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Professional Military Education

A Cross-Cultural Survey


Edited By Duraid Jalili and Hubert Annen

This book brings together non-Western viewpoints on military pedagogy and professional military education (PME). In doing so, it seeks to provide a counterbalance to the predominantly European and North American bias found within the research field, as well as generating new insights on Latin American, African and Asian pedagogical commentaries and critiques. The collection contains essays from PME researchers and practitioners across fourteen countries, on subjects including large-scale educational reform, civil-military and academic influences on military pedagogy, internationalisation, cross-cultural collaboration, and interoperability within military education.

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Cross-Cultural Decision-Making in International Peacekeeping Operations

Colonel Dr. Eri Radityawara Hidayat / Dr. Urip Purwono / Dr. Harry Susianto1

Cross-Cultural Decision-Making in International Peacekeeping Operations

“Their professional background as well as their cultural heritage vary and their social and educational experiences are likewise different. They are brought together far from their own settings and asked to work in an unknown and foreign culture and a sometimes hostile climate.”

Christian Hårleman (1998, p.102),

Former Chief of Training

UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations

←203 | 204→

Abstract: Taking as its starting point the increasingly non-Western nature of contemporary peacekeeping operations, this chapter considers how cultural differences can influence the decision-making of soldiers in-theatre. Based on a quantitative analysis of 241 Indonesian and 83 French peacekeepers deployed in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the chapter demonstrates how individuals are better at thinking and making decisions in their native cultural style during operations. In line with this data, the authors contend that centres for peacekeeping training must shape curricula around psychological training on decision-making and cross-cultural competencies.

Keywords: PME, military education, peacekeeping, UNIFIL, cross-cultural competencies, decision-making, Indonesian Armed Forces, TNI

The Internationalisation of Modern Peacekeeping Operations

The United Nations was established after the Second World War with the aim of maintaining international peace, in order to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (United Nations, 1945, Preamble). The deployment of peacekeeping troops into conflict areas, in which local authorities are unable to maintain security and public order, has become one of the main tools to achieve this purpose (United Nations, 2008, pp.13–14). There are three main characteristics of such peacekeeping operations that one can observe today. The first is the increasing scope and size of operations that are now seen in local military conflicts all over the world. As of 30 September 2018, for example, UN peacekeeping operations involved 89,937 peacekeepers from 125 countries, deployed in 22 missions across 5 continents, with budget allocation for the year totalling $6.7 billion (United Nations, 2018a and 2018b). One corollary result of this is that peacekeepers have become one of the fastest-growing expatriate categories, in comparison to other traditional expatriate groups such as international business managers and the diplomatic corps (Kealey and Protheroe, 1996, p.143).

The second characteristic is that the conduct of military operations has become more international and multilateral in nature, and it has become harder for a single country to conduct military operations unilaterally without international support (Bloch, 2010, pp.29–31). Talentino (2005), for example, found that post-Cold War multilateral intervention has risen by 356 % since the Cold War era, while unilateral action has decreased significantly (p.26), in line with the international community’s development of norms that limit the use of force and put emphasis on multilateral action with the UN as the legitimizing agent (p.30).

The third characteristic of international peacekeeping is that it is an increasingly non-Western phenomenon. For example, as of 30 September 2018, less than 9 % of all UN peacekeepers came from European and Northern American countries, with 49 % of peacekeepers provided by African nations and 39 % from Asian nations (United Nations, 2018a). The number of troops contributed by such countries is also notable, with an average of 1,168 troops per country provided by Africa, in comparison to 114 troops per country provided by North ←204 | 205→America (Ibid.). In the list of top 25 countries in terms of number of troops provided, there was only one Western country: Italy, ranked No. 19 (United Nations, 2018a). Moreover, the majority of conflict areas where these peacekeepers are deployed are non-Western, with 84 % of all UN personnel deployed in Africa and 13 % in Asia (United Nations, 2018a). Despite this, UN peacekeeping doctrine is historically rooted in culturally Western doctrine (Findlay, 2002, pp.121–123), which has been seen as undesirable by some UN member nations (Ibid., p.384) and may not be appropriate to the social and cultural conditions present in the theatre of operations.

