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Thread: Human Terrain & Anthropology (merged thread)

  1. #741
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Wilf, you don't understand. The American system

    calls for repairing or discarding things that are not broken. In the event something is slightly broken, the preferred option is to refer it to a consultant or specialist who will (a) tell you what you knew all along and (b) offer you a 'plan' to 'fix' the problem -- realizing of course that said consultant has no vested interest in your success or failure. This invariably involves throwing money at all problems and a consultant or specialist who laughs all the way to the Bank while the former minor problem exacerbates and morphsd into a larger and more complex problem.

    The US Army training process is an excellent example of this...

    Thus, for the topic at hand, failure to be prepared to conduct warfare in all its permutations caused us to lose focus generally, the Intel folks to get enamored of gadgets instead of their job, and our various communities to fight for more dollars by doing whatever seemed likely to attract the most money. Note that latter is NOT the same thing as doing what was obvious to a fifth Grade Student what was probably needed...

    So, Yeah, you and 120mm are both correct. The HTT are needed and they do fill a vacuum caused by improper focus.

    (Thank you both for allowing my morning rant!)

  2. #742
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Wilf,

    Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a possible fix to the G2 problem. Heck, the entire staff officer system is a band-aid for incompetent commanders, if you look at it a certain way.

    Your implication that the system even considers that there IS a problem, and if so, that it is desirable or even possible to effect a solution is giving the staff development/training system too much credit.

    Note how the fragmentation and super-specialization of US staffs has occured over the last 10 years alone.

    We've gone from having a commander, a couple advisors, and runners/liaison officers, to discrete numbered staffs, (1-4, then 5) to a system that now has 9? staff sections.

    I expect, within the next decade to encounter a Field Grade Officer who identifies him/herself as the Battalion S-1,238,976 (which has primary staff responsibility for tracking the zodiac sign of red headed left handers born during a blue moon within the battalion.) That section, of course, will have 10 people in it.
    Last edited by 120mm; 05-15-2009 at 08:19 AM.

  3. #743
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Sad but true.

    Good comments.

    I've watched the 'Generalist' model not do all that well in the US Army for years and could never put my finger on a fix other than to do away with DOPMA / OPM 21 and realize that everybody of broadly similar background can't do everything well. I knew the Army realized that but always figured the Congressionally imposed 'fairness' and 'objectivity' laws forced the issue. Couldn't figure a way to fix it without undoing laws and such -- always difficult.

    Talking to my Son the other night and he hit me with a blindingly obvious point that I should've picked up years ago but did not. Staffs. Staffs are the problem. As you say most are far too large and not at all well trained. Son pointed out that the Germans then and now also use the Generalist as Commander approach but their systems work far better than ours.

    The difference -- their General Staff system and small very competent staffs; that and the fact that they do not arbitrarily move people constantly and don't have 'up or out.'

    Yeah, I know, they lost two Wars -- but not because of performance at Division and below. That's where you need real tactical and technical competence; echelons above that are politically dominated

  4. #744
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    Default

    I expect, within the next decade to encounter a Field Grade Officer who identifies him/herself as the Battalion S-1,238,976 (which has primary staff responsibility for tracking the zodiac sign of red headed left handers born during a blue moon within the battalion.) That section, of course, will have 10 people in it.
    For that reason alone, it is good to be able to greet someone and say, "hey, nice to meet you...I'm the XO." That way, they already know you are the proverbial one-legged man, and that your pain is real.
    Last edited by jcustis; 05-15-2009 at 06:54 PM.

  5. #745
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    Wilf,

    Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a possible fix to the G2 problem. Heck, the entire staff officer system is a band-aid for incompetent commanders, if you look at it a certain way.
    120, you are so singing my song! I hear you. The staff system is porked, and your comments are spot on the money. If the timings in Battalion Logs are accurate the UK now takes 4 times longer than it did to plan and execute an attack than it did in 1944!! - when there were only 3 staff posts up to the formation level I, O and G!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  6. #746
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Talking to my Son the other night and he hit me with a blindingly obvious point that I should've picked up years ago but did not. Staffs. Staffs are the problem. As you say most are far too large and not at all well trained. Son pointed out that the Germans then and now also use the Generalist as Commander approach but their systems work far better than ours.

