12 June 2011

Anthropology, the Military, Global and Domestic Counterinsurgency

Already we knew that "human terrain analysis" was making its way across a variety domains, in geographical and technological terms, and in various areas of U.S. military operation, with translations of the effort to be found in the U.K., Germany, and Canada. Examples of the spread of human terrain research and the application of anthropology and other social sciences in assisting counterinsurgency (COIN), gathering intelligence, and aiding psychological operations, include what follows below. In addition, a large constellation of dozens of private defense contractors are engaged in human terrain work. Further down, we look at some examples of "human terrain" applied to global counterinsurgency, especially targeting indigenous peoples, and the involvement of anthropologists. At the end, we consider some ways that anthropologists should counteract these forces within their own domains of research.

Human Terrain--Across the World:
  • In Canada we have, at least in terms of objective conditions, all of the necessary ingredients waiting to come together to foment a Canadian version of the Human Terrain System: military colleges, troops in Afghanistan, a domestic spy agency (CSIS), collaboration with the U.S. in Guantanamo interrogations, mass mediated allegations of "terrorist" cells in Canada, growing anxiety in the national media over immigrants and militant Aboriginal protesters. Tom Blackwell, writing for Canwest News Service and the National Post related details in two articles (“Mapping ‘White’ Afghans aim to end civilian deaths” – Nov. 8, 2008; “‘Situational awareness’ teams deployed — Afghanistan; Units help military better understand local communities” – Nov. 15, 2008). He wrote in the first piece, “The Canadian government has created a new unit to help fight southern Afghanistan’s relentless insurgency and rebuild its shattered society. But none of the group’s five members will be wielding assault rifles or handing out development dollars”. Like American Human Terrain Teams (HTTs), these Canadian teams also consist of five members. They are formally referred to as “white situational awareness teams” and the Canadian team aimed “to map out the movers and shakers of the province [Kandahar] and how they relate to each other”. Moreover, an actual American HTT served with Canadian forces: “an American infantry unit operating under Canadian command has its own ‘human terrain’ team that includes a retired Soviet general who fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago”.
Human Terrain--Across Technological Platforms and Online:
  • In the Defence Science Board's February 2007 publication on "21st Century Strategic Technology Vectors," Pentagon planners discussed "enhanced training and continuous education, automated language processing, close-in sensor systems, the soldier as a collector in a network, rapid extraction of information hidden in massive amounts of data, and non-kinetic operations," and pointed to "the potential of models from the social and behavioral sciences to better understand how individuals, groups, societies, and nations are likely to act in response to changing circumstances" (p. iii). The report (see the bottom of this post) defined technology broadly, to include "tools enabled by the social sciences as well as the physical and life sciences" (p. v). Human terrain mapping is a key part of the capabilities sought.
  • In Lockheed Martin's magazine, Breakthrough, Second Quarter 2011, pages 7-10 (see the bottom of this post), we read of the development of the "Human Terrain Pathfinder," an application of human terrain data gathering to mining online social media. As Lockheed Martin states, the Pathfinder development "seeks a future in which understanding and forecasting of population sentiment in social media can become a new sensor for national security missions" (p. 8). On page 7, the magazine states: "Civil unrest often takes to the Internet and social media sites as readily as the streets, as demonstrated by recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Thus, a desire has emerged to capture and assess elements of the 'human terrain.' In areas of global instability, thoughtful gauging of the local population, culture and customs, sociological make-up and history improves tactical planning and operations, and ultimately, enhances national security missions". Lockheed Martin's own Human Terrain team, in association with Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) – Security, built solutions upon systems like commercially available smartphones to offer affordable devices with a familiar user experience in the field. They developed applications, web services, databases and analytical tools with features critical for analysis and forecasting of emerging population-centric mission outcomes" (p. 9). Throughout the promotional article, images of U.S. troops reading handheld devices over maps of Middle Eastern "hot spots," accompanied by scenes of angry crowds, predominate.
Human Terrain--Across the Military:
  • In "The Pentagon’s Human Terrain, beyond the Human Terrain System," which was actually written with the assistance of a serving member in U.S. military intelligence, we read about multiple applications of "human terrain analysis," beyond the U.S. Army's own Human Terrain System. They purportedly base their work on social science research, but not necessarily ethnography, nor do they necessarily recruit academics directly. The employees are drawn from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and serve in the J2 Directorate, under the umbrella of the Joint Intelligence Center. Inside the JIC, there are various regional and functional branches, including the Iraq Branch, Iran Branch, Arabian Peninsula Branch, Counterterrorism Branch, Trans-Regional Issues Branch (WMD, Energy, and others), and what used to be the South and Central Asia Branch. General Petraeus appointed Mr. Derek Harvey to lead a new organization called the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence (COE) “to create an enduring capability to provide expertise, academic outreach, cultural training, and more strategic level analysis.” After some bureaucratic infighting, “this organization became its own division (like the JIC) within the J2 Intelligence Directorate.” The South and Central Asia Branch formed the basis of this new organization. The existing teams—Afghanistan Team, Pakistan Team, Insurgency Team, and a new (January 2009) Human Terrain Analysis Team–“became branches as the organization began to take shape and expand.” The COE has partnered with academic institutions. Each command–the Pacific Command, Central Command, Africa Command, and so on–is establishing this analytic capability, on the premise that “understanding the population and culture is important for decision-makers.”