In contrast with other military sciences, peacekeeping research is fairly new. Initially it focused on the macro level of peacekeeping processes, such as the foreign policy implications and politics of United Nations mandates (Autesserre, 2014, p.495). Over the past two decades, however, researchers have focused on the micro level, exploring topics such as day-to-day interactions between peacekeepers and locals, peacekeepers’ behaviours and the impact of peacekeeping on the quality of peace on the ground (Gizelis et al., 2016, p.3). Initially, most research was qualitative and ethnographic, conducted by peackeeping practitioners in the field, with theoretical underpinnings similar to contemporary conflict resolution studies (Diehl, 2014, p.481), and often lacking statistical evidence and thus generalizability (Autesserre, 2014, p.495). Quantitative studies in the form of large-n surveys and experimental research on the conduct of peacekeepers remain limited and are generally found in the fields of cross-cultural competencies and psychological adjustments (Al Shdaifat, 2014), mental health (Castro, 2014) and sleep deprivation (Gunia et al., 2015).

While many of the problems encountered with the behaviour of peacekeepers on international missions are undoubtedly centred around psychological contexts, the contribution of psychology to the research field is still very minimal. This is especially the case when it comes to the psychology of decision-making within the cross-cultural scenarios integral to international peacekeeping operations. In order to overcome this comparative lack of published research, and considering the changing strategic environment that many militaries now face, this chapter discusses how military trainers and educators can prepare soldiers with the necessary cultural competencies to conduct international assignments effectively. It will ←205 | 206→present a range of research data from 2010 to 2012, including primary survey data gained in situ in Southern Lebanon.

Decision-Making in Cross-Cultural Settings

One of the most important questions facing peacekeeping trainers is how to enable potential peacekeepers to act and make decisions in accordance with the social and cultural conditions they may face in-theatre. As noted by Weber and Lindemann (2008), there are many “qualitatively different ways in which people make decisions” (p.191), and these different “decision modes” can be affected by motivations associated with “cultural differences” (p.205). As a result, cultural conflicts between peacekeepers from different countries may occur during operations due to divergence in decision-making styles. For example, when researching Operation Harvest in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which held the objective of collecting and confiscating guns and explosive devices held by citizens, Klein Associates discovered that:

“Some soldiers will act only when they have complete information, even if it means fewer collections. They want to meticulously script each home visit and specify many variations. Officers from other countries are critical of this caution. They want a general plan and the flexibility to respond to deviations along the way. This attitude troubles the first group of officers: ‘When we sit down to plan, they drive us nuts! They want to keep everything open. We have to make decisions and we should do it when we have the time to think!’” (Klein, 2004, p.251)

While research in military settings is still limited, two things stand out from Hidayat’s (2012, pp.7–9) review of the literature in the field of cross-cultural decision-making. The first is Weber and Morris’ (2010, pp.412–415) constructivist assessment that, given certain task conditions and the possibility of applicability and accessibility, there exist a range of distinct differences in decision-making between individuals from Western and Asian cultures. Analysis by Weber, Ames and Blais (2004, pp.112–113) of decision-making in classical and best-selling Chinese and American novels, for example, found that collectivist Asian thinking styles tend to choose social or case-based decision modes (e.g. using a strategy, based on its previous application in a similar case), while individualist Western thinkers tend to utilize calculation-based decision modes (e.g. basing a decision on ←206 | 207→a calculation of the possible consequences). Using students recruited from Columbia University, Weber and Lindemann’s (2008, p.192) findings reinforce these results by showing that those with analytical or reasoning-based thinking styles will be motivated to choose calculation-based decision modes. On the other hand, for more familiar situations people tend to choose intuitive case-based decision modes based on an ‘if-then’ condition (i.e. ‘if’ this scenario occurs, ‘then’ I will deal with it in this way), while for decisions related to ethics, individuals choose social or role-based decision modes (Ibid., pp.197, 199).

