"Getting attuned to local cultures in Iraq and Afghanistan has meant reviving some military disciplines with troubled histories."
The U.S. military has been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for six years. But a sizeable chunk of academia is still stuck in Vietnam. And that could undermine some real progress that our armed forces are making in their twin counterinsurgency fights.Take Iraq. After a bloody start to 2007, violence was down by about 60 percent at the end of the year. A major reason: American forces started using the social networks that underpin the country. In Anbar province, for example, U.S. troops have allied themselves with Sunni tribes-after years of ignoring them, or seeing them as enemies-and together, they've helped rout local jihadists.Arabic translators and specialists in local culture have become increasingly common components of U.S. combat units. That (along with a little cash) is helping sway tens of thousands of men to sign up as neighborhood watchmen, keeping an eye out for insurgents in their communities. Back in 2005, when I was first in Baghdad, I saw a company commander scream "jihad, jihad" at just about every Iraqi he could. When I returned this summer, military leaders on the ground went out of their way to linger at local shops, asking residents how they could help out.But getting attuned to local culture has meant reviving some military disciplines with often troubled histories. As a result, many in academia are freaking out.One group in particular is the American Anthropological Association. It has come out, full-throated, against the Army's new "Human Terrain System," which brings social scientists to the battlefield to serve as cultural advisers. Commanders credit the first of these teams with helping to reduce violent activities in western Afghanistan by nearly 60 percent. But to the AAA, the project is downright devilish. Since Human Terrain re-searchers might help in "identifying and selecting specific populations as targets of U.S. military operations," the Association's executive board recently declared, any information derived from the program would violate the social scientist's ethical code, which demands that "those studied not be harmed."
|"Psyops" conjures up visions of freaky experiments and mind control.|