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Know Friends As Well As Enemies, Military Officials Say

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2006 – It is just as important to know and understand the cultural, political, military and philosophical nature of an ally as it is of an enemy, international military officials said here yesterday.

"We must know the enemy, we must know ourselves, but also we must know the coalition partner," South Korean Air Force Col. B.J. Park, a Republic of Korea liaison officer to U.S. Joint Forces Command, said, paraphrasing the ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu.

Not having a deep understanding of how U.S. coalition partners think and operate will hinder true interoperability among allies, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William M. Rajczak, JFCOM's deputy director for joint requirements and integration, added.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that we're in a long war that will have to be engaged from all sides," Rajczak said. "Not just a military solution, but diplomatic, informational and economic solutions with partners will often set the stage for success to occur."

Both Park and Rajczak were speaking as part of a panel discussion about "coalition battle space awareness" at the 2006 U.S. Joint Forces Command Industry Symposium here.

Park said it is vital for coalition members to "know their partners in terms of their customs, in terms of their culture, in terms of their ways, but also in terms of their (military) capability."

Rajczak agreed and said the U.S. military must foster the type of relationships with its coalition partners that allow for easy identification of their capabilities, so those capabilities can be put to their best use in an area of conflict.

The general said that over the past five years the number of U.S. allies with a presence at JFCOM headquarters, in Norfolk, Va., has grown from about three to more than 30 countries. "Our coalition partners bring things to the table that we don't have," he said. "Their presence is definitely helpful."

Americans have a tendency to default to technological solutions when problems arise, even when a human solution is what is needed, Rajczak said. He pointed to human intelligence-gathering problems as an area that allies could help fix. "A coalition partner who's a member of the indigenous family, if you will, in a particular country, knows things that we will never learn," Rajczak said, "things that an outsider can never appreciate or understand."

Getting coalition partners to gather and share information from the "grassroots on up" is exceedingly helpful in prosecuting a war, Rajczak added.

The general emphasized that such cultural solutions will help defeat terrorist networks. "When you're talking about dealing in the world and environment we're being asked to operate in now ... with an enemy that has no deep roots or bases in a country, we need to look less at a technical solution and more at a cultural solution," he said.

In addition, U.S. linguistic programs must try to capture and teach semantic nuances that might be lost in direct translation, he said.

"Creating true collaborative battle space awareness among coalition partners is hugely important," Rajczak said.

Contact Author

Maj. Gen. William M. Rajczak, USAF

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U.S. Joint Forces Command

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