Human Terrain System
The Pentagon is bringing social scientists to the battlefield. Plus Big Thinker Samantha Power.
In The Game, a book about how to pick up girls, author Neil Strauss recommends studying your target before attempting to seduce her. With the human terrain system, the Pentagon is using the same principle to win hearts and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan. The program brings social scientists to the battlefield to help coalition forces better understand "the human terrain"-military-speak for the sociocultural, economic, ethnographic, and political elements of a battlefield-and to calibrate its actions accordingly. The result? Sheiks and colonels regularly share tea together, and soldiers now understand that garbage removal can be as effective as brute force to secure the support of the local population.The thinking comes from an Australian army officer named David Kilcullen, a whisky-swigging expert on "small wars" and an anthropologist of insurgencies who is now working closely with General David Petraeus in Iraq. Kilcullen says that the long struggle with extremism (read: the global war on terror) is actually a battle for hearts and minds. And to win hearts and minds, you have to know something about them. Enter the anthropologists. It's seduction time.BIG THINKER: