Human Science and the Human Terrain
Politicians, pundits, and Pentagon officials are singing the praises of a kinder, gentler American counterinsurgency. Some claim that counterinsurgency is so sophisticated and effective that it is the “graduate level of war.” Private military contract firms have jumped on the bandwagon, and many have begun employing anthropologists, political scientists, psychologists, and sociologists to help meet the US Defense Department’s new demand. The $60 million Human Terrain System, which is an intelligence gathering program embedding social scientists with combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, dramatically illustrates the approach. But when the military, transnational corporations, and the human sciences become obsessed with controlling the “human terrain”—the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan—what are the consequences? In this timely pamphlet, Roberto González offers a searing critique of HTS, showing how the history of anthropology can be used to illuminate the problems of turning “culture” into a military tool.