Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Contractors Help Army "Anthropologize"

Late last year the US Army launched its Human Terrain System to help it understand the cultural aspects of the areas where it is conducting counterinsurgency operations. The New York Times has carried the story, and last year the US Army Professional Writing Collection had a feature as well. Thanks to new Human Terrain Teams, US combat forces now know more than ever about the people they work with, and that is in turn paying big dividends.

Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists [in the Shabak Valley of Afghanistan], said that the unit’s combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February, and that the soldiers were now able to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population.

Montgomery McFate, the program’s senior social science adviser and an author of the new counterinsurgency manual, dismissed criticism of scholars working with the military. “I’m frequently accused of militarizing anthropology,” she said. “But we’re really anthropologizing the military.”
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