Cultural Intelligence can be defined as the analysis of social, political, economic and other demographic information that provides an understanding of a people or a nation's history, institutions, psychology, beliefs and behaviours (Donald, 2004). Understanding Cultural differences provides insight into understanding individual capabilities to cope with multi-cultural situations, engage in cross-cultural interactions, and perform in cross-cultural military operations. It enables individuals (the military) to anticipate requirements, take necessary actions, recognize minute cultural cues and facilitate communication (Donald, 2004).
Development of cultural intelligence promotes better leadership skills as leaders develop cognition of what their organizations need to do so as to accomplish given military operations. The ability to motivate or mobilize an enormous group of people which is a key skill in a leader is largely depended on your capability to interact with your subjects (Donald, 2004). It therefore follows that having the cultural competencies to interact with other cultures and non-military international organizations is key to conflict resolution (John, 2000).
Developing cultural intelligence requires that an individual learns to understand others. This results in leaders who can understand situations based on understanding populations. The ability of a military to adopt a new culture can minimize the degree to which war is inherently unpredictable, uncertain and ambiguous (John, 2000).
Cultural awareness gives potential to facilitate interaction between organizations. Unfortunately every organization has a unique culture. Forcing a solution upon an organization or culture is more difficulty than finding a consensus. An individual who appears to embrace others culture is more likely to be successful in their dealings with that organization (John, 2000).
Understanding cultural differences produces professional attitudes and proper military conduct that demonstrates to the population the real enemy contrary to enemy propaganda (Todd, 2007). Understanding the culture and the requirement to protect the people helps gain support and confidence of the population and enhances chances of mission accomplishment and post-conflict operations. This too reduces popular support of the enemy and legitimacy not only before the eyes of the population but also to the outside world (Todd, 2007) .Understanding and employing cultural intelligence reduces the possibility of neighboring or sympathizing states from intervening in the conflict and escalating enemity (Donald, 2004).
Failure of U.S.A troops in Vietnam has its roots mainly from an ignorance of cultural intelligence. The U.S.A failed to understand that Vietnam had been fighting for nationalism for more than 2000 years. U.S.A attempt to impose leadership in Vietnam was futile because they failed to understand Vietnamese belief in "Trung". I.e. loyalty to the emperor was only merited if the emperor was Vietnamese patriot first. This was failure in cultural intelligence and led to many South Vietnamese taking arms against the U.S.A troops (Summers, 1982).
US.A servicemen had no slightest idea of Vietnam culture or understanding of its people. General Maxwell Taylor, who had contributed to Kennedy's decisions on Vietnam and served as Johnson's ambassador in Saigon stated: "First we didn't know ourselves. We thought we were going into another Korean war, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies. We never understood them ....so until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves we'd better keep out of this dirty kind of business..."
The troops were actually misled by being taught that Vietnamese people were crude, dangerous and undisciplined. The truth was that the Vietnamese were a dedicated, tenacious force constituting a formidable adversary.
U.S.A service men defaced highly valued artifacts, and behaved in a manner that caused uproar and non-combatants to side with North Vietnam (Karnow, 1983).
The U.S.A failed to understand the centuries of fighting against foreign rule in Vietnam made recruitment of Vietnamese against U.S.A quite easy. The spirit with most Vietnamese was that they had an obligation to fight for their country, to fight Americans who according to them were destroying their country (Karnow, 1983).
The lack of a doctrine that specifically addresses cultural awareness from which to build is a factor that meant their operation in Vietnam was bound to fail. The doctrine until recently focused on two lethal operations, offence and defense. The inclusion of stability as a doctrine gives way for operations to focus on understanding environment for the target operation (U.S ARMY FIELD MANUAL (FM) 3-0, operations (Kinard, 1977).
Lessons learnt included: historical knowledge is essential in making and implementing foreign policy. Prior to their military involvement, Americans knew almost nothing about Vietnam - they thus paid dearly for this ignorance (Kinard, 1977).
Training forces to understand the culture of the people they will be in contact with is critical to the operational commander. In major warfare hating the enemy is regarded as one way of enhancing courage among troops. In small warfare, tolerance, sympathy and kindness is key to improved working relationship with the target population (Kinard, 1977).
Studying the culture can provide an insight into what is important to the people and the manner in which they will interprete and respond to your actions. Disregarding local beliefs, norms and values for the population where operation is carried out alienates neutral non-combatants who in turn side with the opposition (Kinard, 1977).
To improve cultural awareness, the U.S.A should incorporate cultural intelligence training into the mid, career and top level military officer schools. Appropriate level training and indoctrination should be included in the Non-commissioned, staff-commissioned and Advanced Enlisted military education courses (Kinard, 1977).
Develop 'profiling cells' similar to that of The Federal Bureau of Investigation's 'Profiling centre'. The cells would focus mainly on improving the personalities and character traits of political and military leaders within their areas of responsibility (Kinard, 1977).
Every Combatant Commander should have at least one International Affairs Officer Cadre who shall be permanent, covering the area of responsibility and shall have the responsibility of briefing the Combatant Commander on the culture and potential effects of events and operations on the population (Kinard, 1977).
Intelligence Doctrine must stress that knowledge of all foreign people in a joint operations area is a fundamental of joint warfare and that it is not limited to the knowledge of the enemy (Turley, 1986). Cultural intelligence taught to military officers should cover but not limited to the following areas: the history of the local area and the origins of conflict, components of culture, values, traditions and beliefs in the area (education, religion & economic activity), language training, anthropology studies, physical geography, climate & topography, cultural personality including family size, ethics and values, foundational cultural norms and values as well as skills to understand bridge cultural differences (Kinard, 1977).
The war at Vietnam had far reaching consequences on U.S.A's decision making process. The congress replaced the military draft with an all volunteer force and the country reduced voting age to 18. It also inspired Congress to attack the "imperial" presidency through the war Powers act, restricting a president's ability to send American forces into combat without explicit congressional approval (Turley, 1986).
The war weakened U.S military morale and undermined for some time, the U.S commitment to internationalism. During the 1970's and 1980's the United States was wary of getting involved anywhere else in the world out of fear of the events witnessed in Vietnam. The public's aversion to casualties inspired strict guidelines for the commitment of forces abroad and a heavy reliance on air power to project American military power (Turley, 1986).
Mounting criticism on the decision to take part in the Vietnam War deeply split the Democratic Party. Many blue-collar Democrats became political independents or Republicans (Turley, 1986). The war undermined liberal reforms and made Americans deeply suspicious of government. President Johnson's Great Society programs competed with the war for scarce resources, and constituencies who might have supported liberal social programs turned against the president as a result of the war (Kinard, 1977).
In conclusion, it is worth noting that the integration of cultural awareness at all levels of command, including the small unit leaders, will enhance our ability to achieve the objective in the quickest and less costly manner. A culturally intelligent force will act in ways more acceptable to the regional norms and therefore develop a positive rapport. In conflicts where cultural awareness is a building block will be key in smothering insurgency at its infancy stage or deny much of its maneuver space. Understanding and practicing this intelligence will be key in future conflict resolution since it will create a positive opinion, trust and confidence on the target population. The emphasis on cultural awareness must be institutionalized and incorporated into the career paths of professional soldiers.