Archive for April, 2010

Culture of Terrorism (Corbett and K. Daniels)

CDT Corbett: Culture of Terrorism I

When asked to write about the culture of terrorism it is necessary to understand both what culture is and what terrorism is. Both of which we believe are simple to describe, yet when we look closely we are quite wrong. Terrorism in the dictionary has these three definitions:

  • The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
  • The state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization
  • A terrorist method of governing or of resisting a government.

Now when you read these you think, “yeah that accurately describes the people we are facing in Iraq or Afghanistan.” Who else do you think this describes? If you look through our history and at all conflicts around the world there are several key components to terrorism. The First would be that a terrorist act is politically inspired. If not, then it is nothing more than a crime. It also has to involve violence or the threat of violence. The point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message. Do you remember 11September2001? An al-Qaeda spokesman said, “ It rang the bells of restoring Arab and Islamic glory.” The act and the victim of a terrorist act must have some symbolic meaning or significance. The Twin Towers falling had quite a bit of shock value that had huge psychological impact.  The last and possibly most defining characteristic of a terrorist act is the deliberate targeting of civilians. It is often explained that those who pay taxes to a government are responsible for their actions. Basayev declared all Russians fair game because “They pay taxes. They give approval in word and in deed. They are all responsible.”

Even with such defining characteristics it is hard to understand any facet of terrorism. Who is likely to become a terrorist? Why do they commit the crimes or atrocities that they do? These are very difficult questions, which the best scholars cannot answer. Typically when you ask an American to describe a terrorist they think of a Muslims and more specifically the Sunni and Shia. Even soldiers, or ROTC cadets for that matter, see all 1.2 billion Muslims in the world as a possible threat when in actuality there are only a few thousand Islamic terrorists. Why are there not more? How do we tell who is and who is not a terrorist or likely to become one? You cannot. Efforts to produce a terrorist profile have all failed. This is often because they all share a common trait. They appear to be normal. But why does a human being decide to kill others and put himself outside the law and dramatically increase the likelihood that he will be killed or imprisoned and put his family at risk? Most would say because they are crazy. They see themselves in a world that is black-and-white. They see a world where good faces evil and their adversaries are to blame for all their problems. They identify with others and want revenge against their evil adversary. The deadliest act of terrorism in the United States before September 11th was when 168 people died to what we now know as a Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise. The person convicted of the crime was Timothy James McVeigh who was a Catholic army veteran. He served with the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service during the Gulf War. My point? If this man can become a terrorist just like someone living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who is the enemy?

Terrorism is such a broad topic that we as future officers have to deal with. As the future leader in our military you must come up with answers, techniques and tactics that are more efficient than those in the past. Can we ever defeat terrorism? You can argue either way. The one thing that we can agree on though is that terrorism is not going away anytime soon.

  • Today our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature.  -George W. Bush, 11 September 2001
  • The best that one can say of these people is that they are morally depraved. They champion falsehood, support the butcher against the victim, the oppressor against the innocent child.  –Osama bin Laden, 7 October 2001
  • God knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance’s oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon. The events that made a direct impression on me were during and after 1982, when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the help of its third [sixth] fleet. They started bombing, killing and wounding many, while others fled in terror…. The whole world heard and saw what happened, but did nothing. In those critical moments, many ideas raged inside me, ideas difficult to describe, but they unleashed a powerful urge to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the oppressors. As I looked at those destroyed towers in Lebanon it occurred to me to punish the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America, so that it would have a taste of its own medicine and would be prevented from killing our women and childrens  -Osama bin Laden
  • Thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again,  -Osama bin Laden, October 2004


CDT Daniels: Culture of Terrorism II

When many people think about international terrorism they just think of a bunch of pissed off Arabs with bombs strapped to themselves willing to go blow themselves up so that they can go spend eternity with a bunch of virgins. This is obviously a very bias and uneducated view of terrorism but it is fairly common none the less. I believe that to truly get a grasp of what brings about terrorism you need to free yourself of all biases and take in all the information before you come to conclusions. To help with this process, while you read this article, think of them as “Transnational Non-state threats” instead.

There are a few key points about transnational non-state threats that I would like you to take away from this, the first is the name, transnational non-state threats. When dissecting this group of words you will find that these people operate back and forth between countries (transnational) and they have no government affiliation (non-state) and lastly they are a threat. This last part, threat, is very important. If they were not a threat, they would be considered just another NGO like the Red Cross/Crescent or Doctors Without Borders. The reason that I stress the threat part is not because I want to point out that they can be mean, because that is kind of obvious, but because it gives you a good comparison to other organizations that you might be more familiar with.

The second point I would like to stress is the influence behind joining these organizations. This has become a highly debated topic so I will attempt to give you facts so that you can form your own opinion. First off there are three different forces which people believe tend to push others into becoming tourists. These three forces are economics, politics, and religion. The debate comes from which of these forces has more pull.

Economics plays a role simply because being a terrorist makes good money. In many areas throughout the world money is very scarce. Terrorist cells then capitalize on this opportunity by providing jobs, security, and lots of money to people willing to help their cause. This means that many people inside terrorist networks might not fully believe in the cause, they are more interested in the money.

Although these are non-state actors they are still effected by politics just as much as any other person in this world. For instance, all of the trade restrictions put on South and Central American countries by the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have begin to put a squeeze on certain economies in those regions. These political maneuvers can and have ruined industries and restricted jobs for these people. Some of these people then turn to violence and/or drug trafficking (drug trade and terrorism is closely linked in South and Central America) to make money.

