21st Century Cultures of War: Advantage Them

Anna Simons

In the inaugural launch of the FPRI’s new e-publication, The Philadelphia Papers, the anthropologist Anna Simons of the Defense Analysis department at the Naval Postgraduate School, and member of the Orbis Board of Editors, provocatively assesses cultures of war in the 21st century. She cautions that while the United States military increasingly dazzles in the technological realm, we remain at a marked disadvantage when it comes to social relations, chronically underestimating the sophistication of adversaries and allies in the (non-East Asian) non-West. This asymmetry, to include who is willing to do what to whom, puts our soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence communities at a distinct disadvantage. She argues that the U.S. needs to take this into account as it rethinks how to wage war, never mind whether to become involved in the kinds of ambiguous political-military conflicts we have engaged in over the past decade.  Indeed, without a greater appreciation for the social and anti-social skills of likely future adversaries, current problems plaguing our military -– from PTSD through questionable generalship -- will only worsen over time.