The evolution of U.S. strategic culture took a sharp turn after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The route from a “strategic surprise,” as described by John L. Gaddis, through the “global war on terrorism” to counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has been remarkably short. This presentation takes a closer look at the role of the counterinsurgency doctrine in the context of U.S. strategic culture. It departs from one of the classical problems in IR theory, the relationship between structure, actorness and agency, which it applies to the concept of strategic culture. On the issue of contemporary U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, it analyzes whether and to what extent strategic culture is a product of structural factors (both material and ideational), or rather a result of activities by determined agents of change. It also asks what the exact position of counterinsurgency in U.S. strategic thinking is, and tries to determine if its current rise to political prominence is a short-lived aberration before a return to more traditional approaches, or a signal of more extensive changes in U.S. strategic culture as a whole.

Tomáš Karásek is a Visting Scholar at the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.  He is also a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at Charles University in Prague.

The event will be moderated by Séverine Autesserre, Member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Barnard College.