Many thanks to Adrienne Pine for this important alert, “An Urgent Message to Academics about SOUTHCOM.” In that she presents us with evidence of a striking deepening of the alliance between U.S. academia and military objectives, in this case revolving around the concept of “strategic culture,” and joining Florida International University with the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) which covers Latin America and the Caribbean. As Adrienne explains,
As it has done with great success throughout the past century, the U.S. military continues to find ways to use the academy and anthropological concepts to whitewash its imperialist actions in the service of U.S. corporate profits. In Latin America from 1963-1965, Project Camelot set a dark precedent for the use of social science to abet and legitimate counterinsurgency operations including psychological warfare. Now, at FIU’s Applied Research Center, SOUTHCOM and FIU have partnered in the creation of a so-called “Strategic Culture” Initiative, a center that hosts workshops and issues reports on the “strategic culture” of different Latin American countries.
“Strategic culture” is formally defined by FIU-SOUTHCOM as “the combination of internal and external influences and experiences – geographic, historical, cultural, economic, political and military – that shape and influence the way a country understands its relationship to the rest of the world, and how a state will behave in the international community.” However, as Adrienne notes about their documents it is clear that a more accurate definition would be “strategic propaganda for the creation of hegemonic political ideology favorable to U.S. economic and military interests” :
By reframing corporate-military strategy as “culture”, FIU-SOUTHCOM intentionally draws upon the legitimacy and integrity of anthropology and other social sciences to depoliticize and bolster its case for military occupation of the Americas.
Adrienne Pine, who is an anthropologist at American University in Washington DC, writes further about the use of “culture” for geopolitical domination:
The concept of “culture” is being used to justify the violent actions of the U.S. military throughout the hemisphere. Culture is also used to justify U.S. training of and funding for Latin American military forces that engage in torture, targeted assassinations of dissidents, and carry out coups d’etat. When our disciplines’ cultural capital is appropriated in order to legitimate military violence, we are all obligated to strongly and forcefully denounce such actions both in the academy and on the ground. Only in doing so can we reclaim the ethical core of anthropology and the social sciences.
For more on the uses of the academy for national security and military objectives, see our earlier report: “Information Traffickers of the Imperial State: American Anthropologists and Other Academics.”