The U.S. military’s quest to weaponize culture
By Hugh Gusterson | 20 June 2008
The Pentagon seems to have decided that anthropology is to the war on terror what physics was to the Cold War. As an anthropologist, this makes me very nervous.
Where former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believed that the United States would vanquish its enemies through technological superiority, his replacement Robert Gates has said that cultural expertise in counterinsurgency operations will be crucial in the future wars he anticipates.
“When research that could be funded by neutral civilian agencies is instead funded by the military, knowledge is subtly militarized and bent in the way a tree is bent by a prevailing wind.”
For those anthropologists who don’t judge the vitality of our discipline solely in terms of revenue streams, the Pentagon’s new interest in culture is worrying.