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Thread: Human Terrain & Anthropology (merged thread)

  1. #881
    Council Member Sparapet's Avatar
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    A lot of this discussion seems to boil down to education and intelligence of the officer corps and our OGA brethren. What I find odd in the whole discussion is the same thing that grates in the whole COIN discussion; we seem to believe that we are the first human power and generation to attempt occupation and reorganization of political systems, thus we are discovering something new and amazing. The initiative in Ninewa with TF Spartan.....something to be admired in 2010? Why not in 2003? Did we discover something new about how human populations and governance work?
    I think the core issue here is education of the intelligent. In this lecture from the early 1930's on education in America ( http://mises.org/daily/2765 ) the lecturer explores the question of education vs training in a way that is awfully modern and hits on the difference.
    Considering our culture's technologist bent and admiration of the mechanically efficient we have created procurement and preparation system for our (especially junior) officers that meets some basic technical knowledge requirements. Beyond that no knowledge and skills are encouraged, demanded, or reinforced through pre-commissioning and through careers until mid-field grade schooling. We don't have an educational standard of any sort. So those of us who are successful, who can in fact asses accurately and think critically, become a matter of chance. IMHO there is nothing to admire here. The HTTs are not a "weapon system that fits the target" but instead a plug to fix a deficit of intellectual capital within the corps. Same with PRTs and other do-dads. Think of occupation for what it is: governance. In governance you have to govern, which means bringing with you the leadership that has some working knowledge of what it takes to govern. They don't need to be agricultural experts but they need the education and intelligence to recognize when they need those experts and how to use them. Since we (military officers) are always the first, longest tenured, most empowered presidents/governors/mayors in an occupation we need to be the educated class within the government that values big words and difficult ideas. SFC Hooah will always be the expert door-breaker and food distributor. CPT Schmedlab needs to know when/why to break the door or set up a distribution point.

  2. #882
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    ML:

    Herbert Simon: Bounded rationality---limited by what we know, what we can understand, etc...

    I think it gets overly complicated, though, when we start mixing concepts of human settlements and governance--two different things.

    Folks have been voting with their feet since the dawn of time, or scrambling to survive. That, and causations, are the basic drivers for population re-settlement. If everything was grand, we would all just procreate to scarcity.

    But conflict zones are, by definition, never grand places to be, highly unstable, and treacherous to safe and prosperous existence..

    I share the same insight from Iraq that dozens of soldiers noted before me---people are just trying to get by, and the challenges, to an extent, are complicated by US, and whatever "inspiration" was passing for wisdom inside the Beltway at a given time.

    The difference between 120 and myself is that, hopefully, by being outside the command structure, you can influence it by, first, seeing things outside the internal lense, and, second, bringing forward the properly framed questions to drive more productive alternatives.

    It never ceased to amaze me that, by catching up to folks ate ends of tours, they had folders of good ideas they would have liked to have implemented, but that weren't in their lanes.

    Like any big bureaucracy, the challenge is to move the bureaucracy whether from above, below or within. It just ain't easy---don;t care whether it is Ford Motor Company or the Pentagon. Scale, organization, staffing, logistics create and define much of what will happen based on decisions made six or nine months in advance.

    Not really a problem of sending folks out into the field to better their fishing if the bait and tackle are wrong, or there are no fish in the assigned river.

  3. #883
    Council Member Umar Al-Mokhtār's Avatar
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    Default The really creative would go for...

    Sociocultural Human Intelligence Teams.

    They could work with the French military's Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre and Commandos de Recherche et d'Action en Profondeur.
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

  4. #884
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umar Al-Mokhtār View Post
    Sociocultural Human Intelligence Teams.

    They could work with the French military's Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre and Commandos de Recherche et d'Action en Profondeur.
    Creative with the acronyms. You'd be a great addition to the Pentagon...
    There are two types of people in this world, those who divide the world into two types and those who do not.
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  5. #885
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    Default Human Terrain....We're At It Again

    There is an article in the November-December 2010 edition of Military Review entitled Controlling the Human High Ground: Identifying Cultural Opportunities for Insurgency. Needless to say, I’m disappointed we continue to dwell on this idea of “Human Terrain.” As I said when I started this thread, humans are not terrain. Humans aren’t even like terrain. Why we use the metaphor of “terrain” to describe human beings is beyond me.

