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malory
19 Mar 08,, 19:54
As I am new to this community, this seemed to be the most appropriate forum to start this discussion. Forgive me if I am incorrect.

This was a question posed to me in my member introduction, but I feel like it deserves a bit more exposure and would love to hear other perspectives.



I also know that there is a large schism within the anthro community over the role of anthro in assisting the US military to help reduce cultural misunderstandings, and in doing so, reduce the violence and death. How did that play out in your classes?

You're absolutely right -- there is a big disconnect between the science of anthropology and its role in national security issues. Similarly, the anthro community views any connection to military operations as anathema to the health and progress of the field.

It's funny you should ask this -- only four days ago I went to a seminar on the CU campus that was hosted by six full-bird Colonels, all students at the Army War College (1 USAF, 1 USMC, 4 USA). The audience included myself and only five others, so I was able to discuss this in detail.

Before getting into this, it's important to understand that as a field anthropology has an usually large and heavy cross to bear.

While nearly every science has at one point been involved in eugenics, colonialism, exploitation, etc., for one reason or another anthropology stands out in the world's mind as the ivory tower's Gestapo. Because of the field's checkered history (the grandmother of modern anth, Margaret Mead, was rumored to have worked with the OSS) its students, professors, and adherents are HYPER sensitive to ethics and how they are perceived by their subjects, host nations, and cultures of study. It can be very easy to tar anthropologists with the "whiny liberal PC" brush, but their political correctness is necessary for the preservation of their science.

At the same time, anthropology has been essential in the quest to chart the human/cultural trajectory and can single-handedly diffuse and even dismiss silly, even dangerous, myths, and in so doing lessen the associated levels of violence. Anthropology is the West's only method for understanding far-flung cultures with as little bias or subjectivity as a science can muster.

In a bit of a paradox, my undergraduate studies in anthropology led me to the military. I began to understand the great powers of observation, interpretation, and empahty anthropologists have discovered, over the decades and through the evolution of their doctrine and method. Without becoming too anecdotal, let me say that I felt my training in anthropology (I went a little further than most ungrads by spending summers in field schools as far away as Alaska) would be a perfect fit in my aspirations to become an Army intelligence/CA/FAO officer.

And this is where the discussion picks up. Anthropologists view intelligence work as a poison to their field. Regrettably, Western militaries have a history of treating anthropologists as field-level intelligence gatherers. With good reason: anthropologists have the unique ability to immerse themselves in a society and thoroughly study, document, and interpret cultural mores, pathways, and general goings-on while at the same time leaving no footprint and operating at the highest levels of discretion. Even the most experienced CIA officer could never disappear into a culture the way an experienced and trained cultural anthropologist can.

Today we're using "Human Terrain Teams" in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan. From what I can tell, these are graduate-level anthropologists (not experienced or established academics). I'd like to open up this discussion because I am having difficult finding out detailed information about their operations. I do know they are extremely well paid and are NOT, contrary to popular belief, being used as intelligence assets.

However, the American anthropological institution doesn't think so. According to the War College Colonels I spoke with, anthropologists are one of the few relevant groups of academics that are reluctant to lecture at the War College.

It would be too easy to call [anthropologists] obtuse and stubborn. On an individual level, I'm sure this is the case here and there, but the institution at large wants nothing to do with the military.

Why?

First I believe we must stop calling them "Human Terrain Teams." It's much too close to "Combat Team" and similarly terrain is something soldiers learn from day one to use to their advantage.

Colonel Evans, from the War College panel, made a good point: During his tour in Iraq he was tasked with outfitting the National Police. Protocol had the Iraqi police wearing ball-caps. The Iraqis did not want to wear the ball-caps because they felt it made them look immature. We made them wear the ball-caps and now Col. Evans had 100,000 Iraqi police that were that much more resentful.

An anthropologist could have submitted a study to Col. Evans confirming the cultural promotion of "high-speed" things.

There was no apparatus in place for the military to determine, in excruciating detail, what sort of uniform would be appropriate for a nascent Muslim/Arab paramilitary. We just assumed. And as many of you know, if protocol says wear the hat, then you wear the hat and it better look doggone dress-right-dress.

This may seem like a silly example, but it is within this microcosm we are failing. We burn the poppy fields in Afghanistan, and tell the farmers to plant wheat, but now the farmers have neither the income from their poppy crop nor the security provided to them by the drug/warlords that reap the profits their harvest.