  • SCRATs (Socio-Cultural Research and Advisory Teams) are another way of deploying social scientists to areas of U.S. geopolitical interest, specifically Africa, and operate under the aegis of the U.S. Army's new Africa Command (AFRICOM). SCRATs appear to be AFRICOM’s version of Human Terrain Teams (HTTs), and a SCRAT also comprises one to five members. There is no indication, in the documents made available (document 1, document 2), of whether SCRAT members would all be social scientists or not, a point on which the documents remain vague—in the second document: “A SCRAT is composed of individuals with a variety of skill sets. The specific composition of a SCRAT is determined by the SSRC [Social Scientist Research Center, based in Stuttgart, Germany] to best address problem-driven research.” A SCRAT’s work consists of providing “socio-cultural advice in support of DoD activities, to include exercises, humanitarian civic action, and interaction with security forces.” Left ambiguous here is what those Pentagon “activities” are, what is meant by “exercises,” and what is the nature of the “interaction” with “security forces”. SCRATs will deploy “prior to a U.S. military exercise,” in order to “conduct a socio-cultural assessment to better focus U.S. efforts and develop beneficial objectives.” They may also “accompany U.S. forces during the exercise in a cultural advisory capacity and conduct a post-exercise assessment of the impact on the local population.” In addition, “the SSRC and SCRAT will provide direct support to military task forces operating in Africa”. SCRATS might also undertake “research into socio-political conditions that could foster violent extremism”. HTS has also sought to sell itself to AFRICOM. More about AFRICOM follows below.
Global Counterinsurgency: From Mexico, to Africa, to Sri Lanka
  • Mexico: On 19 February 2009, the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez (Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez [UNOSJO]) gave a press Conference in which the “México Indígena” geographic project is discussed. This project took place in Oaxaca and San Luis Potosí, México, from 2005 as part of the Bowman Expeditions of the American Geographical Society (AGS) financed by the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the U.S. Department of Defense. Carleton University is a participant and supporter of the project. The press conference deals with the following themes: research ethics; the ideological project of the Bowman Expeditions; the importance of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) in the choice of Oaxaca for study; and the ties between the Human Terrain System as a counterinsurgency strategy aiding the U.S. Army. According to UNOSJO, "University of Kansas geography professor Peter Herlihy approached local communities of the Sierra Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico to collect information for his project and declined to fully disclose his purpose or his funding sources. In addition to this failure to fully inform indigenous communities of the nature of the study, Mr. Herlihy's team took advantage of the good-faith of the Zapotec indigenous communities to undertake a study that appears to be of no benefit to the local people". UNOSJO specifically cited the role of the Bowman Expeditions in lifting private communal and individual data, planting said data into military databases, supporting counterinsurgency, and aiding Mexico's effort to privatize indigenous lands--all without gaining the informed consent of the communities concerned.
  • Somalia: Sazani Associates is an NGO based in the United Kingdom. Mark Proctor from Sazani is looking to expand into the national security arena via the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). Sazani seeks funding to map the "human terrain" in East Africa/Somalia. What follows comes from a letter from Sazani Associates to HTS:
    “I recognize that this two year project, which overtly maps rural communities, trade connections and key local stakeholders with pastoralists around Hargesisa and Berbera, could be used as a resource for building Human Terrain Maps of this critical region of the Horn of Africa. We would be happy to do this in partnerships with [you]… As such there can be overt collection of Human Terrain data which opens the door to sensitively tailoring more in depth data collection. The project and Sazani Associates have a high level of buy in from the indigenous NGOs and will deliver tangible local benefits. I have close personal ties to the security sector and I am aware of both the precarious nature of Somalia and the value of HTS for operationalising [a] military response. I am interested discussing the matter with an appropriate entity regarding the securing of resources for delivery of the project and would be grateful if you could forward this email on to someone within your company who may be interested. What we are look for is the funding to deliver the project and costs to support more in depth HT data collection and we are hoping that will be made easier when we finish registration as a IPVO early next month.”
    The Sazani overture to HTS continues: “We are a UK based NGO who have offices in Tanzania and Belize and the majority of our work is around sustainable livelihood development and various forms of education. One of our areas of expertise is Zanzibar–our associates have a long history there, one being a fluent Kiswahili speaker. Islamic east Africa is therefore a place we are very comfortable to operate in”. Sazani indicates that its project “was designed with three partners, the Universities of Somaliland (GOLLIS), Somali Progressive Society (UK) and Consortium of Somaliland Non Governmental Organizations (CONSOGO)(Somalia) all of which will be involved in delivering. The main contact for the UK Somali entity is an honorable man who is the president of the Somaliland Chamber of trade in UK, so he has access at the governmental level in Somaliland”.
  • AFRICOM, culture, and anthropological knowledge: Anthropologist Robert Albro cites examples of the multiple other ways that “culture,” and anthropological knowledge, are being drafted to serve military goals, specifically with reference to AFRICOM and modeling cultural terrain using computational models. As Albro states: “Contemporary anthropology should be debating what sort of role, if any, it has with respect to such burgeoning high-tech military humanitarianism, including the instrumentalized conception of culture that goes with it. Such a discussion must take us beyond the conventional consideration of the ethics of fieldwork to encompass new arenas of practice.” Albro makes two critical forecasts that take us beyond the ethics debates of HTS fieldwork. One points to the annual Quadrennial Defence Review which emphasizes the importance of the social sciences to future military missions, along with greater emphasis on cultural knowledge in military doctrinal frameworks, new Pentagon funding of the social sciences slated to last for at least several years, offering us what Albro says are reliable indicators that “this security context promises to be a long-term fact for anthropology that will outlast the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq” (p. 22). A second is that “future iterations of HTS are likely to take us beyond the ethics of fieldwork to more varied applications of the conceptual apparatus of anthropology, and in particular to increasing importance of the culture concept in the absence of fieldwork. But we have so far thought very little about this”.
  • Sri Lanka: A Sri Lankan soldier writing on the defeat of the Tamil rebels, as quoted by John Stanton: “You have no sense about the intriguing world of intelligence gathering! I am dead scared of a Peace Corps…Team wanting to help a strategically important country affected by a natural disaster [rather] than a CIA team stationed in [an] embassy or a very safe house. These Peace Corps… Teams consist of academics, experts and intellectuals. They basically are Human Terrain Teams that have ‘social scientists’ who map relationships and create databases of local leaders, economic issues, social problems, castes and political disputes as well as using mapped knowledge and cultural insights to advise military commanders”.
Anthropologists and Domestic Counterinsurgency in Hawaii and Guam