Secondly, it is necessary to assess the psychological factors that can help build the cross-cultural competencies required to predict decisions made by individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Research by Selmeski (2007, p.12) confirms that soldiers who are deployed abroad must possess an ability to quickly and accurately understand individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Moreover, they must be aware of the potential reactions of those individuals to their specific actions and wider engagement. As highlighted by Ames, Flynn and Weber (2004, p.472), for example, human beings react differently to a person who is helping them, depending on their assessment of that person’s intentions. Thus, in considering the importance of ethical and effective decision-making in intercultural peacekeeping operations, it is vital to better understand how peacekeepers make decisions in foreign environments and how training centres can prepare effective curricula for peacekeepers on cross-cultural decision-making.

Research Background

The research conducted by the authors was aimed at evaluating the structural relationships of psychological constructs which were deemed supportive in building cross-cultural cognitive competencies. Research participants were recruited from two groups of peacekeepers and the total number of participants were 241 Indonesian and 83 French peacekeepers who served as peacekeepers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mission in Southern Lebanon. They were chosen because their Areas of Responsibility (AOR) were next to each other, resulting in regular interaction.

←207 | 208→

The model used for the research was adapted from one created by Weber and Lindemann (2008, p.193), the foundations of which were outlined by Weber, Ames and Blais (2004). This taxonomy of decision-making modes is seen in Tab. 13.1 below, and is grouped qualitatively into two main categories: planned, rational and analytical models, and automatic and intuitive models based on feeling or experience.

Tab. 13.1: Taxonomy of decision-making modes. Adapted from Weber and Lindemann (2008, p.193).


Psychological Process

Decision Type


– Traditional Cost-Benefit

1. Evaluation of Utility

2. Comparison of options


(Decision by the head)


– Case-Based

– Rule-Based

– Social-Based

1. Pattern recognition

2. Execution of Pattern based If-Then Condition

1. Rule Recognition

2. Execution of Rule based If-Then condition

1. Role Recognition

2. Execution of Role based If-Then condition


(Decision by the book)


– Immediate Emotion

Operant Conditioning


(Decision by the heart)

In the taxonomy shown in Tab. 13.1, we found three different decision modes. The first is decisions made ‘by the head’, which is an analytical mode that seeks to maximize the end result through traditional cost-benefit analysis, or through anticipated emotion. The second method of deciding ‘by the book’ relies on “categorization and assimilation to previous learning and experience” (Bennis, Medin and Bartels, 2010, p.193). In essence, the decision maker creates a mental representation of an if-then condition, so that if a certain condition is met, a certain action will be implemented (Klein, 1993, p.140). Within the ‘by the book’ method, we found three sub-modes. The first sub-mode, which is often called naturalistic decision-making, is case-based and stems from research on scenarios in which time-constraints force field commanders to make quick decisions, rather than using analytical decision-making (Ibid., pp.139–140). ←208 | 209→The second sub-mode is rule-based, which, according to Weber and Lindemann (2008, p.193), occurs when someone tries to make a decision “Doing the right thing”. The third sub-mode is social-based, in which “a decision maker considers his or her formal or organizational duties and obligations” and bases their decision upon these perceived duties (Ames, Flynn and Weber, 2004, p.462). The final category of decision-making is the affect-based decision mode (i.e. decision ‘by the heart’), in which decisions are informed by emotion and affect (Frijda, 1988, pp.349–350; Peters et al., 2006, pp.80–81). In this final category, positive emotions such as happiness will produce an approach decision, while negative emotions such as anger, hate or fear will produce an avoidance decision (Weber and Lindemann, 2008, p.194).