    Some might wonder why I am so intent to writing about this subject. How we model things is important. Here is an excerpt from a paper entitled On the Mismatch Between Systems and Their Models by Russell L. Ackoff and Jamshid Gharajedaghi:

    There is a very serious mismatch between most social systems and the models of them that are in use. Barry M. Richmond, creator of the Systems Dynamics model and I-think language makes it clear that systems and the models of them in use are not the same. According to him “the way we think
    is outdated.” He goes on to define thinking as:
    consisting of two activities: constructing mental models, and then simulating them in order to draw conclusions and make decisions. The mental model is a “selective abstraction” of reality that we create and carry around in our head. As big as some of our heads get, we still can’t fit reality in there. Therefore all mental model are simplifications. They necessarily omit many aspects of the realities they represent.


    To think about anything requires an image or a concept of it, a model. To think about something as complex as a social system we use models of similar, simpler, and/or more familiar systems. Unfortunately, as social systems become increasingly more complex, simpler mental models of them do not reflect their emerging properties.
    In short, this is what is happening with human terrain. We are using a simple model (terrain) to imagine or conceptualize a much more complex system (human social/cultural groups). As a result, we draw bad conclusions about the nature of the system. This new article from Military Review is a perfect example. The model of “terrain” has erroneously led the author to believe that humans, like terrain, can be “controlled.” Humans are independent beings capable of making choices. While humans can certainly be influenced, they can never be controlled.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-08-2010 at 08:47 AM. Reason: Use quote marks not italics
    There are two types of people in this world, those who divide the world into two types and those who do not.
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  6. #886
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    Default Touche

    ML:

    From inception, and throughout, the mistake that identifying human dynamic factors was the same as discovering On/Off switches and control dials was to dismiss foreign and enemy publics as something less complex and dynamic than our own electorate.

    There is a very big conceptual gap between Big Government/Nations actors/organizations and those of Little Government/Local Governance that seems insurmountable under present structures.

    Folks who live far away from a local consequence are more likely to support something with significant local impacts. The perceived impacts, at the local level, are area and impact-specific.

    Terrain is the ground on which events occur. Terrain can shape and influence events, but only the actors and drive the events.

    The silly notion that we are trying to "shape" terrain/events fails to appreciate the exigencies/realities of CT/COIN in a conflict/post-conflict environment.

    In a conflict/post-conflict environment, a deployed and engaged military is not and "influencer" or shaper, except at the risk of falling to its own propaganda.

    Occupy, dominate, control as long as is needed. Then build relationships, transitions.

    Get over the notion that "wars" and "enemies" can be influenced, shaped, or PR-ed out of existence. Or that we can transition before we occuy, domonate, control.

    Not doing so is as dangerous to mission, and soldiers as it is to the subject population.

  7. #887
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Threads merged

    Moderator at Work

    Prompted by the most recent post I have merged eight threads on the subject of Human Terrain, Human Terrain teams (HTS) and Anthropology into one. Most threads were in the Social Science forum and a few outside, including one in Job Seekers. I have left two threads on Iraq & HTS. (Ends)

    Curious that the linked topics have fallen out active posts.
    davidbfpo

  8. #888
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Human Terrain System: Clashing Moralities or Rhetorical Dead Horses?

    A short e-article by SWC Member Marc Tyrell appeared in my in tray today and maybe of interest to SWC.

    He ends with:
    Do the military need and will they continue to use socio-cultural knowledge in order to complete their missions? Yes. Is this only provided by the HTS? No. It is more than time for us to stop flogging a dead rhetorical horse and start looking at the reality of the various and multiple engagements between the military and socio-cultural knowledge.
    Link:http://www.e-ir.info/2012/02/05/the-...l-dead-horses/
    davidbfpo

  9. #889
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default Mostly a rhetorical dead horse, I think, but here goes…

    1. The two methods, broadly speaking, of social and cultural anthropology are ethnography (field work of the sort done by Malinowski) and ethnology (cross-cultural comparison using textual and non-textual artifacts of various kinds). The former is not the exclusive domain of anthropologists, though I think it fair to say they were central in its legitimization amongst scientists social and otherwise. The latter isn’t, either, but doing it well presumes some background that would be difficult to acquire outside of anthropology and a handful of genetically related disciplines (folklore and [human & historical] geography, for example).
    2. Good ethnography is difficult in the most stable social contexts. Presume an ethnographic encounter between a visitor with no particular self-interest beyond intellectual curiosity and a local with absolute willingness to reveal the warts and all of his or her knowledge. Even if the visitor is a top notch student and the local a top notch teacher 1:1 transmission of knowledge is impeded by cultural differences and the reliability of data and inferences built on them is always somewhat in doubt. Now imagine the same ethnographic encounter when the visitor shows up backed by a group of rough men in full kit and the local has to answer to his or her shadow governor after they have departed. The reliability of data gathered under these circumstances and inferences built on them are in serious doubt.
    3. I do not on principle object to the use being made of tools associated with anthropology by any parties to a conflict. I may find their aims distasteful but the fact is that anthropology made its IPO long ago. I absolutely believe that the agent handler, ODA team member, or FSO with some formal training in anthropology will benefit from it in the field. That is not to say, however, that I believe that good anthropological field work is likely during wartime (see #2 above).
    4. The entire HTS project strikes me as an effort to use ethnography to make an unfeasible strategy somehow serviceable. A better applied use of anthropological tools for OEF–like undertakings would be, IMHO, to run the strategy by a group of ethnologists and ask the seemingly simple question, “Do you judge this to be feasible in the first place?”

