FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 04-10
GENDER & SPORTS
Bronner & IDF
Jane Anne Morris
Protesting School Cuts
Dolls & Drudges
Epic Recession III
Capitalizing on Disaster
NY For Sale
In Vitro, In Vivo!
Zaps - 04-10
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Two books on U.S. Counterinsurgency and Anthropology
American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain by Roberto J. González; Prickly Paradigm Press, 2009, 134 pp.
The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual: Notes on Demilitarizing American Society by the Network of Concerned Anthropologists Steering Committee; Prickly Paradigm Press, 2009, 195 pp.
Two recent books from Prickly Paradigm Press examine current U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine and consider its implications for society and, more particularly, for the social sciences. Roberto González's American Counterinsurgency and the Network of Concerned Anthropologists' Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual each offer concise, yet thorough, analyses of specific elements of contemporary military practice. Each book focuses particular attention on the role anthropology and anthropologists have played in the formulation, popularization, and implementation of counterinsurgency theory.
The first of the pair, American Counterinsurgency, provides an overview of the emergence of the Human Terrain Teams, HTTs, which conduct what (broadly speaking) might be considered anthropological research into the people, societies, and cultures found in the U.S. military's areas of operation. The information they collect and the insights they produce are then used to form counterinsurgency strategies tailored to the local context.
González writes: "HTS [the Human Terrain System] represents a subversion of social science because it puts at risk Afghans and Iraqis who share information about their lives with embedded social scientists. Brigade commanders to which HTT members are assigned can use data to create culturally specific propaganda campaigns, co-opt local leaders, or target suspected enemies for abduction or assassination."
González places the human terrain concept at the intersection of several historical narratives. He traces the term human terrain back to a House Un-American Activities Committee report on the Black Panther Party. He compares the HTT approach to that of the CIA's notorious Phoenix Program, which used broad data collection to target what was euphemistically called Viet Cong "infrastructure," resulting in approximately 25,000 assassinations. González then details the current collaborations between anthropologists and the military and relates them to the discipline's historical complicity in colonialism, especially in Mesopotamia and Nigeria.
The second book, The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual is not, despite the logical implication of its title, a pro-insurgency handbook, but a collection of essays thematically centered on responses to FM 3-24, the U.S. Army's "Counterinsurgency Field Manual."
The contributors attack the military guide from every angle. Catherine Lutz critiques the culture of militarism that makes public and academic acceptance of counterinsurgency theory possible. Hugh Gusterson describes the military's co-optation of academic research, and the corrosive effects it has had on related disciplines. David Price attacks the quality and integrity of the manual's scholarship, accusing the authors of outright plagiarism. Greg Feldman argues that the radical new counterinsurgency approach is really just the old, reactionary colonial system with a new label. Roberto González offers a shorter, tighter, more powerful version of the argument from his book. Catherine Besteman weighs the implications of the counterinsurgency doctrine for Africa. Andrew Bickford considers the similarities and, especially, the differences between anthropology and spying. Kanhong Lin relates the pressures and dilemmas facing new anthropologists as they enter an increasingly militarized discipline. And David Vine offers some "Proposals for a Humanpolitik," which only represent a modest liberal menu:
- withdrawal from Iraq
- a "police-based counterterrorist strategy" in Afghanistan and Pakistan
- reductions in military spending
- multilateralism and adherence to international law
- developmental aid and poverty reduction
- research toward clean and renewable energy
- abolition of nuclear weapons, and a commitment to human rights
The book includes a two-page "Pledge of Nonparticipation in Counterinsurgency," which can be signed and mailed in to the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.
The book offers a refreshing anecdote to the media's cheerleading for General Petraeus and his clique of warrior scholars. The essays present new insights into the theory, practice, history, and the propaganda-value of counterinsurgency.
Both books have the marks of a critique that remains under construction. The passion of the arguments, the vague conclusions, and the weak proposals all point to this fact. That's not to dismiss the contribution the authors make to the study of counterinsurgency—in fact, quite the opposite. If the arguments seem a bit raw and unformed, it's because they represent an ongoing discussion rather than a final conclusion. These two books, responses to and interventions in conditions that are themselves evolving, show us something of the process by which ideas unfold and knowledge develops.
Yet the greatest ambivalence concerns the nature of the critique itself: is the problem under consideration that anthropologists are participating in counterinsurgency or is the problem counterinsurgency itself? And, if the latter, do the authors object to the counterinsurgency strategy or to the wars in which it is being employed? Is it these wars in particular (as unjustified wars of aggression), or war and militarism per se? The question becomes: is this an ethical critique or a political critique? Does it concern only the narrow professional responsibilities of anthropologists or does it concern the relationship between the university and the military, the role of these institutions in our society, and the uses to which they are put?
The authors move between these questions without definitely seizing on one or the other, often as though they do not see the difference. I suspect the reason is that the motives behind the arguments of American Counterinsurgency and The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual are fundamentally political, but the audience they seek to influence is defined professionally. The result is political criticism couched in terms of professional ethics. Quite a lot, unfortunately, gets lost in the translation.
The political arguments are actually the stronger. One need not refer to the norms of one's profession to find reasons to object to wars of aggression, the subjugation of foreign peoples, and the militarization of our culture. On the other hand, it's not at all clear that the professional ethics the authors cite are sufficient for the job at hand. It is true that the American Anthropological Association's Code of Ethics demands that, "Anthropological researchers must ensure that they do not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people…who might reasonably be thought to be affected by their research."
But surely, as experts in culture, the contributors understand the difference between the stated principles of an institution and the actual norms governing its behavior. (Much of The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual is devoted to teasing apart just these differences with regard to the military.) If the principles of the Code of Ethics really were inherent to the project of anthropology in such a way that violation of the norms would represent a fundamental betrayal of the anthological project (similar to, for example, faking your evidence), then the history of anthropology, and its ties to colonialism, would have been very different. Instead, we must remember that the ethics statement is itself the product of political processes and subject to political pressures. (It was conceived during, and in response to, the Vietnam War.) In other words, the professional ethics rely on the politics and one cannot expect a statement of principles to do the political work of demilitarizing the discipline.
The bigger question, though, is whether the emphasis on professional ethics may not itself be part of the problem. While the military anthropologists in the Human Terrain Teams may be behaving unethically, it doesn't seem fair to say that they are behaving unprofessionally. It may, in fact, be their consummate professionalism that allows them to put aside their personal feelings about the military or their doubts about its mission in the Middle East. In a military context, isn't this exactly what "professionalism" means? It is the sense of professionalism, after all, that compels us to subordinate our own judgment to the standards of the institutions of which we are a part. Professionalism substitutes the ends inherent in "the work" for the ends of the people who do the work. Professionalism, in short, is just alienation in nicer clothes.
The relevant standards for debating military policy and people's participation in or resistance to it are not those of anthropology, but of humanity. Certainly, social scientists ought not use their professional skills to help immiserate or oppress other human beings. (It is a separate matter as to whether their work aids or harms the interests of the particular people they happen to study.) This requirement, however, is not a question of professional ethics, it is just a question of ethics. In particular, it is a question of justice. And people are liable to disagree about what justice means, and how it is best served, which leads us back to politics.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.