    The difference -- their General Staff system and small very competent staffs; that and the fact that they do not arbitrarily move people constantly and don't have 'up or out.'
    Yep, staffs are getting bigger for no good reason for sure. (net centric anyone?) The IDF copied the UK staff system, not the German, but even in 48,67,73 and 82, Bn Staffs were rarely more than 3-4 officers. Even at the Brigade level their were rarely more than 10 - based on folks I've talked to.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  7. #747
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    Default Back to the future ...

    from Wilf
    If the timings in Battalion Logs are accurate the UK now takes 4 times longer than it did to plan and execute an attack than it did in 1944!! - when there were only 3 staff posts up to the formation level I, O and G!
    Going back to 1944, 1/117 had the CO (LTC), XO (MAJ) and four staff officers: S1 (CPT; also HHC commander); S2 (1LT); S3 (CPT); and S4 (1LT). In a staged photo of the Siegfried Breakthrough sandtable (mid-Nov 1944 phase), pictured are the CO and the five company commanders. Apparently, that was then and now is now.
    Last edited by jmm99; 05-15-2009 at 07:00 PM.

  8. #748
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    During WW II, Margaret Mead wrote a proposal for a two year training program to make soldiers into "regional ethnogeographic specialists". Does anyone know where I could locate an e-copy of it?

    Thanks.
    Van
    David Price talks about it in Anthropological Intelligence (google books). The source is listed as Box M25, MM. Sorry, I don't have a paper copy to get the rest of the reference material.
    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/

  9. #749
    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    As an addendum, one of the problems with US G2, is that it has its own branch. As a non-MI officer who has spent 10 out of 26 years in an MI billet, I have found that good MI officers are fairly rare. And by "good" I mean the kind of well-grounded, outside the box thinkers who really understand their craft.

    The best intelligence officers I've ever met were generally not MI branch, or were branch transfer types. Of course, the vagaries of the evaluation system and branch loyalty has tended to be rough on the careers of detailed-branch officers, and the current policy of excluding non-MI officers from MI billets has just about guaranteed something less than mediocrity within G2.
    I'm sorry I didn't see this post until just now. This pretty well sums up my experience working with MI officers. It's a tragedy because the job is so important. I must say, you are a very perceptive person.

  10. #750
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A British reservist tries

    A rare example of the UK trying the HTT approach, with one reservist officer: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle6349141.ece

    davidbfpo

  11. #751
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A rare example of the UK trying the HTT approach, with one reservist officer: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle6349141.ece
    Another history free leap forward. OK Good stuff, - and at least he is military - but the British Army always did this stuff from 1840-1960. It was a normal military intelligence function, and in fact it was MOSTLY what colonial MI did.

    ...talk about lessons not learned.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  12. #752
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
    I'm sorry I didn't see this post until just now. This pretty well sums up my experience working with MI officers. It's a tragedy because the job is so important. I must say, you are a very perceptive person.
    I'd accept that compliment, if it didn't take 7 of those 10 years as an Intel Officer, and nearly 20 of the last 26.5 years in my military career to finally figure it out. Jack isn't "that" perceptive, just well-scarred...

    As truth in advertising is relatively important, last Monday I accepted a position as an HTS Team Lead. So hopefully, we will see how this all works out.

  13. #753
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    As truth in advertising is relatively important, last Monday I accepted a position as an HTS Team Lead. So hopefully, we will see how this all works out.
    You got it? Finally! I was wondering what was going on with that!
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
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  14. #754
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good lick. Hope

    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    last Monday I accepted a position as an HTS Team Lead. So hopefully, we will see how this all works out.
    it works out as well for you as I'm sure it will for the units you support.

  15. #755
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    Default Ethnic Mapping, etc...

    120 mm. Congrats on the assignment. My Mom, who was a computer programmer, always taught me that life is problems and the fun is solving them. I'm sure you will have plenty of the kind of fun that our acquired tastes will enjoy.

    I'm still scratching my head about all this ethnographic mapping stuff.

    Prior to the demise of the old foreign service (1960's), each embassy had a mapping attache whose job it was to scurry around and collect maps, census, ethnic stuff and send it home---to a State geography department that knew what to do with it. Compile it for future reference in the event it was needed (war? foreign assistance program design? trade negotiation?).

    In Iraq, the embassy was blind (and the other two monkeys). It knew less about the country and its people than most geographers in the US could pick up from a night of internet searching.

    Now, State's excellent geography office is limited only to monitoring international boundaries, and couldn't tell you where or how many districts exist in Kirkuk even six years into a war where Kirkuk remains a big issue. There is nobody there at State studying this stuff in Iraq or any other country. US AID's contractors can't help you either. NGA has great physical and terrain mapping, but can't tell anyone how many people are in any area (basic census data), let alone fine-grained stuff about those people.