    This is just my 5¢ as someone who knows a lot more about anthropology than do most military professionals (and who fully acknowledges that military professionals tend to know no less about anthropology than do most other non-anthropologists) and more about the military than do most anthropologists (which is not to be understood as a claim that I have a vast or even good knowledge of the military). Some of it may be restatement of previous posts in this thread but I haven’t read many of them since joining this forum less than a year ago. It’s a topic that in my experience involves a lot of misinformation, posturing, and talking past one another so I tend to give it a wide berth for better or worse.
    Last edited by ganulv; 02-07-2012 at 02:43 AM. Reason: typo fix
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  10. #890
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Ganuly,

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    [LIST=1][*] The two methods, broadly speaking, of social and cultural anthropology are ethnography (field work of the sort done by Malinowski) and ethnology (cross-cultural comparison using textual and non-textual artifacts of various kinds). The former is not the exclusive domain of anthropologists, though I think it fair to say they were central in its legitimization amongst scientists social and otherwise. The latter isn’t, either, but doing it well presumes some background that would be difficult to acquire outside of anthropology and a handful of genetically related disciplines (folklore and [human & historical] geography, for example).
    We could go back and forth on this since a lot of it is national school dependent but, sure, let's work with these as the two base methods for gathering and comparing data. That said, we do know a fari bit after 150 years or so about kinship systems, economic systems, etc. that, IMHO, does have some direct relevance.

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    [LIST=2][*]Good ethnography is difficult in the most stable social contexts. Presume an ethnographic encounter between a visitor with no particular self-interest beyond intellectual curiosity and a local with absolute willingness to reveal the warts and all of his or her knowledge. Even if the visitor is a top notch student and the local a top notch teacher 1:1 transmission of knowledge is impeded by cultural differences and the reliability of data and inferences built on them is always somewhat in doubt. Now imagine the same ethnographic encounter when the visitor shows up backed by a group of rough men in full kit and the local has to answer to his or her shadow governor after they have departed. The reliability of data gathered under these circumstances and inferences built on them are in serious doubt.[*]I do not on principle object to the use being made of tools associated with anthropology by any parties to a conflict. I may find their aims distasteful but the fact is that anthropology made its IPO long ago. I absolutely believe that the agent handler, ODA team member, or FSO with some formal training in anthropology will benefit from it in the field. That is not to say, however, that I believe that good anthropological field work is likely during wartime (see #2 above).
    Absolutely agree! This means that whoever is doing "fieldwork" under such a condition must be top notch in their ability to perceive patterns and anomalies. Basically, it means that we have to throw out your point 1, except as background reference, and concentrate instead on observation skills.

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    1. The entire HTS project strikes me as an effort to use ethnography to make an unfeasible strategy somehow serviceable. A better applied use of anthropological tools for OEF–like undertakings would be, IMHO, to run the strategy by a group of ethnologists and ask the seemingly simple question, “Do you judge this to be feasible in the first place?”
    LOLOL - yup, which is why I am increasingly coming to the opinion that "senor social scientists" should be lodged in Red teaming cells vs. something like the HTS. Of course, that's another article .

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    This is just my 5¢ as someone who knows a lot more about anthropology than do most military professionals (and who fully acknowledges that military professionals tend to know no less about anthropology than do most other non-anthropologists) and more about the military than do most anthropologists (which is not to be understood as a claim that I have a vast or even good knowledge of the military). Some of it may be restatement of previous posts in this thread but I haven’t read many of them since joining this forum less than a year ago. It’s a topic that in my experience involves a lot of misinformation, posturing, and talking past one another so I tend to give it a wide berth for better or worse.
    I would certainly agree that the "debate" is often a case of people talking past each other. Honestly, it's been kind of frustrating for me since all of the sides seem to have decided to ignore what actually happens . I think that's why I stuck the "rhetorical dead horses" in the title of my piece: I was honestly tired or hearing the "same old, same old" again, with little movement happening.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  11. #891
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    Default Hi Marc,

    Really Good to see your avatar back on the screen. Not to get between two anthropologists for too long, but ...