I am not suggesting anthropology has answers. Indeed, it is less interested in finding answers insofar as answers are solutions to "problems." The anthropological community does not see the global diaspora of poverty, disease, and disaffection as a "problem" requiring a "solution", but rather as a pressing area of study from which acknowledgment, consideration, and ultimately understanding can be drawn. That is my interpretation, anyway.

I believe the anthropological perspective is essential to the positive evolution of Western military doctrine. Something like 40% of new PhD-level anthropologists return to work in academia. The military must take advantage of the other 60% by forging a dialog that includes their research and their hesitations in the development of region-specific doctrine.

While the anthropologist's distaste for kinetic operations will never change, he or she is not fundamentally opposed to prescient and discrete intervention if it promotes cultural and humanitarian well being. The field of Applied Anthropology is dedicated to positive intervention in the interest of cultural preservation.

And that, ultimately, is our goal, correct? The preservation of stability in these regions. Applied Anthropology may be the only way to successfully rehabilitate Iraq's fractured socio-cultural "terrain."

Anyway, I would love to hear the perspectives of those more intimately familiar with these issues and look forward to adding more to this discussion.

Shek
19 Mar 08,, 20:13
As I am new to this community, this seemed to be the most appropriate forum to start this discussion. Forgive me if I am incorrect.

This was a question posed to me in my member introduction, but I feel like it deserves a bit more exposure and would love to hear other perspectives.




You're absolutely right -- there is a big disconnect between the science of anthropology and its role in national security issues. Similarly, the anthro community views any connection to military operations as anathema to the health and progress of the field.

It's funny you should ask this -- only four days ago I went to a seminar on the CU campus that was hosted by six full-bird Colonels, all students at the Army War College (1 USAF, 1 USMC, 4 USA). The audience included myself and only five others, so I was able to discuss this in detail.

Before getting into this, it's important to understand that as a field anthropology has an usually large and heavy cross to bear.

While nearly every science has at one point been involved in eugenics, colonialism, exploitation, etc., for one reason or another anthropology stands out in the world's mind as the ivory tower's Gestapo. Because of the field's checkered history (the grandmother of modern anth, Margaret Mead, was rumored to have worked with the OSS) its students, professors, and adherents are HYPER sensitive to ethics and how they are perceived by their subjects, host nations, and cultures of study. It can be very easy to tar anthropologists with the "whiny liberal PC" brush, but their political correctness is necessary for the preservation of their science.

At the same time, anthropology has been essential in the quest to chart the human/cultural trajectory and can single-handedly diffuse and even dismiss silly, even dangerous, myths, and in so doing lessen the associated levels of violence. Anthropology is the West's only method for understanding far-flung cultures with as little bias or subjectivity as a science can muster.

In a bit of a paradox, my undergraduate studies in anthropology led me to the military. I began to understand the great powers of observation, interpretation, and empahty anthropologists have discovered, over the decades and through the evolution of their doctrine and method. Without becoming too anecdotal, let me say that I felt my training in anthropology (I went a little further than most ungrads by spending summers in field schools as far away as Alaska) would be a perfect fit in my aspirations to become an Army intelligence/CA/FAO officer.

And this is where the discussion picks up. Anthropologists view intelligence work as a poison to their field. Regrettably, Western militaries have a history of treating anthropologists as field-level intelligence gatherers. With good reason: anthropologists have the unique ability to immerse themselves in a society and thoroughly study, document, and interpret cultural mores, pathways, and general goings-on while at the same time leaving no footprint and operating at the highest levels of discretion. Even the most experienced CIA officer could never disappear into a culture the way an experienced and trained cultural anthropologist can.

Today we're using "Human Terrain Teams" in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan. From what I can tell, these are graduate-level anthropologists (not experienced or established academics). I'd like to open up this discussion because I am having difficult finding out detailed information about their operations. I do know they are extremely well paid and are NOT, contrary to popular belief, being used as intelligence assets.

However, the American anthropological institution doesn't think so. According to the War College Colonels I spoke with, anthropologists are one of the few relevant groups of academics that are reluctant to lecture at the War College.

It would be too easy to call [anthropologists] obtuse and stubborn. On an individual level, I'm sure this is the case here and there, but the institution at large wants nothing to do with the military.

Why?

First I believe we must stop calling them "Human Terrain Teams." It's much too close to "Combat Team" and similarly terrain is something soldiers learn from day one to use to their advantage.

Colonel Evans, from the War College panel, made a good point: During his tour in Iraq he was tasked with outfitting the National Police. Protocol had the Iraqi police wearing ball-caps. The Iraqis did not want to wear the ball-caps because they felt it made them look immature. We made them wear the ball-caps and now Col. Evans had 100,000 Iraqi police that were that much more resentful.

An anthropologist could have submitted a study to Col. Evans confirming the cultural promotion of "high-speed" things.

There was no apparatus in place for the military to determine, in excruciating detail, what sort of uniform would be appropriate for a nascent Muslim/Arab paramilitary. We just assumed. And as many of you know, if protocol says wear the hat, then you wear the hat and it better look doggone dress-right-dress.

This may seem like a silly example, but it is within this microcosm we are failing. We burn the poppy fields in Afghanistan, and tell the farmers to plant wheat, but now the farmers have neither the income from their poppy crop nor the security provided to them by the drug/warlords that reap the profits their harvest.

I am not suggesting anthropology has answers. Indeed, it is less interested in finding answers insofar as answers are solutions to "problems." The anthropological community does not see the global diaspora of poverty, disease, and disaffection as a "problem" requiring a "solution", but rather as a pressing area of study from which acknowledgment, consideration, and ultimately understanding can be drawn. That is my interpretation, anyway.

I believe the anthropological perspective is essential to the positive evolution of Western military doctrine. Something like 40% of new PhD-level anthropologists return to work in academia. The military must take advantage of the other 60% by forging a dialog that includes their research and their hesitations in the development of region-specific doctrine.

While the anthropologist's distaste for kinetic operations will never change, he or she is not fundamentally opposed to prescient and discrete intervention if it promotes cultural and humanitarian well being. The field of Applied Anthropology is dedicated to positive intervention in the interest of cultural preservation.

And that, ultimately, is our goal, correct? The preservation of stability in these regions. Applied Anthropology may be the only way to successfully rehabilitate Iraq's fractured socio-cultural "terrain."

Anyway, I would love to hear the perspectives of those more intimately familiar with these issues and look forward to adding more to this discussion.

Malory,

Thanks for the lengthy response, and you bring up many of the same points that I've seen elsewhere, although the label of HTT is an interesting observation that I had never thought of. It's been an interesting running discussion between the two communities (the COIN community within the military and the anthropology community) and within the anthropology community, and one where I hope that the military can win its "case" and see more participation from anthropologists.

Best,
Shek

AAAO
20 Mar 08,, 06:36
Thanks for the brief. I studied History and Cultural Anthropology at UCSB, graduating in History as I ran out of cultural classes to take and was disinterested in "studying monkey bones." Down the road I was also FAO and CA, but that is another story. I approach the world as an Anthropologist. During a conference in CENTAM when I was serving as a military advisor in 1988, I remarked that what we were doing was "Applied Anthropolgy" -- studying behavior and then trying to modify it. That comment was not well received by those that were "bayonet-lug fundamentalists" (if it has a bayonet-lug it is worthy, if it doesn't it isn't). Nonetheless it was an accurate characterization and that is borne out by current practice in this field. We have gotten smarter recently, and I hope it sticks.

"You can always tell the CA Officer -- he is out working the crowd"

S2
21 Mar 08,, 16:45
http://warintel.blogspot.com/ (http://warintel.blogspot.com/)

It's a neat blog-

Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Map Afghan & Pakti: Musa Qala, (http://warintel.blogspot.com/2007/11/map-pakti.html)

malory
21 Mar 08,, 17:43
Thank you for the heads up, S-2.

Shek also pointed me towards Small Wars Journal (http://www.smallwarsjournal.com) which also has some discussion on this subject.

S2
21 Mar 08,, 18:51
"...also has some discussion on this subject."

Some of the best in the biz post there. Lots of heavy-hitters with both relevant and practical experience. Great site w/ great research links. Make sure you hit the op/ed roundup every morning.

The sites that I posted seem more obscure. New to me anyway.

S2
22 Mar 08,, 16:47
I'm not a good surfer so I've only perused the INTERNET ANTHROPOLOGIST think tank. So far, it looks weak...

