in making those who are in the way human, people, fellow travelers more like us than different. I am trying to do that in my social psychology classes I teach in a small church-related college in Tennessee. Can you give me access to the book alluded to in the article above. The web address above does not give access. Apparently, it is blocked.
    Regards,
    Bert Allen

  10. Steven Ting permalink
    20 August, 2013 12:51 pm

    Sir,

    I’m an international student in KS, and interested in “operational culture”. However, I’m confused by “the operational culture in Business”. Could you please clarify the meaning of operational culture and I’ll be appreciated you sent the article to me.

    Regards,

    Steven Ting

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