Research Method

Assessment of decision modes of the UNFIL peacekeepers was conducted using a scenario-based self-report assessment instrument. Assessment instruments were distributed within the headquarters (HQ) of the Indonesian peacekeepers and took approximately two hours to complete. For the French contingent, materials were distributed via a French operations officer, alongside a detailed explanation of how to complete the survey. The operations officer administering the survey reported that participants needed more than a few hours and the results were returned after one day.

Five different scenarios were distributed to the research participants. The first three scenarios were related to culture-specific peacekeeping encounters, while the last two scenarios were controlled variables about mundane day-to-day activities (such as purchasing toothpaste and choosing weekend leisure activities). The first scenario described a situation where a leader of a joint patrol team had to decide whether to take a local pregnant woman to the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) or ignore her, as it was not permissible under the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to transport unauthorized persons. The second scenario is related to Chief Protection Force of the Peacekeeping Mission HQ, who had to decide whether to allow a well-known commander of the host country’s armed forces to enter the HQ without following all standard procedures, or to ask for him to follow the ←209 | 210→proper procedures. The last scenario was about a military observer who either had to accept an offer of alcoholic drinks from the local militia as a sign of friendship or reject it in line with the SOP’s rule that they were not allowed to drink on duty. For each scenario, participants were asked to complete a 7-point Likert-type scale for five decision modes. The options were affect-based, recognition-based (social, rule and culture) and cost-benefit–based. Participants were later asked to predict which decision mode had been chosen by the participants from the other country.

In addition to the five scenarios, several personality measurements were included in the research. The first is what Novak and Hoffman (2009, p.4) term the Situation Specific Thinking Style (STSS). This consists of a rational thinking style, characterized by rational, analytical and planned thinking behaviours, alongside an experiential thinking style which is more intuitive, fast and related to instinct. The next measurement is Cultural Intelligence (CQ), a psychological construct that was found to have a positive correlation with effective cross-cultural decision-making, and which consists of three mental abilities (metacognitive, cognitive and motivational), plus one behavioural ability (Ang et al., 2007, p.335). It is worth mentioning three studies with regards to this measurement. Firstly, Thomas et al. (2008, p.127) consider the metacognitive ability to be the central locus of CQ, regulating the cognition and behavioural abilities for cross-cultural interaction. Secondly, Epstein (2010, pp.304, 310) asserts that cultural intuition can be developed through prior experience. Finally, Cheng et al. (2010, pp.6–7) found that, even if an individual has experienced a different cultural setting, there is no guarantee that they will gain a positive impact from it, unless they are able to implement the appropriate Intercultural Learning Strategy (ILS) required to expand their cultural cognition. According to Cheng et al. (2010, p.14), an expanded cultural cognition will only occur when the individual recognizes the existence of cultural differences, and implements cognitive and behavioural switching between cultures.


Employing a One Way Analysis of Variance (One Way ANOVA) procedure, statistically significant differences regarding the decision-making ←210 | 211→mode were found for the five different scenarios (F = 27.985; p<.05). Post-hoc analysis using Bonferroni type-1 error correction found that decision-making mode with regard to the three peacekeeping scenarios had no significant differences with each other. The same result was found between the two day-to-day routine activities. On the other hand, statistically significant differences were found between the fourth and fifth scenarios. Overall, these results indicate the rejection of the null-hypothesis that there exist no differences in decision-making modes between peacekeeping (1, 2 and 3) and non-peacekeeping (4 and 5) scenarios.

The personality inventories that were used in the research were also tested for validity and reliability. However, since they were adapted from English to Indonesian and French respectively, semantic and measurement equivalence was conducted to minimize the impact of translation. Semantic equivalence was conducted through forward and backward translation with the help of professional translators of the respected target languages. Measurement equivalence was investigated using a Multi Group Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) approach with Partial Least Squares (PLS) procedures, conducted through Smart PLS 2.0 M3 software. The analysis was performed in two stages, based on Hulland’s (1999, pp.196–197) measurement and structural models, to find out whether the three psychological constructs predict the decision-making mode chosen by participants from the two different cultures.

Fig. 13.1: Structural Model of Indonesian Sample (** P<.01).

