Job Ads for Counterinsurgency Support on AAA Website?

This should be a source of embarrassment for the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association, although thus far there is little indication of any.

While denouncing anthropological support for counterinsurgency, as part of the Human Terrain System, the AAA has nonetheless allowed advertisements to be posted by those employing anthropologists for this very purpose. One is reminded here of American politics à la John Kerry and Hilary Clinton–being for something while against it, voting for a war one later opposes, and in Clinton’s case, voting for yet another, while protesting innocence.

The AAA President, Alan Goodman, in response to an angry condemnation from Oona Paredes (on the blog devoted, ironically enough, to the Executive Board’s rejection of anthropological support for counterinsurgency), did not say that the AAA would pull the allegedly “self-posted” advertisement by BAE Systems looking for anthropologists to form part of its Human Terrain Systems.

By the way, attempts to post questions about this on the AAA blog have been blocked, at least in my case. I will therefore spell certain things out here instead. [Correction: my last post to that blog, indicating the lack of success in publishing comments, was itself published. This may have simply been a technical problem with the blog.]

Alan Goodman, as indicated above, claims the ad was self-posted, but the actual advertisement shows signs of at least some form of AAA involvement, for example:

The following information is provided by the employer in accordance with AAA policy. AAA is not responsible for verifying the accuracy of these statements. They are not part of the actual position description submitted for publication by the employer.

This employer does prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation/preference.

This employer does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression.

This employer offers health insurance benefits to eligible same and opposite-sex domestic partners.

This employer does not appear on the AAUP list of censured institutions.

How does one produce self-posted statements that indicate that the information provided is not part of the position description submitted by the employer? Then what was submitted? Who produced the “filtered” version? Why should there be any difference, if it was self-posted? Also, can a prospective employer “self-post” that they do not appear on a list of censured institutions, or should someone be checking that claim?

For the sake of the historical record, I will reproduce the ad in full below, in navy, with active links within the ad (leading to BAE) having been deleted:

Description
The Human Terrain System is a new Army program, designed to improve the military’s ability to understand the local socio-cultural environment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Knowledge of the local population provides a departure point for a military staff’s ability to plan and execute its mission more effectively using less kinetic force.

The Human Terrain System is comprised of Human Terrain Teams, supported by a Reach-back Research Cell, a Subject Matter Expert Network, and a Mapping the Human Terrain (Map-HT) Toolkit. The five person Human Terrain Teams are attached to Army Brigade Combat Teams and USMC Regimental Combat Teams, and are comprised of military specialists, social scientists and area studies specialists.

In addition to drawing upon their own experience and expertise, field social scientists, as members of a Human Terrain Team, will leverage the available body of relevant scholarly literature and gather additional data from a variety of sources operating in theatre (conventional military patrols, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, civil affairs units, special forces, etc.). The teams assist commanders in understanding the operational relevance, or ‘so what?’ of socio-cultural information as it applies to the military decision-making process. The expectation is social scientist’s evaluation of the human terrain will allow the commander to make decisions that are more effective in reducing support for the insurgency and increasing support for host nation government and forces.

The Human Terrain Teams, whose tours of duty are carefully managed to overlap those of the supported units, will also be critical to the maintenance of an ever-growing “unit memory” and a smooth and complete transfer of local area knowledge and previous lessons learned during unit rotation.

Applicants selected will be subject to a government security investigation (which requires that applicants report their employment, residence and lifestyle activities for the past 10 years) and must meet the eligibility requirements for access to classified information. Applicants will also undergo a 3 month training program, including orientation, counterinsurgency theory, in-depth country briefings, and multi-disciplinary social science methodology.

NOTES: 10 openings
The following information is provided by the employer in accordance with AAA policy. AAA is not responsible for verifying the accuracy of these statements. They are not part of the actual position description submitted for publication by the employer.

This employer does prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation/preference.

This employer does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression.

This employer offers health insurance benefits to eligible same and opposite-sex domestic partners.

This employer does not appear on the AAUP list of censured institutions.

Requirements
* PhD. in Cultural Anthropology or related field such as sociology, political science, history, theology, economics, public policy, social psychology or area studies.
* Experience living or working overseas for extended periods.
* Ability to travel to Afghanistan and/or Iraq
* Ability to obtain and maintain a security clearance
* Ability to work in a team environment
* Ability to work with social scientists from other disciplines
* Willingness to work with the military

Prefer to have skills:
• Experience living or working in the Middle East
• Arabic language skills
• Former military service

Employer Information
About BAE Systems

BAE Systems Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems plc, an international company engaged in the development, delivery and support of advanced defense and aerospace systems in the air, on land, at sea and in space. Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, BAE Systems, Inc. employs some 45,000 employees in the US, UK, Sweden, Israel and South Africa generating annual sales….

AAA President Alan Goodman also says that the Executive Board will soon “recommend” how to “handle” military and intelligence community ads which, I assume, are also a source of revenue for the AAA, while the platforms for the advertisements (such as the AAA website) are paid for by AAA members. This means that, apart from explicit engagement in counterinsurgency, the AAA is possibly open to continuing to provide a recruitment platform for agencies of a state that has spread itself far and wide over the planet, often through violence and other forms of coercion. The AAA’s position would not be the worst form of imperialism, but it certainly is complicit with imperialism.

Without wishing to sound absolutely shrill–I frankly do not see how I personally could justify any future involvement on my part, with the AAA, given these facts. My earlier idea of a boycott of American Anthropology suddenly seems more inviting once again. I am hoping that the AAA will seriously rethink its position in the world, but I do not expect it to do so.

[Update: since this post was published, Bill Davis, the Executive Director of the AAA, announced that the AAA was “suspending any postings of job ads for the HTS program on the AAA website pending future discussion by the Executive Board.”]

3 thoughts on “Job Ads for Counterinsurgency Support on AAA Website?

  1. to whom it may concern: i would prefer that you do NOT characterize my comment as an “angry condemnation.” i wrote that comment simply to underscore the hypocrisy of the AAA statement. in fact, i am not prepared to dismiss the HTS work of anthropologists out of hand, as i do not know enough about it to make a sound judgement. however, if the AAA is going to announce that anthropology in the HTS is a violation of ethics, then it demands such consistency on the part of the AAA. otherwise, it looks bad to be condeming something but recruiting for it at the same time.

  2. My apologies Oona Paredes, I do not usually characterize “angry condemnation” as something that is “bad,” and in this case I was agreeing with you completely, as you saw from my post above. Nevertheless, I understand what you are saying: it was my mistaken impression that you were in any way “angry” or engaged in “condemnation.” I have corrected the statement in the original post.

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