[Note that the official document discussed below can be downloaded from here (pdf).]
The Minerva Research Initiative (MRI) has now become official and is ready to begin accepting grant proposals. Proposals are being accepted for projects that address any of the following areas (with a detailed breakdown of each area provided in the document linked above):
(1) Chinese Military and Technology Research and Archive Programs
(2) Studies of the Strategic Impact of Religious and Cultural Changes within the Islamic World
(3) Iraqi Perspectives Project
(4) Studies of Terrorist Organization and Ideologies
(5) New Approaches to Understanding Dimensions of National Security, Conflict, and Cooperation
The Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates that awards will be paid out to universities, and will range from $500,000 to $3 million (US) per annum, with the average award estimated at $1.5 million per annum.
Alarmingly, the DoD is also encouraging the participation of foreign universities, “either as a project lead or in a supporting role” (p. 4). With Canadian troops in Afghanistan, this means that was previously as U.S. political funding issue could become a Canadian one as well (and you can expect the author of this post to actively lead surveillance and opposition to the involvement of any Canadian universities).
In a report published by the Chronicle of Higher Education on June 17, 2008, we learn that while Minerva was to coordinate with the National Science Foundation in vetting applications, such an arrangement has not been formalized. The American Anthropological Association also points out that its concerns have been ignored. Indeed, as WIRED’s Sharon Weinberger notes on June 16, 2008, in her coverage, reviewers of grant applications will consist entirely of government employees.
Given the fact the first awards are scheduled to be paid out in December, before the Bush regime vacates office, suggests that these military planners already know something that is crucial: that no new administration, whether led by Obama or McCain, will likely end the program.
This is fundamentally much broader in its implications for U.S. academia than the Human Terrain System, as it involves supporting knowledge for U.S. counterinsurgency, but without necessarily embedding social scientists in military teams on the ground.
Given the cash-strapped nature of many universities, and the many researchers without funding, one can expect that there will be many “compromises” and many “pragmatic reconsiderations” as even perhaps past opponents of HTS find their way to submitting a grant proposal. Producing “nuanced” justifications for imperialism will become a sub-industry in itself.
Nowhere in the proposed areas of research is there a call for studies of how decades of U.S. foreign intervention, invasions, occupations, and the systematic violations of human rights worldwide might have at least sparked some little militant opposition. The basic principle at work is to spotlight what is going on within those forces that threaten U.S. interests, while absolving the U.S. — found guilty of state-sponsored terrorism by the International Court of Justice in 1986 — of any role in promoting violent opposition to itself. As a result, the academic merit of projects funded under this scheme is automatically nullified.
Update: See also the New York Times piece for June 18, 2008, “Pentagon to Consult Academics on Security.”