    I spent a lot of time last year trying to get the mil system to integrate basic demographic and property tracking data from civilian sources (Min of Planning/CoSIT), and Land Records---the stuff we all use in the civilian world in the States was all available in Iraq)---but could never find anyone interested. Note: I have the complete Iraqi census records (including all the tribal and ethnic data (by nahia) dating to the 1930s sitting on my civilian hard-drive and nobody ever asked for it (One day, I'll get around to assembling and publishing it, but now, I only look at it for spot references).

    But without the basic knowledge of a country and it's people on the front end (before war), how can the US expect to establish credible foreign policy (of which war is only a piece).

    While it is true that the military needs it NOW, and nobody else has it unless HTS brings it to them, the reality is that HTS is a short-term fix, as others have said, and much that it does will have limited effect and will disappear soon as the game stops.

    How do we create a fix that will allow national and sub-national ethnographic, civilian economic and infrastructure, and political administrative tracking and reporting in a manner that folks can no it pre-emptively, rather than something 120mm has to try to track down in the field after it is needed and the bullets are flying?

    Steve

  16. #756
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Steve,

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    I'm still scratching my head about all this ethnographic mapping stuff.
    One of the big problems with "ethnographic mapping" has always been the tendency of people to assume that it is static. I suspect that some of this comes out of the 19th - early 20th century habit of colonial administrators and anthropologists to put the maps out in a "snapshot" setting; basically an "at this point in time" picture. That made a lot of sense when it was happening, and most of the theoretical models they were using required it, but what is forgotten is that those models required it because it was nigh on impossible, at the time, to get decent historical depth.

    One of the truly humongous problems with the static maps produced was that people looking at them tended to essentialize the groups that were put on the map - basically "freezing" the groups in both time and space. Consider, by way of example, how people outside the US would think about the US if the only maps they ever saw were of the 13 colonies or, conversely, of the current boundaries.

    This habit of essentializing the mapped groups also played in to a sub-conscious desire to construct a lot of these groups as "traditional" or "pristine" cultures; groups that "have always" been "here" and "like this". Big, BIG mistake!

    Let me just give you one example of why dynamic maps can be useful. In a lot of situations, groups migrate from one area to another - frequently under pressure of other groups. The experience of this type of migration is often caught in cultural stories (myths, legends, etc.) that constructs concepts of "ownership" and, often, resentment that can be maintained for 100's of years. So, if we had maps that were dynamic over time, we could infer from movement patterns where certain types of resentments would exist and then test those inferences by looking at current folk "histories".

    As a case in point, I'm reading Kilcullen's Accidental Geurillas right now, and he has a great vignette about Damadola in the Bajaur Agency (p. 227-232). One of the key points he makes is from the actions by the British in the area in 1897 where the village was destroyed by the British and, also, later Predator strikes against it in 2006 and 2008. If there was a time sequence set of maps that marked "Western" assualts against villages, it would probably correlate heavily with potential support for the Taliban.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    I spent a lot of time last year trying to get the mil system to integrate basic demographic and property tracking data from civilian sources (Min of Planning/CoSIT), and Land Records---the stuff we all use in the civilian world in the States was all available in Iraq)---but could never find anyone interested. Note: I have the complete Iraqi census records (including all the tribal and ethnic data (by nahia) dating to the 1930s sitting on my civilian hard-drive and nobody ever asked for it (One day, I'll get around to assembling and publishing it, but now, I only look at it for spot references).
    Unbelievable! You know, that is the type of data that graduate students (and profs!) would kill for. If you ever want to make it available, I know a lot of people who would be interested .

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    But without the basic knowledge of a country and it's people on the front end (before war), how can the US expect to establish credible foreign policy (of which war is only a piece).
    In short, and being cynical, by adopting a "wogs don't matter" attitude. The fact that such an attitude will backfire on the politicians that adopt it doesn't really matter; if they can use it to manipulate the eloctorate at home, then its feasible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    While it is true that the military needs it NOW, and nobody else has it unless HTS brings it to them, the reality is that HTS is a short-term fix, as others have said, and much that it does will have limited effect and will disappear soon as the game stops.
    Honestly, the HTS is not the only source, nor should it be. The HTS should have been an in theatre, high level interpretive group. As currently constituted, there are some serious drawbacks to the program, not the least of which being that many commanders just don't know what to do with them !

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    How do we create a fix that will allow national and sub-national ethnographic, civilian economic and infrastructure, and political administrative tracking and reporting in a manner that folks can no it pre-emptively, rather than something 120mm has to try to track down in the field after it is needed and the bullets are flying?
    Some of that is already happening, rather quietly, but it carries its own problems (e.g. the risk of alienating friendy or neutral groups, the risk of the US being perceived as acting unilaterally in the international arena, etc.). Again, Kilcullen deals with some of the risks (cf Chapter 5) associated with this activity, and I think he is quite correct in identifying the political process in DC as the main problem area.