The last force that effect terrorism is widely considered, by the same people who have that stereotype above, to be the most important force that drives terrorism. There is fact and fiction in this claim. Yes it is a force, particularly in the middle east and pacific islands, but no it probably is not the driving force behind terrorism. Muslim extremists do use religion to help justify and endorse certain violent acts through processes of a better afterlife and through the jihad. However, when making this claim it is important that you realize that at no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder or do the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders. Therefore, the only time religion is tied in, is in the case of the extremists who have a slightly warped point of view of their religion.


Cultural Awareness (and Afghanistan Lecture)

Cultural Awareness and Operational Impacts of Culture- CDT Weber/ CDT Dick

Cultural Awareness is something that is very important in today’s military.  We have soldiers in many countries all around the world to which we work and cooperate with.  From the deserts of Afghanistan to the rice paddy fields in South Korea, each country has its own unique culture and people.  Being able to understand the culture of a people will make communication and interaction easier in whatever environment you’re in.

An Organizational Culture not only applies towards the people within a host country, but even within your own unit.  Knowing the intricate components of an organizational culture will insure that you are well prepared for the task at hand; these components can be described as levels, sensitivity and other characteristics of culture.

To begin with, there are three levels of culture that have been identified as being applicable to any organization or country.

Artifacts– things that one sees, hears, and feels when encountering a group culture.

Espoused Values– beliefs or values held by one or more members of a group.

Shared Basic assumptions– attitudes, beliefs, values, methods, or behaviors that have repeatedly enabled the cultural group to solve important problems and that member of the group accept as reality.

Cultural Sensitivity is the respect and awareness of the norms of a culture that is different than your own.  Being able to acknowledge differences with a people and at the same time respect them, will allow a greater understanding towards working with them to accomplish your goals.

Potential issues that can derail cultural understanding….  (please share your thoughts on these and on the above comments)

Helping Soldiers and Their Families

Army Financial Smarts – Cadet Ryman

 The topic of financial stability is very important in today’s world where it seems everyone is living in debt. By taking care of our own finances and being knowledgeable in the subject you will not only be a role model for your soldiers but be able to set them up for success in their own financial situations. Finances can be a major distraction to a soldier, which can take away from training and over all readiness. Also finances are a major reason for a lot of divorces.

 Here are some side effects of bad financial planning

  • Loss of credit, pay garnishment
  • May lose chances to be promoted or even re-enlist
  • You can even be discharged from service

 Here is a list of ways to improve finances.

  • Utilize a Budget and don’t vary from it
  • Save first out of your paycheck before bills and other expenses
  • Create an Emergence fund of 3 months of living expenses (just in case)
  • Live comfortably, not above your means

 It is important when working with your soldiers to understand what they are dealing with. Some of these soldiers may have never had a paycheck, bank account or may not know what good financial planning looks like or why it is important.

 I feel that saving is extremely important. On the civilian side they have 401k and IRA’s. Soldiers can also participate in IRA programs through financial institutions. The Army also provides something close to a 401k called the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP allows soldiers to participate in the stock market at a risk level of their choice. It has a record of great return on investment. It is important to note that when saving the sooner you start the better. There is this little beauty called compounding interest that works like a multiplier for you. A 22 yr old who only invests 8 years and lets it compound will have the same amount of money at 65 years of age as someone who waits till they’re 31 and invests until they are 65.

 It is also mentionable the military helps soldiers by giving them allowances and entitlements.

 There is a great deal of financial smarts that I have not covered in this short article. Perhaps you would like to do a little research on one I have not covered or go deeper into something I’ve discussed for your blog post.

Installation Support Services: Cadet Kennedy

We all come upon problems in our life, even as soldiers we face issues that we cannot necessarily handle on our own. That is why it is import that proper support is provided to all soldiers and their families. With this in mind the Army has set in place SEVERAL programs for its soldiers and their dependents.  These programs include:

  • Army Community Service
    • This includes multiple programs set in place to provide support services, education and information to assist the military population. These programs range from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program to the MOB and Deployment Assistance Program. Almost any situation that you are in there is someone to talk to.
    • The Family Readiness Center
      • This is put in place to assist families during times of deployment.  Family Readiness Groups are for your soldiers families and it is important that through tough times they have something to turn to. It keeps families connected to the deployed unit allowing them to meet and remain informed of the current situation.
      • Legal Services
        • Everyone gets into trouble sometimes but when things get out of hand Legal Services are always available. The Legal Assistance Office will assist soldiers with all legal matters. Also things such as tax assistance are available.
        • Army and Air Force Exchange Service
          • We should all know this very well, the AAFES provides soldiers with merchandise and comparatively low prices. The AAFES operates in several countries and not only provides soldiers with merchandise but with the luxury of fast food chains like Burger King, Popeyes and Cinnabon around the globe. Not only does it provide the opportunity to spend money, but the opportunity to make money as well. The AAFES provides employment to more than 10,000 military family members.
          • Health Services
            • This program is set in place to assist soldiers with health care. Soldiers and their families will receive free or government-subsidized medical and dental care. Any sicknesses or injuries will be provided for through the military. Army health care falls under the program TRICARE.


These are only a small portion of the several support services provided to military personnel and their families. The above programs are available to both you, your soldiers and their families. It is highly important that you ensure that your soldiers take full advantage of them all.