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American Strategic Culture Essay


There is a strong notion among historians that every nation’s strategic culture has a connection with its society. The Strategy of any nation stems from its resources and features as well as its experience with history. It also depends on the society and the political structure and organization of the system. Past experiences of a nation give rise to a slowly conceived and evolved approach that finally defines the strategic culture.

Considering the above factors that influence strategic culture, different nations have different strategic cultural policies. For instance the UK has historically favored the use of the navy in its military operations.

Israel, considering its geographical size and history of hostility towards it, it has perfected the use of offensive operations, preemptive military strikes and technology in war. This paper will concentrate on the strategic culture of the US and how it applied in some of the major wars that the US has been involved in.

By virtue of its being a super power, the US is prone to many challenges and threats that leave with no choice but have a strategic culture that is aimed at protecting its territory and people as well as ensuring survival of the nation for generations to come. According to

Mahnken (2006, p. 4), American strategic culture has been shaped by free security that is underscored by exceptionalism. He adds that the country’s strategic cultures lays emphasis on open-minded idealism and believe wars as the downfall of policies.

The strategic culture of the US is closely linked to the military culture that stresses on employment of direct strategies, an industrial approach to war as well as technology and firepower use in combat. In the American context therefore strategic culture is defined as the modes of thought and action in respect to force that is as a result of historical experiences of the nation and aspirations for self characterization (Mahnken, 2006, p. 4).

There is often debate as to who are the drivers and keeper of a nation’s strategic interest. However, many scholars agree that the state and the military do play the crucial roles in implementing the strategies that are defined by the nation’s strategic culture. In the US the values of the nation in regard to the use of force represents the first level at which strategic culture is determined and kept.

The military’s engagement in armed conflicts presents the other level that strategic culture is kept and enforced. In the US both the first and second levels have been active in promoting the US strategic interest.

The most important reasons have been either for the preservation of sovereignty, eliminating security threats and securing resources for the nation. In light of the above US strategic culture can be summed up as containing three biases that guide the use of military force. They include technology, avoidance of causalities and legal pragmatism (Theo, 2005, p.9)

American strategic policy and major wars

The American strategic culture developed greatly through a time when the world was involved in major wars like World War I World War II and the civil war. These were however disruptins to an otherwise peaceful American nation and period. The geographical location between two oceans, protection from the Royal forces and weak neighbors ensured limited American involvement in major conflicts (Toje, 2008, p.102).

The situations conditioned American and their leadership that engaging in war is a deviation from the norm. Similarly American strategic culture grew to reject the European approach of actively engaging in power politics. The founding father of the US considered themselves and the nation exceptional and that ideal has been the basis of the US approach in its dealings to other nations.

To that effect, the US considers its responsibility to actively engage even militarily in situation where aggressors through the use of force threaten universally agreed principles of the world like democracy. The strategy demand that the aggressor has no choice but surrender and it its place a democratic authority is installed.

According to Mahnken (2006, p. 7), the rejection of power politics and the view that war is tantamount to discontinuation of policy has bred a dichotomy is ASC.

Generally put, American strategic culture emphasizes on peace but if need arises, its morally upright to mobiles resources for the attainment of unlimited political gains and aims. For instance, President Lincoln and his generals fought to defeat the confederacy in the Civil War with the belief that their defeat was necessary for the good of the union.

The American Revolution is described as a conflict between the thirteen colonies and Britain’s that was a result of perceived mistreatment from the colonial master led by King George. The war ended in 1783 with the signing of the Paris treaty with the colonies declared independent. Both Americans and Englishmen held contrasting opinions of the ways the colonies and Britain should treat each other.

The introduction of many acts that raised taxation and lack of representation of the colonies angered many leaders of the colonies and many felt they did not enjoy full rights as Englishmen. Though the thirteen colonies had not yet become the US, the common cause they fought for can translated to mean the British were the aggressors.

Equal treatment is what they demanded, therefore the aggressor in this case Britain had to give in to there demand to independence which can be equated to regime change. The declaration of independence can be equated to victory for observance of world wide agreed norms like liberty and democracy which define American strategic culture.

Territorial integrity and the right for sovereignty may have influenced the US to engage war with Mexico. Texas was originally Mexican territory. The admission of the state to the Union did not go down well with Mexican authorities. The attacks on American troops by Mexican forces compelled Americans to declare war on Mexico.

Clearly there were a lot of strategic interests that Americans had to protect. There were unlimited political aims in the armed engagement with Mexico. The US was able to gain land that forms a large part of the current US territory.


It’s apparent that the twenty first century has presented numerous challenges to the American nation. The rise of new super powers, dwindling world resources and rising consumption, and the rise in global terrorism and religious extremism have influenced the modification of American Strategic Culture.

It’s clear that there is a shift in the culture to include en explicit use of force to perpetuate the American empire through sowing American ideals and the control of resources. There are strong indications that the strategic culture of the US is moving towards the establishment of an empire and the original ideal of not dealing with other nations as partners, allies or enemies is fast waning.


Mahnken, G.T. (2006). American Strategic Culture: Defense Threat Reduction Agency Advanced Systems and Concepts Office. Retrieved from: www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/dtra/mahnken_strat_culture.pdf

Theo, F. (2005).Strategic Culture and American Empire. SAIS Review, Volume 25, Number 2, Summer-Fall 2005, pp. 3-18. Retrieved from: muse.jhu.edu/journals/sais_review/v025/25.2farrell.html

Toje, A. (2008). America, the EU and strategic culture: renegotiating the transatlantic bargain. New York: Routledge.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "American Strategic Culture." December 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-strategic-culture-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'American Strategic Culture'. 17 December.

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