US Strategic Culture and Foreign Policy


It is often said that every nation has a unique cultural code, and if the enemy manages to break it, he can easily defeat the nation. In fact, there is not only a spiritual and psychological system, which can be regarded as the matryoshka or possessing hybrid properties, such as goal-setting and national memory that contains a powerful potential and is the connection between generations. Strategic culture goes hand in hand with the ability to review the historical mission, and, thus, national interests. For example, experts often talk about the Anglo-Saxon type of civilization. But what was the reason for the British colonies in North America beginning the war for independence and, as a result, forming the United States of America? What is the role of the secret societies? It is known that the Masons arranged the so-called Boston Tea Party, which started the movement for independence from the British crown. What were the Anglo-Saxons lacking in North America, seeing as Britain held vast territories in which it was possible to carry out almost any political experiment? Why did the United States decide to attack their “brothers in blood and spirit” in Canada in 1812 (the war had consequences for both the British and the Americans: in August 1814, the British captured Washington and burned the White House and the Capitol)? Such an adventure is can hardly be explained by territorial interests.

Most likely, the frontier played a special role in the United States, i.e. zone of the continental development up to the Pacific coast, where, in the late XVIII century, hundreds of settlers went, destroying the native Indian population in their way.

Moreover, North American folklore absorbed the history of the first frontier pioneers, and they are still very popular and are considered as symbols of American spirit. The first US historical characters, Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink, Pecos Bill, etc., are the quintessence of adventure, deception, vulgarity, brutality and cold-blooded swindle. Moreover, these characters have fantastic strength and health that can easily swallow lightning or lasso a tornado. Even their private stuff has distinctive names: Crockett’s weapon was called The Death of the Devil, and Fink’s ones – Old Bang-All. While the German people read Thumbelina, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow Queen and Snow White to their children, Russians are imbibed with mother's milk tales about Ilya Muromets, Ivan Tsarevich and Vasilisa the Beautiful, and the American standard were these ordinary, but strong men, and the wonders, if they happened, were associated with conquest and struggles, usually cruel and merciless.

The 1862 Homestead Act, which was the result of the US Republican Party’s policies, who came to power two years prior, arranged the frontier, turning undeveloped land into separate areas. The Yankees gained the access to the Pacific Ocean, but it was not enough to quench the thirst of expansion, which forced them to move to the North and the South. If they hadn’t had succeeded in releasing the Canadians from British control, it would have been quite easy to free the Spanish Florida. And then a vast part of Mexico was seized, resulting in the country losing a third of its territory.

Obviously, such a success of the US government’s military inspired the idea of ​​God's chosen and invincible people. The American theologians, historians and ideologists in the second half of the XIX century started the scientific and political basis of Messianism, creating the foundation for geopolitical exclusivity.

It should be noted that strategic culture itself (at least, according to Americans) is commonly understood as the stable system of common values ​of the group leaders or leaders of the state and is connected to the use of military force.i Therefore, it is not the idea of ​​the state’s development and its place in the world; it is clearly setting towards conflict and some basic ideas of it.

Without understanding these principles, it would be difficult to comprehend the reasons and methods of warfare, which helped the “Enlightened West” to start conflicts all over the world. Technological growth and the idea of ​​progress, whatever it is, cannot overshadow ideology and values, which were used by the Western political elite to go on various adventures. More than likely, scientific and technological progress in the hands of these people becomes a means of warfare. For many years China used powder only for fireworks, but, upon arriving in the West, it started to be used for murder and destruction. It is the same situation with nuclear technology; in the US, research was aimed at creating a new deadly weapon, which almost immediately after the test was used against Japan.

Unifying the American military-political system and science in the XX was century clearly aimed at war. A secret group developed the doctrine that justified conflict as the norm of international order, and prepared some sweet pills of propaganda for the gullible masses.

One of these doctrines was the notorious report from Iron Mountain, which was being prepared by a group of specialists from different spheres. In 1967, the United States published a book named Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peaceii, stating that in August 1963, a special research team had been created, which finished its work in three years. The group included the Minister of Defense of Kennedy’s and Johnson’s administrations, Robert McNamara, the foreign policy adviser of Kennedy’s and Johnson’s administrations, William Bundy and the Secretary of State 1961-1969 Dean Rusk. Although the US government denied any involvement in the research, some people involved in its creation confirmed the authenticity of their involvement.

