chapter  4
27 Pages

Culture and technology

War, culture and technology are irreparably intertwined and the evolution and development of modern Special Forces has profound implications for all three dimensions of this dark aspect of social affairs. The application of violence on a large scale remains, as Clausewitz suggests, an intimately human activity or ‘intercourse’ (Paret 1989: 149) in which striking the right balance between material (soldiers and technology) and non-material (will and strategy) elements in a manner relative to the actual environment and, of course, the specific enemy determines the outcome. Armies, notwithstanding modern trends towards automation, are not mechanistic in nature but instead represent ever-changing collections of humanity organised into distinct organisational cultures at the macro-level (armies, navies and air forces) and subcultures at the micro-level (infantry, submariners, fighter pilots, for instance) geared towards the application of lethal violence against people and infrastructure. In addition, their technology (also subject to rapid innovation) is more than just a piece of equipment designated for a particular purpose, but rather an expression of choice or preference by the military service using it. Special Forces, in this respect, represent a relatively new type of cultural entity within the broader institutional culture of conventional forces and, as such, have raised a number of awkward issues with regard to the long-term development of the wider military establishment and, equally, the prosecution of future war.