02 May 2012

Anthropologists Still Banging on HTS

In a commentary column at C4ISR Journal, a pair of DoD-affiliated anthropologists are still hammering on HTS.

Sending social scientists to study local populations in the company of armed troops amid active hostilities will not produce scientifically reliable information. Just as important are the long-term consequences of this approach. Embedding anthropologists with combat brigades undermines their independence and duty not to harm populations — requirements that are the linchpins of anthropological ethics. Calling embedded anthropologists “social scientists” does not solve the problem.

We are also concerned about the military’s reported plans to make its HTS teams permanent, and to use them for so-called “phase zero” activities abroad after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Present concerns are based upon the issues identified in our 2009 report.

The association’s Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the U.S. Security and Intelligence Communities concluded unanimously that “when ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment — all characteristic factors of the HTS concept and its application — it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology.”

It is important that readers of C4ISR Journal understand that this statement was written not by some hippie fringe of the profession but by a group that included anthropologists who work for the military in non-HTS capacities. For example, one was a staff archeologist for the Army, and another continues to provide cultural training for the Marine Corps.

By: Brant

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