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Hearts and Minds

US Cultural Management in 21st Century Foreign Relations


Matthew Chambers

This volume looks at a key component of recent US foreign relations, namely, its emphasis on «hearts and minds» as part of its cultural management of the global Other. The authors collected here analyze to what extent we can frame the intent and consequences of this term as a coherent policy, discussing how to think about foreign policy strategies that involve the management of cultural relations.

«Including fascinating first-hand and deeply-researched accounts of the workings of various US institutions (many of them ‘cultural’), this volume is a must for an understanding of the power the US projects worldwide.» Professor Laleh Khalili, SOAS University of London

«This fascinating collection reveals the nuance and complexity behind a seemingly banal phrase.» Professor David Schmid, State University of New York at Buffalo

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Ebb and Flow: How Strategic Culture, Operational Art, and Threat Perceptions Have Defined the Engagement with Culture


The great twentieth century nuclear strategic theorist Bernard Brodie famously said that ‘good strategy presumes good anthropology and good sociology’ (1973: 233). By this he meant that the ability for an entity to achieve its aims, it requires a strong understanding of the sociocultural nuances not only of the actors on the battlefield, but of itself. Similar sentiments can be found across many of the great texts of strategy. Yet, within the United States, the understanding, analysis, and care for these types of issues has ebbed and flowed across time, with the ‘cultural turn’ in the later stages of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being the most recent expression of a ‘flow’. The reasons for this are many. This chapter will attempt to offer one notion which suggests that it is the interaction of American strategic and military culture, the theory and practice of the operational level of war, and how an enemy is defined in a specific time period that explains whether culture is taken into consideration within the U.S. national security system. This will henceforth be shortened to ‘the interaction’.

The United States national security system is an engorged web of departments, agencies, organizations, and personnel. It is estimated that it costs the U.S. taxpayer about $1 trillion each year (CDI: 2014), and employs well over 4 million people directly and indirectly (Forging 2008: 21). It is often pejoratively and limitedly described as the ‘Military-Industrial Complex’ (or some equivalent construction with added nouns)...

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