MCQ: Metacogitive Cultural Quotient; ILS: Intercultural Learning Strategy; SSTSE: Situation Specific Thinking Style - Experiential; ACCURACY: Accuracy of Prediction as calculated by Standardized Loading times Root Mean Square Deviation (RMSD) between the prediction made by the Indonesian survey participants versus the actual decision chosen by the French participants.

Goodness Of Fit (GOF) for the model in Fig. 13.1 was found to be at 0.4803, meaning that the model is fit for large effect size (≥ 0.36) and can explain 48.03 % of the variance. The result of this structural model test shows that metacognitive cultural intelligence together with intercultural learning strategy may have a positive role in forming cultural intuition through an experiential thinking style. The higher the MCQ of Indonesian participants, the higher the ability to implement the correct cultural strategy when experiencing intercultural interaction. This experience may expand their cultural cognition, which in turn would help to develop cultural intuition. Consequently, the more intuitive the Indonesian participants, the more accurate their prediction will be. In comparison to the Indonesian sample, the French sample showed an opposite correlation. The more intuitive the French participants, the less accurate their prediction will be.

←211 | 212→

Similar to experiential thinking style, in terms of rational thinking style the results of the research reveal two strikingly different results for the Indonesian and French structural models. Fig. 13.2 shows the rational thinking style of the French participants. Rational thinking style is a positive predictor for accuracy of prediction across French participants, with Standardized Loading (SL) of 0.314 and a t-value of 2,890 > |1.96|.

Fig. 13.2: Structural Model of French Sample (** P<.01).

STSSR: Situation Specific Thinking Style – Rational; ACCURACY: Accuracy of Prediction as calculated by Standardized Loading times Root Mean Square Deviation (RMSD) between the prediction made by the French survey participants versus the actual decision chosen by the Indonesian participants.

Since none of the cultural personality measurements showed any significant result, Fig. 13.2 indicates that the French sample achieved their predictions purely based on their analysis of the scenarios. These predictions ←212 | 213→were not affected by their cross-cultural experiences with the Indonesian peacekeepers. Therefore, the more rational the French peacekeepers’ thinking style, the more accurate their prediction was. As can be seen from the fact that they had a higher loading factor of 0.314 in comparison to the Indonesian sample (which was 0.179), overall the French prediction was more accurate than the Indonesian sample’s intuition. Moreover, similar to the previous sample but in reverse, for the Indonesian participants the rational thinking style model showed no significant relation to the accuracy of the predictions made.

Research Implications

The first takeaway from the research is that, in a cross-cultural setting, individuals will perform better when they are using their normative or ‘familiar’ thinking style. The Indonesian peacekeepers tend to use their intuition, whilst the French prefer rational thinking styles. The question then is which one is better for international peacekeeping operations? It could be argued that the intuitive style is better suited for soldiers in the field, as they must have the ability to engage people directly and use their intuition to predict quickly and accurately what to do next. On the other hand, the analytical thinking style would be better to formulate policies related to cross-cultural engagement at the staff officer/HQ level.

Another finding of the study is that individuals who have high metacognitive cultural intelligence will be able to use it in the intercultural interactions they encounter. This allows them to implement the correct intercultural learning strategy and to experience expanded cultural cognition. In this instance, cross-cultural experience, as represented by the intercultural learning strategy, is found to have a useful role in creating accurate cultural intuition. These findings confirm previous research which shows that direct experience of other cultures does not automatically improve intercultural competencies, but that such improvement is more directly related to the individual’s experience in changing or adapting their own cultural perspective in accordance with the cultural demands they face.

The third is the role of the intercultural learning strategy as a mediator of MCQ and ILS in supporting cross-cultural competence. Consistent with the hypothesis of Miller and Moskos (1995, p.634) regarding US ←213 | 214→peacekeepers who were deployed in the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) in Somalia, research by Bosman, Richardson and Soeters (2007, p.341) on the Dutch military, and Ballone et al. (2000, p.911) on Italian peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this study of Indonesian-French peacekeepers reveals that units with a more heterogeneous background may be more effective in conducting international missions. The reason for this is that they would have a stronger ability to place culture and “certain religion-dependent habits and activities into the right context” (Bosman, Richardson and Soeters, 2007, p.341).

