Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our Human Terrain

Our effort to study the human terrain of enemy/allied societies has been deemed a failure:

The Army's anthropology experiment ends in defeat

That's the headline. But it would probably be better to say the Army's anthropologist experiment ends in defeat:

After the Pentagon announced the program in 2007 -- noting that one founder, Montgomery McFate, was a Yale- and Berkeley-trained Ph.D. anthropologist -- the American Anthropological Association called it "an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise." Given that the Venn diagram of anthropologists and Bernie Sanders supporters is probably a perfect circle, this should have been expected.

How it was unacceptable to help our troops win is beyond me. But I'm nuance-deficient, as I've long admitted.

We have war plans for lots of contingencies. Mapping the human terrain should be part of those plans.

Mind you, the Army made mistakes in preparing and deploying the anthropologists who were sent into the field with our units. So we should learn from this experiment. It's an important initiative to get right.