The authors pointed out that a state of universal peace in the world would lead to changes in the social structure of all states on an unprecedented and revolutionary scale. The economic effect of general disarmament, which is the most obvious consequence of peace, would rebuild the model of production and distribution of the world to such a level that the changes in the past 50 years would seem insignificant. Political, sociological, cultural and environmental changes would have equally far-reaching consequences. The conclusion was that the world was totally unprepared to face this situation. Therefore, war was absolutely normal and an even useful phenomenon, necessary for the functioning of modern states. “War is not, as its is widely recognized ... policy instrument used by nations for distribution or for the protection of their political principles or economic interests. On the contrary, it is the principal basis of the organization of modern societies.” And further: “... the root of all significant differences of national interests is based on the dynamic military system’s needs in periodic armed conflict.”

War as the principal organizing force is attributed a number of functions: economic, political, sociological, environmental, cultural, scientific and psychological. War was even assigned a role in controlling the quality and level of employment.

The author pointed out that “the military system enables the stable regulation of society ... we must emphasize the need to find an enemy, convincing in quality and scope. More likely, in our judgment, this threat must be invented, rather than created under unclear circumstances.” But this enemy is identified by the US government using terms like “Islamic terrorism”, the “Empire of Evil”, i. e. Russia, the “Axis of Evil” (which includes Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela) and other strange terms like “Islamic fascism” or “Chinese hegemony.”

In addition, a number of offers made in this report were made over the years and decades with scrupulous accuracy. So, it is not conspiracy fiction, because such ideas as the creation of the Peace Corps, or the global project on the issue of climate change can be implemented only by a highly organized structure with a strategic vision, which is represented by a network of the Council of Foreign Relations, the RAND Corporation and the various analytical centers and political establishment.

Well, what then is the culture of the U.S military? Its core is a particular way of global understanding, which is naturally transmitted to relatives, supporters and followers of the military. According to this view, there are three kinds of people: sheep, wolves and dogs, who guard the sheep. The military’s position is the role of the dogs, which are forced to kill the wolves to save the sheepiii. And this simple scheme allows them to easily kill millions of people around the world year upon year.

The United States, as the most experienced and powerful (in military terms), uses all kinds of weapons in conflicts, including nuclear weapons. Its defense budget is the biggest in the world, while at the same time its leaders constantly advocate peace. Perhaps, in knowing the national interests of the country, we can understand the mechanisms of making decisions on war or intervention.

Perhaps, we should start with the fact that the two ruling parties in the United States, the Republicans and the Democrats, follow the different approaches in International Relations. The Republicans promote realism, which states that every country has its own national interests to defend and they must be respected. The interests of states may collide, and therefore conflicts appear. So, war is a natural and logical process (just like the Report from Iron Mountain says. By the way, one of its leading authors, Robert McNamara was a Republican). The question is, how far can they go in defending their interests (especially if the zone of interest is far from their borders) and are they ready to sacrifice their resources and citizens. The Democrats prefer the liberal school of international relations and believe that universal consensus must be achieved (of course, according to western patterns), and the opposition must be punished and re-educated. Therefore, the two parties do not deny the possibility of war, and even, on the contrary, consider it an essential tool in international relations.

With regard to interests, of course, the Democrats and Republicans have differing points of view on this issue, but it is more complicated than it initially seems.

The American political scientist Christopher Paul argues that the national interest is the social construction, and its use, defined by the same social structure, is coordinated through social processes. If it is a construction, therefore, in many ways, it is not natural. Therefore, the national interests may change in this regard. There are three different, but related, basic structures of US national interests: the national interest, the President’s national interest (according to the president), and the national interest (for) legitimacy.

Citizens generally use the concept of the national interest to understand whether or not the policy is “good” for the country in a normative sense.

According to Alexander George, the concept of national interest remains important for foreign policy, despite the limitations of the theoretical and scientific approach. The politicians use it in two different ways: first, as the criteria to estimate threats in the situation to determine the best course; secondly, as the decision’s justification. iv

It is believed that during the last hundred years the US has, several times, changed the definition of the national interest.

In the period before war, US foreign policy was aimed at improving the material well being of the American people, not the implementation of the national interests. It was basically isolationist towards the policy of interventionism in the region (Latin America), and the reduction of influence of European powers in the New World was especially emphasized. It is known as the Monroe Doctrine. In addition, well-known political analyst Samuel Huntington wrote, from the very beginning the Americans built their personal beliefs on the difference of the unwanted “others.” The opponents always defined America as the opposition to freedom.v This is a very important point.