    In the purely military context, there is a set of institutional problems that also go with it. One of these problems is the fight over the identity of a warfighter - the "War is/is not armed social work" argument. A second institutional problem is that if an institution has a set of capabilities, there is a tendency to want to use it (airpower in COIN debates anyone?). So, if the politicians in DC believe that the military has the capability to use this type of data to achieve political ends, it may lead to a situation where the military becomes the preffered institution for dealing with "situations" vs., say, State or USAID. That feeds into the growing international perception of the US as an imperialist power that is out of control; basically a "rogue state" in the international system which, in turn, makes it that much more difficult to construct coalitions for operations. For me at least, it brings to mind the old saying that those whom the Gods would destroy, they first drive mad.

    These extrapolations may seem odd in light of the basic point which was about the HTS and the military use of ethnographic data but, I assure you, they aren't as crazy as they seem . Last November, I put together a paper tracking the use of the ethnographic knowledge in Greek-Roman-Byzantine military PME (available here for masochists).

    One of the things that became pretty clear was that there was a serious problem with political stability tied in with the adoption of detailed ethnographic knowledge by military forces; basically, it destabilized the entire Roman political system by increasing the likelihood of local revolts. This destabilization was so bad that Diocletian had to withdraw detailed ethnographic knowledge from the military and place it in the hands of what later became the Skrinion Barbaron ("Office of Barbarians", sort of similar to the old OSS). This, in turn, had its own problems - it solved a large part of the political stability problem by somewhat reducing the probability of a successfull regional revolt, but it also led directly to later disasterous military defeats (e.g. Adrianople).

    Well, I'm going to stop rambling and get back to writing .
    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/

  17. #757
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    I agree with you on this. Having had some direct visibility on the issue, an MI officer's bandwidth is mostly taken up by having to deal with the myriad of administrative issues. They definitely want to do a good job, but for them to be able to think outside of the box, they have to be able to escape from it in the first place. Also, there is the tendency to discount anything that is outside of the classified world as not being true nor actionable.

  18. #758
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    120 mm. Congrats on the assignment. My Mom, who was a computer programmer, always taught me that life is problems and the fun is solving them. I'm sure you will have plenty of the kind of fun that our acquired tastes will enjoy.

    I'm still scratching my head about all this ethnographic mapping stuff.

    Prior to the demise of the old foreign service (1960's), each embassy had a mapping attache whose job it was to scurry around and collect maps, census, ethnic stuff and send it home---to a State geography department that knew what to do with it. Compile it for future reference in the event it was needed (war? foreign assistance program design? trade negotiation?).

    In Iraq, the embassy was blind (and the other two monkeys). It knew less about the country and its people than most geographers in the US could pick up from a night of internet searching.

    Now, State's excellent geography office is limited only to monitoring international boundaries, and couldn't tell you where or how many districts exist in Kirkuk even six years into a war where Kirkuk remains a big issue. There is nobody there at State studying this stuff in Iraq or any other country. US AID's contractors can't help you either. NGA has great physical and terrain mapping, but can't tell anyone how many people are in any area (basic census data), let alone fine-grained stuff about those people.

    I spent a lot of time last year trying to get the mil system to integrate basic demographic and property tracking data from civilian sources (Min of Planning/CoSIT), and Land Records---the stuff we all use in the civilian world in the States was all available in Iraq)---but could never find anyone interested. Note: I have the complete Iraqi census records (including all the tribal and ethnic data (by nahia) dating to the 1930s sitting on my civilian hard-drive and nobody ever asked for it (One day, I'll get around to assembling and publishing it, but now, I only look at it for spot references).

    But without the basic knowledge of a country and it's people on the front end (before war), how can the US expect to establish credible foreign policy (of which war is only a piece).

    While it is true that the military needs it NOW, and nobody else has it unless HTS brings it to them, the reality is that HTS is a short-term fix, as others have said, and much that it does will have limited effect and will disappear soon as the game stops.

    How do we create a fix that will allow national and sub-national ethnographic, civilian economic and infrastructure, and political administrative tracking and reporting in a manner that folks can no it pre-emptively, rather than something 120mm has to try to track down in the field after it is needed and the bullets are flying?

    Steve

    Does Iraq have anything like the US Postal Zip Code System?

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    Default Hts_prt

    Could any one tell me if a component of HTS work directly with or for PRT's.

  20. #760
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kivlonic View Post
    Could any one tell me if a component of HTS work directly with or for PRT's.
    To the best of my knowledge, the answer is officially "No", but unofficially "Maybe, depending on circumstances".
    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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