Thanks to DMZ-Hawai'i/Aloha 'Aina, we read in “Pentagon Takes Aim at Asia-Pacific, and deploys mercenary social scientists” about two social scientists--James Kent and Eric Casino--the first self-described as “an analyst of geographic-focused social and economic development in Pacific Rim countries,” who heads James Kent Associates, and the second described as “a social anthropologist and freelance consultant on international business and development in Southeast Asia and the Pacific”. These two individuals helped to publicly announce their presence and the nature of their operations with a very badly received Op-Ed in Hawaii's Star Advertiser (“Hawaii, Guam raise profiles in Pacific: Islands grow in importance as U.S. shifts military, political and economic strategies,” 14 March 2011). Kent and Casino have worked as consultants for the U.S. Marine Corps in an effort to manipulate native opposition to militarization, where local beaches would be used for amphibious assault training. They tried to advance the militarization of local communities, under the preposterous banner of “creative and bold rethinking” that misappropriated the ethos of the Arab Spring, of all things. James Kent Associates (JKA) “engaged in informal community contact and description by entering the routines of the local communities” in support of the Marines and their acquisition of local spaces for military training.

In the language of counterinsurgency, JKA states that before it intervened the National Environmental Policy Act process “was being 'captured' by organized militants from the urban zones of Hawaii.” As outlined in James Kent's article, "From Stabilization to Sustainability" (see below), Guam is repeatedly cast in military strategic terms adopted from the war in Afghanistan. James Kent transfers military social engineering and nation-building to the domestic arena, and states: “The global architecture of the future will emerge organically from these day-to-day nation-building and society-building operations at the grassroots level”. To prevent the formation of a “zone of chaos”--where chaos is the social disruption caused by militarization and opposition to it--James Kent relies on the counterinsurgent trope of “stabilization,” also a favourite of occupation regimes such as the one that reduced Haiti to a UN protectorate. The idea is to find ways to accommodate the locals to a massive disruption of their lives, by a planned move by the Marines that involved relocating 20,000 Marines and their dependents, plus another 20,000 persons in construction crews, when Guam only has a population of 178,000 persons. James Kent argues that the Marines should do this in a culturally and ecologically sensitive manner, without much in the way of detail, and with a lot more focus on how to manage local responses. The method of adapting the locals to this intrusion is a counterinsurgent one that echoes HTS:
“As the Marines become grounded in everyday cultural life on Guam, they will develop direct relations with the people. Appropriate institutions will be brought in as needed in a supporting function, and the political will become less volatile and less susceptible to political maneuvering of extreme voices.”
Thus, the Marines, with the aid of mercenary social scientists, can “stabilize the various communities from the 'inside out'.” Going back to at least 2000, and anticipating the Human Terrain System, both the Marines and JKA developed a plan for splitting the indigenous community: “radicals who object to any circumstances are separated from community support because the informal systems understand how the training activity, through enhancements to their culture, can directly benefit them” (see page 42, in "Including the Excluded Population in Marine Corps Environmental Decisions" below). If anything, such statements reaffirm the colonial relationship between the U.S. and Hawaii, and the U.S. and Guam, where it seems that the act of conquest and expropriation is an ongoing one. In an attempt to pit indigenous Hawaiians against each other, JKA claims that “the militants were less able to dominate the process and to bring forward their ideological agenda”.

