Note from Ron Machoian: I want to share with ICSL readers the following student essays. Each of these was submitted to fulfil graded assignments during my spring 2020 course at University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Culture, Strategy, and Security.” This course was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s growing threat at roughly the half-way point in the syllabus, throwing students (and teacher!) into a bit of unnerving chaos for about two weeks until we were able to get our feet firmly on the ground again, albeit in a virtual learning environment. For a personal memoir of my experience as a classroom teacher during this transition, see this site’s Teaching & Learning #4, “Navigating the Pandemic from a Virtual Classroom in Wisconsin.”
The first two essays posted here, written by undergraduate students Elena Cata and Konur Peterson, were part of the semester’s closing exercise. The prompt asked students to write a 1-2 page essay on how culture impacts strategic behavior and decisions, inviting them to integrate their own perspectives and conclusions from the course in a discussion of the surveyed content and literature. Each of these students did a very nice job of weaving together several of the scholarly positions evinced by our literature and framing them with their own thoughts on the subject and how it appealed to their sense of the way the strategic world “works” in reality – that is, when the neat pages of scholarly theory meet human will and the world’s natural friction – like the unexpected interruption of a global pandemic on a collegiate semester.
The prompt for the longer 3-5 page essay, written by Anitha Quintin, asked students to analyze a specific contemporary security-oriented event, policy or action and discuss the manner in which a state or non-state group behaved and made decisions within a cultural context. Anitha’s address of the complex cultural character of Japan’s denialist and revisionist memories of atrocities committed during the Second World War found traction in the concepts addressed by strategic culture scholarship.
Each of these three essays is representative of the high quality work I have become accustomed to receiving from students at UW-Madison. Anitha and Elena are both interested in potentially entering the international security studies field in some manner after completion of their degree, perhaps following graduate study or professional school. Konur is an Air Force ROTC cadet who will commission following graduation. I hope that ICSL’s partners and readers enjoy the students’ essays and warmly welcome them to the blog. I hope to continue posting student work from time to time as a complement to the other posts here. You are invited to respond and comment on their thoughts!