Cover of Culture, Conflict, and Counterinsurgency by Edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Barry Zellen
Culture, Conflict, and Counterinsurgency
Edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Barry Zellen

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2014
304 pp.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804785952
Digital ISBN: 9780804789219
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The authors of Culture, Conflict and Counterinsurgency contend that an enduring victory can still be achieved in Afghanistan. However, to secure it we must better understand the cultural foundations of the continuing conflicts that rage across Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, and shift our strategy from an attritional engagement to a smarter war plan that embraces these cultural dimensions.

They examine the nexus of culture, conflict, and strategic intervention, and attempt to establish if culture is important in a national security and foreign policy context, and to explore how cultural phenomena and information can best be used by the military. In the process they address just how intimate cultural knowledge needs to be to counter an insurgency effectively.

Finally, they establish exactly how good we've been at building and utilizing cultural understanding in Afghanistan, what the operational impact of that understanding has been, and where we must improve to maximize our use of cultural knowledge in preparing for and engaging in future conflicts.

About the author

Thomas H. Johnson is Research Professor in the National Security Affairs Department of the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Director of the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies, and a Senior Research Associate in the NPS Center for Contemporary Conflict.

Barry Scott Zellen is an author, editor, and theorist specializing in tribal issues. His books include The Art of War in an Asymmetric World: Strategy for the Post-Cold War World and Breaking the Ice: From Land Claims to Tribal Sovereignty in the Arctic. He is a Senior Fellow of the Anchorage-based Institute of the North.

"The editors and contributors to this volume make a convincing case that culture matters a great deal in the outcome of insurgencies and counterinsurgency warfare. Although this book has probably come too late to change the outcome of the conflict in Afghanistan, perhaps it is timely enough to educate the next generation of military leaders, who most certainly will see this type of war again."

—Peter Mansoor, H-Diplo

"This book's cogent and insightful essays, by a multi-disciplinary group of scholars and combat soldiers, shows how culture shapes insurgencies, especially in Afghanistan. Years of experience gained among Afghanistan's diverse peoples and unforgiving mountains, as well as through stateside analysis, infuse these essays, valuable reading for anyone concerned with Afghanistan's future."

—David Isby, author of Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires

"Culture, Conflict, and Counterinsurgency illustrates how much wiser parts of the US security establishment are in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Technological prowess and military fire-power cannot insulate the US from the need for profound cultural knowledge of contexts where its military operates. This volume lays out how to acquire, structure and apply that knowledge."

—Michael Semple, Visiting Professor, Centre for Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Queen's University, Belfast