Origins of adaptation: cultural emergence in the US Army, 1970-1991

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University of New Brunswick


Through the 1970s, the US Army faced an ascendant Soviet Union, but lacked the equipment, personnel, and doctrine to be a credible conventional deterrent in Europe. A sense of foreboding and apprehension permeated the US Army of the late 1970s, but by the mid-1980s, with investments in equipment, doctrine, training, and organizations the culture had evolved to one of readiness and reserved confidence. The sudden Soviet collapse, combined with the convincing victory during Operation DESERT STORM inaugurated a period of reflection which imagined a revolutionary future of unparalleled technological and military dominance. But in the attempts to describe and imitate the transformations of the late 1970s and 80s, theorists neglected the human elements of the underlying military culture. Exploring this relationship between culture and transformation is essential to not only complete the understanding of the period, but also to draw preliminary observations about how military culture evolves.