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Col. Charles D. Allen
Military scholar

Col. Charles D. Allen

Colonel Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is the Professor of Cultural Science in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management at the U.S. Army War College.

A familiar job

In response to this week's On Leadership question: What's the best way for U.S. forces to nurture leadership among Afghan forces? Is it possible to teach leadership across cultures?

Our U.S. military has many years of experience in training the forces of other nations. There are notable failures, successes, and "yet to-be-determineds" where we are still dealing with the consequences. This has provided us with many opportunities to distill and apply lessons learned. We have come to realize the necessity of effective leadership as part of governance, security, and development of nations in this 21st century.

What the U.S. military hopes to pass on is that while a national military is an integral part of a society, it best serves that society when it is respected and not feared by its government or its people.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, we were concerned about the conflict between the militaries of former Warsaw Pact countries and their emerging democratic governments. From that concern, the Partnership for Peace developed as a major initiative introduced by NATO at the January 1994 Brussels Summit Meeting of the North Atlantic Council. With the goal to "increase stability throughout Euro-Atlantic and Central Asia, diminish threats to peace and build strengthened security relationships based on the practical cooperation and commitment to democratic principles which underpin NATO," its membership has grown to 23 nations.

At West Point, foreign cadets have been part of the student body since the early 1800s, with the first foreign cadet graduating in 1889. The Service Academy Exchange Program at West Point has included foreign military cadets since 1993, and the week-long Foreign Cadet Exchange Program has been in place since 1958. This year there are nearly 50 international members of the Corps of Cadets. The leadership lessons that we seek to instill in our American officers are openly shared with the junior officers of other nations.

For senior officers, we have had a program for International Fellows at the U.S. Army War College since 1978. This year, 50 foreign military officers from across the globe (I had the first three students from Afghanistan in my seminar in successive years) are learning about the role of professional militaries, our U.S. principle of civilian control, and the ethical use of force with their American colleagues.

How do we nurture leadership of other national militaries? Following our Army definition of leadership as the process of providing purpose, motivation, and direction to achieve common goals and to improve institutions, then our approach is through engagement and education. While our example may not be perfect, it does allow others to learn lessons from our U.S. experiences.

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  December 2, 2009; 1:52 PM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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