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The importance of cultural information in multinational operations

a fragmented case study on UNFICYP

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The importance of cultural information in multinational operations

a fragmented case study on UNFICYP

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The decrease of the number of personnel employed in the western defence sector since 1990 can truly be called spectacular. But even before that year there was an unmistakably downward trend. Cooperation, therefore, is the buzz word for the military. This cooperation in the defence sector happens jointly between the services (e.g. the land and air forces), but to an increasing extent also combined, between units of several countries. The cooperation sometimes assumes very far-going structural forms, as is demonstrated by the formation of the German-Netherlands Corps. Usually, however, international units meet ona more incidental basis in exercises, and increasingly also in actual missions. The closing decade of the last century showed that military operations from peace enforcing to peacesupport operations cannot be conducted by an individual country anymore. In an international context military personnel are dependent on each other in the realization of their targets, usually because there is a lack of adequate (personnel) resources to conductindependent action, and sometimes, as in the case of the United States, to strengthen thelegitimacy of an operation.The result is that the military has thoroughly internationalized, making know-how regarding international management from the business sector also applicable to the armed forces. One of those knowledge domains concerns the influence of national cultures on the structure and functioning of international alliances. Research based on insights into cultural differences indifferences. These differences concern the loyalty of the personnel to the organization, the structure and functioning of the organization, the relation and social distance between the leadership and rank and file, as well as the extent of formalization and rule orientation. In this respect the cultural heterogeneity between national armed forces is at least s great as that in the profit sector. In all likelihood the impact of this cultural heterogeneity is greater in military operations than in structural cooperation in the business sector. This is related to the fact that in military operations the missions and targets are not always so concrete and measurable. Besides, military units always have to keep up a national line of responsibility ,the time frames of the operation tend to be rather tight and the sense of urgency is very high,whereas the personnel is constantly rotated. At the same time, however, there is also, quite emphatically, something like a supranational military culture. In comparison with profit businesses, military culture in all countries is ratherbureaucratic, hierarchic and institutional (i.e. relatively less inclined towards income, careerand private life). This means that even before entering a specific multinational force, officersmay have undergone vicarious anticipatory and actual socialization to work in such frameworks. The consequence of this is that military personnel of different origin can often function with each other without too many problems. The present article intends to show how cultural differences, in this case between British and Dutch army personnel, could give rise to such friction that interference by the Dutch Army Staff was deemed necessary. This interference was occasioned by an investigation of the Bureau Lessons Learned, directed at providing cultural information on the British Army. The intention was to give direct culture guidelines to Dutch personnel on how to improve their contacts with the British. It so happens that the location of this Anglo-Dutch cooperation is Cyprus, and the international frameworkthat of the UNFICYP mission; indeed, the same mission about which Moskos had expressedso much optimism with regard to the effects of an international military professionalism,some 25 years ago.The build-up of the article is as follows. We begin by describing the nature of the conflict in Cyprus as well as the task and composition of the UN mission there. Subsequently, the authors will address the Anglo-Dutch cooperation in this mission based on some fragmented research material. In doing so, they will make use of data obtained from interviews with ten Dutch servicemen conducted shortly after their return from deployment on the first rotation. In addition, the authors have made use of the experiences of two Dutch lieutenants during the second and third rotation respectively, described in a study paper. Moreover, they have had the disposal of material from a survey held among the Dutch contingent during the first rotation. Taken together, these data yield a fairly good impression of the dynamics of the Anglo-Dutch cooperation in Cyprus. A subsequent section gives a description of the intervention by the Bureau Lessons Learned with regard to this cooperation. Finally, there is an observation on the use and necessity of cultural information in multinational military operations.

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OrganisatieNederlandse Defensie Academie
OpleidingFaculteit Militaire Wetenschappen
AfdelingMilitaire Bedrijfswetenschappen
Gepubliceerd inInformation in context Royal Netherlands Military Academy, Breda, Vol. 2000, Pagina's: 55-65
Jaar2000
TypeBoekdeel
TaalEngels

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