Who are these “others”? It is quite simple; they are all of the rest. Another Huntington work is called the West and the Rest, which is not by chance. The concept of the “other” came into geopolitics and international relations from cultural anthropology. In 1906, the American sociologist William Sumner used the term of “ethnocentrism”. It described the attitude of prejudice or distrust to strangers (which may exist within the social group) and formulated a very fruitful idea about the hostile environmental impact or external aggression on internal cohesionvi. He points out that the constant threat of war against aliens is something that unites the ‘us-group’ members from the inside and does not allow disagreements to developed that would weaken its military power. This need to defend also creates the government and the law within the ‘us-group’ to prevent disputes and to strengthen discipline... People of the ‘them-group’ are the others whose ancestors fought with the ones in the ‘us-group’. Their spirits will be happy to see their descendants continue to struggle and will help them. The virtue is murder, robbery and the enslavement of others.vii

This dichotomy principle, together with the idea of ​​superiority (reminding you that racism and its derivatives, such as national socialism and fascism, were also invented by the West) gradually caused the US society to segregate from both the Old World and the rest of the relatively new states, such as Latin America.

Two World Wars influenced the change of such an approach. The United States was involved in European and, at a greater distance, Eurasian affairs, much deeper than before, but as the new hegemonic power of the “free world”. The network of the American elite’s foreign policy began its work during the Second World War, long before the beginning of the Cold War. Even then, the Council on Foreign Relations (the CFR) noted “important areas” for the American demand of raw materials and new markets to ensure economic prosperity.viii

In general, the Second World War was an organized war for the U.S strategists, which united a lot of people to develop a plan both in capitals and at headquarters. Strategy and logistics became a lucrative business for American industry, and this lesson was well learned by U.S military planners. General Marshall was able to apply his experience of the First World War on highways, rivers and railways, but this time he expanded and adapted it to the ocean. The important fact is that it was the first global war open for the participation of the United States.

William Domhoff states that the new definition of the national interest, offered by the elite network of foreign policy planning in the 1940’s, was primarily economic in its nature and was aimed at the fulfillment of all functions of the American capitalist system, with changes at a minimum.ix

This corresponds to the standards of fundamental values of national interests; if citizens and the sovereignty of the country are safe, the main interest that should be defended is the well being of the economy. The CFR sketched out the general world order, which could satisfy these economic interests, and the US government adopted it as the future strategy. During this period, the president’s national interest demonstrated adherence to the protection of “critical areas”.

Domhoff believes that anti-communism, as the key policy, and its ideological concrescences would appear only after the threats to the “critical area” arosex. The journalists Christine Jones and Ward Johnson generally thought that “the concern of the U.S. elites’ policy is not with the establishment or protection of democracy; it is, therefore, with the establishment of capitalism worldwide and with the unimpeded control of resources and markets.”xi

The change in focus on the fight against drug-terrorism (Bush Sr.), global terrorism (Bush Jr.), was just a cover for the direct control over the “important areas”, often with the help of Allies, which have been used by Washington for its own purposes.

It is significant that in recent years there has been a shift from the blurred notion of “terrorism” to the specification of the “state.” It seems that the technique of substituting terminological concepts is used to make the justification of war against some “states” or real states easier.

As Christopher Paul convincingly shows in his book on the policy decisions on US military intervention, there was often no need for aggressive actions against another countries.xii


i Scobell, Andrew. Soldiers, Statesmen, Strategic Culture and China’s 1950 Interventionin Korea // Journal of Contemporary China 8, no. 2, Spring 1999. P. 479.

ii Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. The Dial Press, Inc. 1967

iii Ernest Price, Sickening piece of propaganda for US power // 19 February 2015

iv George, A. Presidential Decisionmaking in Foreign Policy: The Effective Use of Information and Advice, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1980, P. 218.

v Scobell, Andrew. Soldiers, Statesmen, Strategic Culture and China’s 1950 Interventionin Korea // Journal of Contemporary China 8, no. 2, Spring 1999. P. 479.

vi Sumner W., Folkways. New-York: Dover, Inc., 1959.

vii Sumner W. G. War // WSPSA, 1964.

viii Domhoff, William. The Power Elite and the State: How Policy Is Made in America. New York: Aldine DeGruyter, 1990

ix Ibid., Р. 137

x Ibid., chap. 5.

xi Christina Jacqueline Johns and P. Ward Johnson, State Crime, The Media, and The Invasion of Panama, Westport: Praeger, 1994. P. 7.

xii Paul, Christopher. Marines on the Beach. The Politics of U.S. Military Intervention Decision Making. Praeger Security International. Westport, Connecticut. London, 2008