November 09, 2007

Anthro vs. the Army: The Saga Continues

As reported in Small Wars Journal, the American Anthropological Association has issued a statement on the U.S. military's Human Terrain Teams. In the full statement by the association's Executive Board, the degree to which the association's skepticism is driven by an opposition to the Iraq War rather than by serious thought about the relationship between the academy and the military becomes clear:

In light of these points, the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association concludes (i) that the HTS program creates conditions which are likely to place anthropologists in positions in which their work will be in violation of the AAA Code of Ethics and (ii) that its use of anthropologists poses a danger to both other anthropologists and persons other anthropologists study.

Thus the Executive Board expresses its disapproval of the HTS program.

In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles, the Executive Board sees the HTS project as a problematic application of anthropological expertise, most specifically on ethical grounds. We have grave concerns about the involvement of anthropological knowledge and skill in the HTS project. The Executive Board views the HTS project as an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise.

The Executive Board affirms that anthropology can and in fact is obliged to help improve U.S. government policies through the widest possible circulation of anthropological understanding in the public sphere, so as to contribute to a transparent and informed development and implementation of U.S. policy by robustly democratic processes of fact-finding, debate, dialogue, and deliberation. It is in this way, the Executive Board affirms, that anthropology can legitimately and effectively help guide U.S. policy to serve the humane causes of global peace and social justice.

You know, if the first sentence of that last paragraph were really true, then where the hell have all the anthropologists been over the past three decades? This is so disingenuous. The American anthropological community will always find an excuse to duck out of any positive relationship with policy-makers and the government. If it weren't Iraq, it would be the American imperial project in (Your Country Here) or some other conflict in which U.S. intelligence has been at fault for difficulties (that would be, let's see, 100% of them). The anthropological community has no one to blame for its alienation from public life but itself.

More at the Danger Room.