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By A. Johnston
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Extra info for Hegemony and culture in the origins of NATO nuclear first-use, 1945-1955
Yet the myths of empire are more common than arguments for restraint. 69 These multiple levels of culture complicate older notions of strategic culture. Those who speak of a nation having a “way of war” are hardpressed to demonstrate how historical experience acts on a nation and then on its strategic culture. Many of these histories are themselves implicated in a desire to influence policy. ” He wanted to prove that Britain’s disastrous experience with continental warfare in 1914–18 had been a tragic deviation from “tradition” so as to influence policy in the 1930s.
However much the Europeans themselves came to embrace nuclear weapons, they did so under the fear of abandonment by the United States, the fear of a reconstituted Germany, and the fear of a trigger-happy Strategic Air Command. None of these elements would have been visible to historians of NATO nuclear decision-making without taking the cultural life-worlds of nation-states into account. First-use was an effort to export American peripheralism into a new collective identity,and it survived doctrinally in NATO by blurring its intent in language that fully satisfied neither American peripheralism nor European insecurity, but which established the historical basis upon which NATO’s future would be repeatedly affirmed.
Taking culture seriously enables us to see how national identity is contested, how policy is the outcome of the struggle between competing ideas of what best binds the nation together, and how power conditions that competition. ”61 My approach to culture suggests that “national” strategic identity is more problematic than this. If national cultures are symbol systems not innate to some mythical national “character” but are indicative of the distribution of social power that generates them,“strategic culture” is a field of competitive visions of how a nation should organize and project its power in the world.