What JKA is covering up on its project page was that its intervention was a failure--as the DMZ-Hawai'i article explains:
What they don’t report on their website is that they failed to win over the community. Opposition to the Marine amphibious exercises was so strong that PACOM [Pacific Command] hosted an unprecedented meeting between Wai’anae community leaders on the one hand and CINCPAC, the Governor, and other public officials on the other. As preparations were made for nonviolent civil resistance, CINCPAC canceled the exercise in Makua and moved the amphibious landing to Waimanalo, where the community also protested.
DMZ-Hawai'i calls for further action via the upcoming Moana Nui conference in November of 2011.

Domestic Counterinsurgency in Canada

See our next post, which focuses on this topic.

The Global Counterinsurgency Regime

According to anthropologist John Allison, who underwent training in the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, one of the instructors, Dr. Tom Marks, explained to the class that he defines “extremists” within U.S. society as being exemplified by figures such as Noam Chomsky, comparing them to non-Islamic terrorists in such places as Columbia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Somalia. This he calls Mission Creep in the War on Terror, and he sees it as an opportunity to remake the world in the way “we” (the U.S.) want it:
"You just keep following and killing the Bad Guys until you’ve got them all, everywhere. Then the world will be safe for enterprise, survival of the fittest, and we will all have jobs and security. Simple. Not easy, Lots of tax dollars needed. Don’t expect results for a long time. It’s gonna be a long war."
In other words, John Allison concludes,
"the War on Terror has become the umbrella for getting the Bad Guys anywhere on the earth; guys that They – the NATO global military society – all agree on, like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Daniel Ortega, Kim Jong Il, …. Muslims, socialists, communists...they are all The Enemy; the Bad Guys. The Bad Guys disagree with the assumptions of global capitalism and advocate a different kind of social order."
Allison also relates how Marks thinks "that all idealistic goals, such as ethnic/linguistic self-determination, universal education, etc., these are all simply to rouse and recruit the poor exploited masses to get them involved in a violent insurgency; and once the insurgent cadre has gained power, those goals will become only idle words."

What Can We Do?

Disobey, disrupt, disseminate, critique, collaborate, and counteract:

  • Disobey the pressures to militarize the discipline because university administrations, which inflate their personnel and salaries, complain that they are cash-strapped, as public funding for research is cut and realigned toward corporate efforts, with added pressure to "go where the money is." 
  • Disrupt the deferential, civil tone of disciplinary accommodation to political, corporate and military elites, which would have us take on board imperial designs in a spirit of collegiality. Anthropologists, and universities as a whole, have become tools of the powerful--we are in a position where even the act of speaking out goes against the imposed grain of neoliberalism and privatization.
  • Disseminate documentation that unmasks the workings of power and the insidious nature of military appropriation of the products of anthropology and other social scientific research that serves the aims of invasion, occupation, surveillance, and counterinsurgency. Disseminate information on how some anthropologists have chosen to violate standing codes of ethics in selling out information gain from indigenous communities and passing it on to corporate and military elites.
  • Critique the current efforts to abduct anthropology to serve war and domination. Remind our students that anthropology is about gaining understanding others, not managing their subordination, and not resorting to tools of violence to settle differences, or to erase spaces where cultural difference can exist. Critique the attitude that, in a never-ending quest for "recognition" of our "value," that we must be relevant to policy-makers, and that we must not question policies.
  • Collaborate with peace movements inside the academy and in civil society, and develop mutually supportive relationships that can further the goals of demilitarization. Collaborate with indigenous communities in developing tools to understand and counter neoliberalism and militarism. 
  • Counteract by developing organizations, events and position statements that challenge militarization and its implications. Teach anthropology in ways that it cannot be readily appropriated or reverse engineered by military recruits seeking knowledge on how best to dominate target societies. Research and write about subjects that unmask the powerful and render them more transparent to the dominated, rather than make the dominated more legible to the authorities. Work in the public interest, and not in the interest of the state, its military branches, or private corporate elites.

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