Human Terrain Systems; Weaponizing Anthropology
March 2, 2014 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Human Terrain Systems is a U. S. military program to use modern anthropological ideas, research results, and professionals to assist counterinsurgency in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Human Terrain Systems Dissenter Resigns, Tells Inside Story of Training’s Heart of Darkness on by Saint Martin's University professor David H. Price is about anthropologist John Allison, who joined, participated, and ultimately resigned. Allison tells his own story here. The counterpunch article is a central part of Price's book, Weaponizing Anthropology.

Weaponizing Anthropology is 200 pages on the relationship between the American military and American university social scientists since the end of the Cold War, referenced and footnoted, &c. The gist of the book is contained in a number of Price posts on counterpunch:

Counterinsurgency’s Free Ride is about the press coverage;

The CIA’s Campus Spies is about the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars program;

Social Science in Harness is about the Minerva consortium;

Silent Coup is about some of the CIA's university social science activity;

The Military "Leveraging" of Cultural Knowledge is about the wikileaks leaked Stryker report on a 2004 action which convinced Petraeus on the need for counterinsurgency;

Hollywood’s Human Terrain Avatars is about counterinsurgency Hollywood science fiction style;

Human Terrain Systems, Anthropologists and the War in Afghanistan is about the origins of the current program in a 1994 anthropolgy PhD thesis at Yale University.

“Agricola first laid waste the land. Then he displayed to the natives his moderation.”
– Tacitus
posted by bukvich (11 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
He had been terminated for fulfilling his duties as a Program Manager, which led to him being accused of failing to follow the Chain of Command

had such poor safeguards that it inevitably contributes to the targeting of populations

the training used a classroom setting with a pretext of “teaching” and fostering “discussions” as a way to impart heavy-handed distortions

This guy has a real talent for alluding to things instead of explaining them.

The objection to this military program created by the military to support military action is that it's not pure academic anthropology, is more or less what I'm gleaning from this?
posted by ook at 9:58 AM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The final report of the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC) on the Army Human Terrain Systems (HTS) Program was released in 2009. This link has the executive summary of the findings, as well as a pdf of the full report: "In summary, while we stress that constructive engagement between anthropology and the military is possible, CEAUSSIC suggests that the AAA emphasize the incompatibility of HTS with disciplinary ethics and practice for job seekers and that it further recognize the problem of allowing HTS to define the meaning of "anthropology" within DoD." Here is a direct link to the full report pdf.
posted by gudrun at 10:10 AM on March 2, 2014

ook - the penchant for alluding rather than explaining is what bothered me about the "remains unknown" & it-would-bes in stuff like this:

It remains unknown what happened to her notes and other records from interviews with IRA members, but given McFate’s current work in environments requiring security clearances, such past contacts and records would have raised many questions when she applied for her security clearance. It would be standard operating procedure during a security clearance background investigation to ask about the identity of her 1990s contacts with the Provisional IRA and other groups, as it would be to ask such a clearance applicant for field notes and other such material.

I'm probably 100% in agreement with the politics & sentiments of this post and with Counterpunch generally, but sloppy analysis/writing does us no good.
posted by univac at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2014

This is some serious Delta Green type stuff; don't forget Yog Sothoth is the Gate and the KEY to the Gate simultaneously.
posted by Renoroc at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2014

Previously Anthropologist denounces militarization
posted by infini at 10:53 AM on March 2, 2014

I've noticed Counterpunch's recent Africa related articles are little less than frothing at the mouth by unknown eastern european names.

Also, the insertion of [all things military] immediately adds a layer to complexity to the most innocent of the fieldwork, especially since they're actively expanding throughout the sub Saharan region.

One more reason to retire, regardless of any value creation in social and economic development for overlooked and underserved populations. Paranoia will always see threats where genuine opportunities may exist. It is ultimately the innocent who suffer, but hey, that's been converted to collateral damage to remove the humanity remaining in this fearful world we seem to be living in the 21st century.

Give me my flying cars and my jetpack.
posted by infini at 10:58 AM on March 2, 2014

Frankly, I'm reminded of Churchill's "by the lights of perverted science" line (and thereby Godwin myself.) But seriously, I've forwarded this article to my wife, who is an archaeologist. It'll be interesting to see what she makes of it.
posted by psolo at 11:10 AM on March 2, 2014

".. and anthropologists’ ethical commitments to secure voluntary informed consent and to not harm studied populations creates insurmountable ethical problems for anthropologists in the HTS program."

There is the same danger to the "ethical commitments" of medical doctors and nurses and psychologists monitoring subjects being interrogated by the US military, or who are ensuring that the force-feeding in Guantanamo Bay is done with high regard for the welfare of the detainees.

On the upside, at least it got him out of Barstow.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:11 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also on the Nature site:

Military Research: The Pentagon's Culture Wars

They quote anthropologist Montgomery McFate who was really guarded when Price interviewed her:

"Why should anthropology be some leftist religion?" she asks. "I mean, it's supposed to be a science; it's not supposed to be a political platform, a substitute for the Peace Corps, or a cult."


McFate, for her part, puts the criticism down to a small but vocal group. "It's just a very small segment of the anthropology community," she says of the critics. "We're not going to draft them."

I don't recall offhand that Price was able to extract any quotations from McFate that were as juicy.
posted by bukvich at 9:04 AM on March 3, 2014

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