    Vive le Moulin a Vent et Vive le Canada ! You know the rest of our drill.

    BTW: I'm no longer a lawyer, but a "Retired Gentleman" (to steal a Victor McLaughlin line as Quincannon). I can reliably inform you that the "proper uniform" of a "retired gentleman" is sweats

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Jmm,

    Good to be back . I thought that sweats were the uniform for teleworkers !

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
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  13. #893
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Hello Marc,
    Glad to see you about - you old pirate

    David and I had just Skyped each other (that almost sounds like something the USG will ban soon with hints of data bits having sex ) wondering about your whereabouts and I honestly thought you were on the dark continent with M-A traipsing around in the jungle.

    Regards, Stan
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  14. #894
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hey Stan,

    Good to hear from you, too .

    Nah, haven't been doing that much travelling, just dealing with life and a LOT of singing (we had our Carnegie Hall debut last summer, to rave reviews ).

    On the research / thinking front, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how the CF can / should integrate their socio-cultural knowledge gathering and analysis, especially given our withdrawal from a combat role in Afghanistan. It's taken a while, but the picture is slowly coming together.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  15. #895
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    LOLOL - yup, which is why I am increasingly coming to the opinion that "senor social scientists" should be lodged in Red teaming cells vs. something like the HTS.
    HRAF is online now so there really is no excuse not to do some Phase 1 reading. Not that there was before.

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    On the research / thinking front, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how the CF can / should integrate their socio-cultural knowledge gathering and analysis, especially given our withdrawal from a combat role in Afghanistan. It's taken a while, but the picture is slowly coming together.
    If you happen to be walking along the roadside when a pair of the CF’s new model snowshoes fall off a truck I might know a potential buyer for them in western Massachusetts. Not that there has been much need for them down this way this winter…
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  16. #896
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Cultural Intelligence ?

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    On the research / thinking front, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how the CF can / should integrate their socio-cultural knowledge gathering and analysis, especially given our withdrawal from a combat role in Afghanistan. It's taken a while, but the picture is slowly coming together.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Marc, One would think that almost anyone with background from their military experiences would be a great source of knowledge, but it seems to me that sociocultural analyses continues to take a back seat (as far back as post-1991). We can't even remotely figure out what the Chinese and Russians are doing, yet alone a far more complex subject like Afghanistan.

    I'm certainly not going to argue with Malinowski, but I've known people that devoted their lifetime to going local, but yet, had no idea what they were talking about.

    One of the things I immediately recognized was the pathetic use of interpreters. Locals like their own spin on things and that never translated into something our Embassy folks could comprehend. It's no wonder we're in the mess we're in
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  17. #897
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    HRAF is online now so there really is no excuse not to do some Phase 1 reading. Not that there was before.
    True.... then again, I know a lot of people who just don't have the mindset for using the HRAF files . Anyway, it looks like the HTS is into a market expansion phase not only trying to sell the system to other countries but, also, getting into the phase 0 action .

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    If you happen to be walking along the roadside when a pair of the CF’s new model snowshoes fall off a truck I might know a potential buyer for them in western Massachusetts. Not that there has been much need for them down this way this winter…
    LOL - they are nice, aren't they! I'd probably keep them for myself given how much snow we have been getting up here. Not as much as some years, but a few heavy days.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Sweats ...

    are the wave of the present and future - the ultimate general purpose uniform even for those doing ethnography and ethnology.

    That field work involving socio-cultural knowledge gathering, esp. where a common language is lacking and commmunication can be effected only by acting out the physical practices of the culture, sounds like it could get pretty sweaty - maybe no clothes is the best norm there.

    All in all, cross-cultural comparison using textual and non-textual artifacts of various kinds sounds like a less stressful pursuit for aged gummers.

    Regards

    Mike

  19. #899
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    ... where a common language is lacking and communication can be effected only by acting out the physical practices of the culture, sounds like it could get pretty sweaty - maybe no clothes is the best norm there.

    Regards

    Mike
    Hey Mike,
    Most of the FAOs I worked with had far less language capabilities but yet their knowledge of the local culture and interaction in fact spoke tons. I would think having language abilities is paramount (or certainly makes things easier), but its only a slight part of the equation that some individuals simply don't possess.

    Remind me to tell you the story about a CAR lieutenant who took nearly all his clothes off for a hair cut in South Carolina after being on base for 20 hours. His barber... was none other than the Provost Marshall's 18 year old daughter
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  20. #900
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Welcome Back

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    It's taken a while, but the picture is slowly coming together
    Good to see you here again -- and I sure hope you'll share that as it comes together...

    Sing well.

    Ken

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