Social Scientists

Continuing our Shachtman-mania here at BATP, another great article on the Army’s nascent efforts to recruit anthropologists to help understand local culture in Afghanistan and Iraq:

In western Afghanistan, the 4th Brigade of the 82nd Airborne had come under a steady stream of attacks, despite “a very aggressive outreach effort to village elders,” the report notes. The Human Terrain Team embedded with the brigade observed that the true power brokers in the area were the mullahs — the local religious leaders.

“After redirecting their outreach effort to the mullahs,” the 4th Brigade “experienced a rapid and dramatic decrease in Taliban attacks…. In the words of the brigade commander, ‘For five years, we got nothing from the community. After meeting with the mullahs, we had no more bullets for 28 days; captured 80 Afghan-born Taliban, 10 Pakistanis, and 32 killed or captured Arabs.'”

Unfortunately, the program’s in turmoil, perhaps due to a culture clash between the lefty, egghead anthropology PhD’s and the army colonels they’re serving with, among other things.

The real money quote comes from an army recruitment email, which we’ll file under things we should have asked before the war:

“The key is we need smart people who get the Middle East to whatever extent such a thing is possible.”

Indeed.

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