Practical Implications for Military Educators and Trainers

There are several practical implications of this research that are relevant for military educators and trainers seeking to prepare their officers and soldiers for international peacekeeping deployments. The first is an awareness that cultural differences can influence the decision-making mode used by soldiers in the field. Rigid application of Standard Operating Procedures, therefore, can be detrimental to the success of the mission, as there is no one-size-fits-all SOP for every cultural landscape. Flexibility is required to adjust to the cultural realities of the mission area.

The research also shows that there are several culture-related flexible personality types (MCQ, ILS and SSTSE) that affect cross-cultural competencies. This means that those responsible for selecting foreign-bound soldiers should consider using these psychological constructs in their selection process. This need is reinforced by the fact that, in many cases, cultural incompetencies of soldiers can result in fatal consequences and even overall mission failure, as they can have a multiplier effect with wider political implications (Lewis, 2006, p.2). Provided that there are enough resources and funding, and that culturally flexible “state-like” personalities can be developed over time (Ang, van Dyne and Koh, 2006, pp.101–102), training centres should create curricula to improve such cross-cultural competencies.

Most pre-deployment training materials include area studies or cultural awareness training (Haddad, 2010, pp.567–568, 570; Kealey and Protheroe, 1996, pp.145–147), that can increase the conceptual understanding and awareness of culturally appropriate behaviour in the host ←214 | 215→country. Although this kind of training may help with “increasing participants’ knowledge of a target country or region” it is not sufficient to affect “participants’ attitudes” towards other cultures or their “feelings of self-efficacy” in a foreign environment (Bird, Heinbuch, Dunbar and McNulty, 1993, pp.430–432). Therefore, psychological-based training such as “experiential learning activities which combine cognitive and behavioral techniques” should be considered (Kealey and Protheroe, 1996, pp.147). Sorcher and Spence (1982, p.570), for example, found that this kind of training for white and black participants in South Africa could improve and maintain sensitivity and cross-cultural communication. In terms of cultural intuition, meta-cognitive training based on the recognition model, where participants are trained to quickly recognize the cross-cultural situation being experienced and then to conduct reflective learning on how to solve cross-cultural problems related to that situation, should also be considered (Earley and Ang, 2003, pp.278–282).

Research Limitations

The limitations of this study include the narrow number of groups involved, meaning that the results do not provide a comprehensive picture of the international nature of modern-day peacekeeping. For example, research by French et al. (2001, pp.151–157) showed that French and American samples produced strikingly different decision-making results on the problem of ethical conflicts. Therefore, further study involving more groups that are known to have different cultural cognitions are warranted. Another limitation is that the data collected was self-reported, meaning that control was achieved at the nominal level, and as such may contain biases. Consequently, the results may be influenced by the effect of uncontrolled variables. In line with these limitations, a more controlled study involving multi source assessment should be conducted in the future. Field experimentation during international joint exercises also provides a plausible area for further exploration.


For many militaries around the world, peacekeeping operations have become the main scenario for operational deployments. In line with ←215 | 216→increasing internationalisation of such missions, peacekeepers should possess cross-cultural competencies to work effectively across different cultural settings. Various research has shown that individuals from different cultural backgrounds have different ways of thinking, resulting in different decision-making styles. The current research shows that individuals will be better at thinking and making decisions in their native cultural style. Yet in order to enable their students to work effectively in multicultural settings, training centres that prepare peacekeepers for international deployment should create curricula which contain psychological training, capable of providing experiential learning on how to think, how to make decisions and how to behave in different cultural scenarios.


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1 The views expressed in this writing are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Indonesian Ministry of Defence or the Indonesian Armed Forces.

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