Date of Graduation

Spring 2009


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Bradley Thayer


United States, strategic culture, Puritan, humanitarian, crusade, force, war, military operations, international relations

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


Strategic culture is a vitally important, yet overlooked research program within strategic studies. Too often policymakers fail to consider the strategic culture of other nations as well as that of their own nation before making decisions. This failure often leads to conflict within international relations. This study shows that religion, specifically the Puritan tradition of seventeenth century American, is the main source of U.S. strategic culture. The Puritan tradition has influenced four major elements of modern U.S. strategic culture – American exceptionalism, the "can do" mentality, unlimited aims in military operations, and the belief that war is both abnormal and evil behavior. These elements in turn have manifested themselves in U.S. applications of force around the world. This study argues that because of the influence of the Puritan religious tradition in U.S. strategic culture, the United States is not solely prone to uses of military force which conform to secular considerations of realpolitik. Rather, the United States demonstrates its religious influence by engaging in uses of military force that are either humanitarian or crusade-like in nature. Understanding strategic culture provides valuable insight into the mindset, reasoning, and decision-making of oneself, allies, and adversaries alike.


© Emily Kathleen Beckett

Campus Only