Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It finally happened

The Army is hiring a handful of anthropologists to embed with units based in Baghdad. This replacement to Vietnam-era Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program (one of William Colby's few good ideas) is has been dubbed the Human Terrain System (HTS). I have been hoping that one of the anthropologists would blog about his/her experience and it appears a site has finally popped up. Christopher Newport University faculty member Marcus Griffin will deploy to Iraq sometime soon as an HTS advisor.

I definitely recommend checking in on this guy once in a while. It should be very interesting.


Eli said...

Back in my college years(2003), I was interning in the District at a think tank that was hosting a roundtable with DoD about how to set up a television/radio entity Post-Saddam. While replenishing the Diet Coke supply (its like water to these people!) I was chatting it up with a government policy guy about the direction the talks were taking. I asked him if they had considered bringing in a Cultural or Linguistic Anthropologist to provide some insight on cultural norms and taboos. His response was, and I quote, "What do broken vases and dinosaur bones have to do with this?"
Not that my confidence in our post-war efforts were that high to begin with, but from that point on I was pretty much convinced that we were doomed.

Full disclosure-My father is a professor of Cultural Anthropology but with a focus in urban culture, so I wasn't trying to score him a consulting gig.

Robot Economist said...

Dude, seriously? Sometimes policy folks in DC have no perspective on how even similar-looking cultures can be fundamentally different below the surface.

Often times, the only way to see those differences is to examine those "broken vases and dinosaur bones." Even something innocuous, like breakdancing cliques can lead important insights into a culture and its nascent problems.