HOWEVER...

They are recruiting YOU HERE (http://cigars.bravepages.com/head/iaterror.htm).

Join their cyber-corps today and do battle w/ our enemies. It actually looks o.k. Free, info resources, translation tool bars, enemy websites to target, etc.

I won't do it but perhaps some of you more adventurous warriors may care to carry the fight via cyber-space.

Good luck.

AAAO
24 Mar 08,, 03:20
Thanks for the site S2.

mweber24
24 Mar 08,, 21:44
Anthropologists ARE intelligence assets for the military. Get over it. All information is intelligence by another name. Either they will willingly work with the military to gain access to areas in crisis, or they can sit back and watch cultures they say they care about be destroyed by conflict. If members of the military cannot use these scientists directly, then they will do their best to BECOME anthopologists using open source material (military officers CAN read despite popular academic belief) and will apply theories as they see best without academic advice, and maybe just force the issue by forcably changing the culture instead of using it. Bottom line, the US military does not involve itself in areas or cultures that are doing all right, we are only there because something went really wrong. We are trying to fix it in a way that supports our interests. Anthropologists may be able to guide military operations in ways that both accomplish the military and national objectives while preserving what is best about local cultures, while at the same time learning from them.

AAAO
25 Mar 08,, 02:57
Hear hear.

malory
25 Mar 08,, 18:48
Anthropologists ARE intelligence assets for the military.


Well, that's the crux of the debate here. The military says no, they are not. Intelligence, strictly speaking, is determining who Individual X is, what he is doing, and what his relationship to Individual Y is. The work of the HTTs is rather to determine past and future trajectories on a societal and cultural scale.

Supposedly there is no tactical relevance to the work of HTTs. Obviously the anthropological community (and you) disagree.



Get over it.


...?



All information is intelligence by another name. Either they will willingly work with the military to gain access to areas in crisis, or they can sit back and watch cultures they say they care about be destroyed by conflict.


A field anthropologist would say that not only have anthropologists operated in war-torn hinterlands for decades -- including "areas of crisis" of no interest to the U.S. -- but also that U.S. military involvement hinders independent study by limiting access to the discretion of the government.

Implying that anthropologists are obliged to assist the military in "intelligence" gathering (as you previously construed their study) is a pernicious interpretation of their relevance as an independent and critical component of the social-science world.

Should all chemists and physicists be forced to assist in the development of war material?



If members of the military cannot use these scientists directly, then they will do their best to BECOME anthopologists using open source material (military officers CAN read despite popular academic belief) and will apply theories as they see best without academic advice, and maybe just force the issue by forcably changing the culture instead of using it.


As a fledgling Army officer, I will confirm our ability to read but will also ignore the right-ish stab at the academy. ;) After all it is the same academy that trains our officers.

Suggesting we forcibly change cultures in an anthropological pantomime is missing the point completely and will only widen the gap between the military's mission and the academic fora.



Bottom line, the US military does not involve itself in areas or cultures that are doing all right, we are only there because something went really wrong. We are trying to fix it in a way that supports our interests.


Don't confuse a volatile political situation with culture. On one hand, yes, we are "nation-building" -- but here is where the verbiage becomes important: the U.S. is seeking to rebuild these nations' infrastructure and government in such a fashion that their culture can thrive. And while we seek to police violent extremism (as we should), we as a nation and a military have no interest in re-shaping the Islamic cultural diaspora.



Anthropologists may be able to guide military operations in ways that both accomplish the military and national objectives while preserving what is best about local cultures, while at the same time learning from them.

I agree completely.

AAAO
25 Mar 08,, 19:21
Everthing has intelligence value. Everything of value is a commodity, meaning it has a price (and a cost) and can be bought and sold. That statement is both bold and cold, but it is based in practical experience.

And a soldier's job is to win, which is somewhat removed from the academic exercise of observing, pondering, writing a description and drawing conclusions.

I draw your attention to the CA Area Study format per FM 41-10, which parallels and overlaps (surprise surprise) intelligence annexes:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/41-10/appb.pdf

Hang in there lad -- you have a solid brain and the ability to use it, which holds out the possibility of elevating you above your peers. Just remember that the term "intellectual" in the Army scares people even more than the term "General Staff" . . .