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RE: [SACC-L] Ideologues on any side produce what?

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  • Lewine, Mark
    On this we totally agree Brian...I was there at the Business Meeting and found enormous ideological peer pressure on each political vote...I think that our
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 4, 2007
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      On this we totally agree Brian...I was there at the Business Meeting and found enormous ideological peer pressure on each political vote...I think that our discussions on the list serve on this issue were intensely honest expressions without personal rancor yet with personal meaning. I tend to be a contrarian whenever there is something close to unanimity in debate on any tough issue since anything complex must have a variety of perspectives. I am not sure that a conflict style of communication is never appropriate as I always enjoyed the Marvin Harris versus Chagnon battles, but that is not the same as personal attack such as what was described in the blog that I reproduced. I think also that we must recognize that there are different levels of analysis in these issues that must be sorted out rather than simply reduced to a Cheney-like generalization that fits a simplistic ideology. I agree on a general principle of academic non-involvement with direct military operations but that does not mean we should not discuss village reconstruction efforts engaged with the military, just like we need to discuss how we approve corporate involvements now that the military is more corporate and private in contractual service.
      Mark Lewine



      -----Original Message-----
      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Lynch, Brian M
      Sent: Tue 12/4/2007 10:32 AM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [SACC-L] Ideologues on any side produce what?



      I wasn't able to attend the annual AAA meetings this year, and eagerly
      watched for reports from the meetings especially around this whole
      discussion of our association and its formal view of professional
      participation in military-intelligence gathering. I was not surprised,
      but disheartened nonetheless, that our professional, 'collegial'
      discussions seemed to be anything but, at least in the case reported in
      the article by Noah Shachtman below.



      One of the things that has struck me is how quickly any level of
      disagreement in our discussions gets interpreted as (or reduced to)
      personal criticism. There almost seems to be a tone that if we dare to
      keep things at the level of critical intellectual analysis without
      making it personal, we are committing the error of speaking from the
      ivory tower. I guess I have the ideal notion that the same kinds of
      standards that would be applied to, say, making an argument in a
      professional paper or peer-reviewed publication, would be applied to our
      professional discussions; isn't that the process that we put forward as
      the model for advancing knowledge and understanding in our very
      discipline itself?



      I am extremely skeptical of the ability for professionals
      (anthropologists, journalists) whose stock in trade is trust among
      'informants' (sources) to 'embed' in military operations without
      severely compromising professional integrity. And yet, this current
      military situation for anthropologists is so much more: these
      professionals are not just 'embedding,' like so many objective
      journalists. Instead, they are deliberately working within these
      military operations to assist them in their military success; what this
      does to undermine the integrity (not just some ivory-tower ideal, but
      the practical integrity of what we do and how we do it) of our
      discipline needs to be looked at clearly and carefully. As well, those
      anthropologists who are attempting to rationalize such practices as
      normal and unproblematic for our discipline certainly need to be
      challenged in their assumptions if not in their commitments. This isn't
      easy or comfortable, but it is necessary, if our profession has any
      standards for itself.



      And yet, this needs to be done, it seems to me, with the same
      intellectual and professional care that we feel should be reflected in
      our other professional exchanges that get a peer review.



      Brian

      ________________________________

      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
      Of George Thomas
      Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2007 7:11 AM
      To: sacc-l@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [SACC-L] Ideologues on any side produce what?



      I'm disappointed (restraint prevents me from honesty in admitting I'm
      actually "horrified") at the ideological attack at the AAA meetings (NOV
      2007) on one of several people performing (attempting to perform?)
      anthropological work (if only for preliminary observational purposes)
      with the military "downrange." The attack was not a complete surprise.
      There are many ideologues trying to enter our complex, even conflicted,
      incredible field. I'm ecstatic that Hugh Gusterson, long-time critic of
      how anthro fails to function in conjunction with entities that ooze bias
      and generate miscommunication from their very titles (US Forces, the
      CIA, etc.), stood up in defense of Zenia Helbig, "former researcher?"...
      with the Army's "Human Terrain System." He is clearly aware of the
      sensitivity and intricacy of the whole matter.
      For one thing, Helbig is a "former researcher?" This suggests either the
      expiration of a contract through natural process, or some form of
      decision to disassociate. Far better for us (in a Gustersonian kind of
      way perhaps) to cool down and ply Helbig, Montgomery McFate, Anna Simons
      etc. etc. for valuable insight into this rather old problem. I for one
      am awed that people with anthro training/education can manage to "embed"
      with the mil at all. Clearly many misunderstandings have been put on
      hold. Now ideologues may manage to create new ones. But that's a danger
      of this area on inquiry. Ideologues happen. Our task is to discover how
      to deal with the problem constructively. Now we must define
      "constructive."
      Great of you to run this post, Mark!
      George Thomas

      ideologues on any side produce what?
      Posted by: "Mark Lewine" mlewine@...
      <mailto:mlewine%40wowway.com> krameniwel
      Date: Mon Dec 3, 2007 3:33 pm ((PST))

      a..
      b.. a..
      Academics Turn On "Human Terrain" Whistleblower
      By Noah Shachtman December 03, 2007 | 3:52:42 PMCategories: Human
      Terrain
      The fight between the Army and academics over the military's social
      science projects has taken a strange, ugly new turn.

      On Thursday, Zenia Helbig, a former researcher with the Army's "Human
      Terrain System," took the stage at the annual meeting of the American
      Association of Anthropologists. The executive board of the organization
      had already spoken out against the program, to embed social scientists
      into combat units as cultural advisers. And so when Helbig began
      taking the the military to task for its "inept management and execution
      at
      every level" of the Human Terrain effort, audience members nodded their
      heads in approval. (Here is the text of Helbig's talk.)

      But as Helbig started answering questions, the mood turned ugly. Turns
      out Helbig still backed the idea of boosting the military's cultural
      IQ -- she just didn't think the Human Terrain program was doing a
      particularly good job at making it happen. That set some in the audience
      off. Why, they demanded to know, was she still sticking with the
      military? And wasn't she "embarrassed" by her fiancee, Captain Matthew
      Tompkins, for continuing to serving as a Human Terrain team leader in
      Iraq?

      People in the audience began to clap. Helbig began to cry. And one
      of the biggest critics of the Human Terrain System, George Mason
      University professor Hugh Gusterson, had to stand up, and tell the
      collected
      academics to stop their jeering.

      "They just didn't want to hear anything that didn't jive with their
      conspiracy theories," Helbig tells DANGER ROOM.

      Inside Higher Education has more from the meeting. After the jump:
      excerpts from Helbig's speech.

      Having spent four months with the Army, I can't stress to you the
      tremendous need for both social science and academic rigor in the
      military. More particularly... the Army is in need of regional experts,
      who
      possess a knowledge of the history, culture and languages of both Iraq
      and
      Afghanistan... Yet even HTS, despite its millions of dollars of
      funding, is proving incapable of delivering those much needed skills to
      the
      military in Iraq. HTS has proven unable to deliver because of its own
      internal tensions, and due to a lack of professionalism, organization,
      and general competence on the part of its staff, contractors and
      administrators.

      HTS' greatest problem is its own desperation. The program is
      desperate to hire anyone or anything that remotely falls into the
      category of
      "academic", "social science", "regional expert", or "PhD". As such, the
      program has made numerous regrettable decisions regarding both its
      civilian and military personnel. HTS currentl y has 18 individuals
      serving
      down range - 8 in uniform and 10 civilians in Iraq, working as social
      scientists, linguists and analysts. The 10 civilians include:

      * 3 PhDs in Anthropology, none of whom have prior regional knowledge

      * 1 civilian with "Arabic proficiency" and an MA in something
      IR-related, currently serving as a Social Scientist

      * 2 native Arabs working as analysts, one of which has relatively
      poor English, and neither of which seems to have prior work experience
      as
      a linguist or analyst

      * and 2 prior-service individuals working as team leaders, both of
      which seem to have served in the Middle East, but neither of which has
      studied the Middle East...

      If AAA [American Association of Anthropology] is concerned with the
      welfare of the civilian populations in question, please consider whether
      these populations are better served by anthropologists primarily
      concerned with maintaining their ethical purity or by anthropologists
      teaching the military to engage populations more effectively. Your
      collective
      ethical concerns would be relevant if the military were onl y
      "fighting the enemy" and nothing more. In a situation where the military
      has
      been ordered to create governments, restore public services, rebuild
      economies and foster social ties within stratified societies,
      anthropologists should ask themselves if they want to leave such complex
      tasks in
      the hands of people who almost universally have little training and no
      pre-existing interest in either these tasks or the population.




      .


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