Monday, January 14, 2013

politics and cultural security

When we highlight cultural security in the political sphere our primary difficulty is defining culture.  We need to flesh out what culture can mean in relation to politics.  This is not easy.  We all know what culture is but when pressed for a definition it’s tough to nail down.
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Thanks to Buzan and Co. we’re able to acknowledge the widened, broadened definition of security, which has come to include culture without question.  But we’re still without a definition of what culture means according to security when it comes to tougher issues like its use in foreign policy decisions. The role of politics in maintaining cultural security or insecurity is both cause and effect of our foreign policy.  Tabling the issue or treating it lightly does not mean it’s less significant:  the cultural aspects of security more and more influence and define international relations today.

A NY times article about US troops in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends in 2014 mentions narrowing our forces to decrease the “footprint” that we’ve been imprinting there this past decade.
A decade is a long time.  What are we facing here:  the troops coming home at last?  Or the return of sovereignty to a nation for so long controlled by others besides themselves?  Yes and yes.

But there’s more, isn’t there?  The rest is so obvious that we hesitate to verbalize and assess it:  American culture’s remaining influence on Afghanistan government function, the presence of the military affecting Afghani foreign policy decisions - our very large and beautiful footprint left in the sand that no wind could ever blow away.
Do all these things left behind after all these years – not just by us, but by all the others before us – “become” their culture?  How much conscious determination will or do the Afghanis have regarding the maintenance and protection of whatever they may consider their own culture, tradition, or security?

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These are the kinds of queries that lead to deeper thoughts about politics in cultural security – the requirement to define culture; the need to acknowledge its influence on foreign policy; the role of culture in maintaining security; and the function of culture in softening, contributing, or confusing the political issues at hand.