Militarizing Anthropology: Links to news, essays

Speaking of getting to know the enemy, here is a list of articles in which the new breed of imperialist anthropologists is either the darling of the elite’s media, or where one of them expounds on her charming views of the need to get to know people better before the military decides which ones to kill. What is amazing is the naive belief that natives simply stand there waiting to dole out information to goofy American anthropologists in the middle of a war zone. I imagine that the first time an anthropologist on one of these Human Terrain Teams is kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq and beheaded in a video broadcast online, that some of the new recruits may begin to have second thoughts about the real value of the hefty compensation packages they now receive.

George Packer, “Knowing the Enemy: Can Social Scientists Redefine the ‘War on Terror’?” The New Yorker: the writer of this piece seems to be enchanted with the promise of David Kilcullen.

Evan R. Goldstein, “Professors on the Battlefield: Where the Warfare is More than Just Academic,” The Wall Street Journal: Marcus Griffin is not a soldier. But now that he cuts his hair “high and tight” like a drill sergeant’s, he understands why he is being mistaken for one. Mr. Griffin is actually a professor of anthropology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. His austere grooming habits stem from his enrollment in a new Pentagon initiative, the Human Terrain System. It embeds social scientists with brigades in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they serve as cultural advisers to brigade commanders. Mr. Griffin, a bespectacled 39-year-old who speaks in a methodical monotone, believes that by shedding some light on the local culture– thereby diminishing the risk that U.S. forces unwittingly offend Iraqi sensibilities–he can improve Iraqi and American lives. On the phone from Fort Benning, two weeks shy of boarding a plane bound for Baghdad, he describes his mission as “using knowledge in the service of human freedom.”

Montogomery McFate, “Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of their Curious Relationship,” Military Review, March-April 2005: “SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS is going on inside the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Over the past 2 years, senior leaders have been calling for something unusual and unexpected-cultural knowledge of the adversary. In July 2004, retired Major General Robert H. Scales, Jr., wrote an article for the Naval War College’s Proceedings magazine that opposed the commonly held view within the U.S. military that success in war is best achieved by overwhelming technological advantage. Scales argues that the type of conflict we are now witnessing in Iraq requires “an exceptional ability to understand people, their culture, and their motivation….”

Montogomery McFate, “The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture,” Joint Force Quarterly: “Cultural knowledge and warfare are inextricably bound. Knowledge of one’s adversary as a means to improve military prowess has been sought since Herodotus studied his opponents’ conduct during the Persian Wars….”

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