Much of our thought about how the frontier began and our American version of our own history is written from the perspective of Fredrick Jackson Turner. Writing in the 1880’s and 1890’s his thesis on the frontier described the effect of “a” frontier on the psyche of American. Our concepts of manifest destiny are currently hot topics as America is attacked for “imperialism”.
Turner was promoting the idea of individualism, rugged self reliance, and freedom unassailable by government sanction. The Turneraian thesis is that the American historical experience was devoid of European influence and intensely effected by the frontier experience and separate from the European example. Though currently there is substantial criticism of this point by current historians it a de rigeur example of the current situation. America is not a new generation of Europeans.
This has substantial impact on the psyche of the war fighter and the politician. As homogenization of the cultures occur via shared media perhaps common understanding might become possible. The mistake often made in regards to the current conflict is that we are more culturally like Europeans than Middle Eastern countries. This would be a gross mistake of generalization. The American experience is simply unique.
The issues of liberal and conservative are fairly unique also to America. With the rapid expansion sectionalization occurred also a Turnerarian Thesis subject. The east coast did refer to the western expansionists as uncouth, and sinful in the reveling of freedom while soaking up dime novels about those antics and allowing their children to play act those same uncouth and sinful themes.
The metropolis of the east coast required a homogeneous culture with centralized government to get the welfare, garbage, water, and power to the home. In the expanding west government control was a land grant and a good wishes to survival. After the 1890’s the population centers grew up around the coasts and the “mid west” river valleys. The rockies and desert plains of Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Montana (etc.) all became the west and central to the themes of America freedom. California, Oregon, and Washington became the “other” east coast.
Regardless of the perceived validity of the Turner Thesis we can see the proof in politics, war fighting, and the soldier. Whether it is the imposition of a democracy on a culture that refutes that kind of freedom and as a regional culture exists almost exclusively as monarchies, or it is the simple freedom to act as an individual within the rules of engagement denied to other armies we can see effects. As soldiers when we see micro-management of soldier missions from the top we find it an endemic problem to be dealt with. “Tell us what to do not how to do it” is a soldiers homily. Yet in other world armies micro management is the way of command.
Now we have “the new” warfare defined as a war on terrorism. The tactics and strategies are ill defined in a war between cultures. Consider the current Iraq conflict; the strategies are somewhere between traditional land based warfare and COIN; the tactics match more closely with disaster relief and intelligence gathering; the bureaucratic logistics load is mind boggling. The competing tensions create a desolate terrain defying definition. This is the issue of “the new” warfare.
There are issues within “the new” warfare that become obvious for American soldiers that are not so obvious to the generals. If America attempts to bind soldier actions to European constraints that are not culturally obvious to an American soldier then failure is bound to happen. You can act within the scope of a written rule, but the unwritten rule of conduct will escape even the most astute. This is obvious to those at the sharp end of the stick, but never perceived by those holding the other end. The rule of conduct and culture are not shared precepts between Europe and America no matter how closely aligned language or country of origin.