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CH (COL) William Godwin-Stremler discusses “Cultural Incompatibility: National Psyches as Keys to Ideological Conflict”

On Thursday, April 16, Chaplain (COL) William E. Godwin-Stremler gave a roundtable discussion of a paper he has been working on for his U.S. Army War College Fellowship at The Institute of World Politics.  His discussion was entitled “Cultural Incompatibility: National Psyches as Keys to Ideological Conflict.”

CH Godwin-Stremler sought to measure the ways of defining cultures by using a model created by social psychologist Geert Hofstede, with whom he worked closely throughout this project. The goal of this project is ultimately to provide a framework to help the U.S. in its international relations and statecraft by defining what other cultures see as important.  This knowledge can be helpful in a variety of ways, from allowing for more informed international negotiations and even predictions or prevention of ideological or actual international conflict.  

In his research, CH Godwin-Stremler measured 102 countries based on six specific dimensions of culture: (1) power distance, which deals with the level of equality in a society, (2) individualism, which addresses the degree of interdependence that a society maintains, (3) masculinity, which indicates how driven a society is by competition and achievement, (4) uncertainty avoidance, which has to do with how well a society deals with the fact of not knowing what the future holds, (5) long term orientation, which measures how each society maintains a link with its own past while dealing with the present and future, and lastly (6) indulgence, which is defined as to what extent individuals try to control their desires and impulses based on the way they were raised.  He gave each dimension a quantified measurement and depicted it on a graph based on these measurements. 

Chaplain Godwin-Stremler then went on to explain how the United States scored using the measurements of each dimension. The US scored fairly low for power distance, yet at the top for being the most individualistic. The country also scored high in measuring masculinity, which can be seen in the “typical American behavioral patterns” of being individualistically driven and motivated.  In both the uncertainty avoidance and long term orientation dimensions, the United States was relatively low compared to the other countries that were listed. In the final dimension, indulgence, the United States scored above average (thus classifying as an indulgent society).

In his presentation, Chaplain Godwin-Stremler juxtaposed the United States with Argentina, Russia, India, Iraq, and Israel, all showing some critical similarities and differences that can explain the current relationship with each. He concluded that culturally matched countries simply get along better than those with severe differences.

This research contributes to one of the most difficult tasks for social scientists to accomplish – measuring culture.