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Thread: Human Terrain & Anthropology (merged thread)

  1. #821
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    "Does Iraq have anything like the US Postal Zip Code System? "

    Yes, it does.

    The most astounding thing for many folks is that it has the same types of property tax registration system as the US, too. State, County, Tax Map and Parcel. All keyed to the adopted administrative boundary maps.

    Seeing those in early 2008 reminded me that, if they hadn't had one like ours, there would have to be one pretty similar. But there was.

    And it all keys into the Land Records and cadestral maps, and census maps. How many goats and internet cafes per census block?

    A beautiful system for data mining on a property/person specific basis.

    On of the things the Embassy DOT Attaches was working on last year was the formal naming system for roads/place names needed for international road mapping and directional signage systems/standards.

    In and around the census, you will see the formalization of many of these things with some pretty worthwhile tweaks.

    After international naming standards are adopted/applied, a lot of the changeable/multiple names for places will go the way they did in the US when the railroads came through.

    Steve

    Some fantastic Intelligence sources there.

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    Default Duh!

    But what I kept finding is that knowledge is a cascading function.

    The more you learn, the more you can figure out more pieces you don't know, and then fill in those blanks.

    (So much of these places rely on oral traditions).

    The more you already know, the more locals feel like you actually care, and aren't stupid. Oftentimes, that can lead to even more info dumps, and more stories told.

    One pre-2003 map showed a huge and complete cattle operation at and above Balad (cattle breeding centers, slaughterhouses, everything), so we found some old sources about the huge operation which was nowhere evident.

    Provincial folks told us about it to, but only vaguely knew the details or location (they were off by plus or minus 5 miles).

    Then we all figured it out and found it using new and old mapping and site visits. The operation had been suspended after the war. The owner fled against threats. The facilities were stripped or dismantled.

    Now, we knew where the veteranarian, bredding centers, coops and grain systems needed to focus.

    Bottom line. An old map I found later (1886, as I recall) identified Balad by its historical name Istabalat (Cattle station/stables), where all the caravans would stop on the Silk Road to switch horses/camels, etc...

    The owner was the same rich family that owned Al Warka Bank and Balad Canning Factory. These were all part and parcel of government cattle,poultry, etc... systems that were sold off after the Baaths realized that privatization had certain virtues over collectivization (plus they needed cash).

    The folks who worked the spread all lived locally and took the cattle home (why you see so many cattle in and around Balad).

    Balad means "town," like Balad Ruz, Town of Wheat. But Balad, the town, is actually a contraction from Istabalat, a place name/functional description that dates to the way old days. So the local pronunciation "belet" is no fluke.

    Who knew?

    Oh, is this stuff the intelligence somebody was looking for?

  3. #823
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    Who knew?

    Oh, is this stuff the intelligence somebody was looking for?
    Don't know if anybody was looking for it, but that is all critical ASCOPE information IMO. Back in my day I used a ZIP code based system to find criminals or contacts that could kead me to them.

    Does A'stan have anything similar?

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    Trouble with Afghanistan, as I understand it, is that there are a lot of different Afghanistans, so what might exist in one place might not in other.

    Still, if you understand basic geography and human settlement/economic patterns, a lot gets explained.

    For some reason, I used to read all those stupid field reports, and talk to folks who worked that area. I know that kind of stuff is usually just dumped as paperweights somewhere, but sometimes having actual reports from folks who have been there is sometimes useful.

    In Iraq, I found the two best background resources for spot problems to be: (1) SF/MITT folks and (2) Iraqi contractors/translators/local nationals.

    One guy was a contractor, always in and out of the finance office at Spiecher for one project or another that he was getting paid for. I always waylaid him for lunch and smoke to talk about what businesses used to exist where. He struck me as the kind of guy that had cased a lot of places and always had his eyes open. I did get a lot of good clues from him for what I was looking for---before he got carted away for bid fraud (oh, well).

    In Baghdad though, I could always find Kurds who, like my contractor friend, had been around a lot of the North for one reason or another. Like MG Flynn's new strategy, its just about digging in every nook and cranny for what you are looking for. Somebody has been there before.

    I had a friend who, as Sheriff, tried following all the known bad families, since that was where all the crime came from. Apparently, though, that wasn't PC. Something about profiling??!!

    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    I had a friend who, as Sheriff, tried following all the known bad families, since that was where all the crime came from. Apparently, though, that wasn't PC. Something about profiling??!!

    Steve
    Profiling........sounds like the Sheriff was doing good Police Work.

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    Right. That was the problem:

    "Slow down, kid. You'll make the rest of us look bad!"

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    marct:

    State-of-the-art crisis mapping is/should not be static.

    UN's refugee records are a great way to follow some of the motion. Refugee records and various registrations (schools, food registrations, NGO (Mercy Corps, etc...) are great ways to track the dynamics, but nobody on the Mil intel side, to my knowledge understands civilian registrations, data systems and tracking.

    Same, too, with political/adminstrative maps. Westerners have little conception as to how dynamic and substantive they are as proof and symptoms of discontent/conflict. I started out as a tank commander on the "Internal" German Border---during the prior periods, the political boundaries changed as routinely as in Iraq; in fact, you can't track the data across spatial geography unless you know where was where, when.

    Who reports to who, where, why, when? How did those change over time, and why?

    On the UN Disputed Boundaries Team, we got a chuckle out of the first seating of the Iraqi Kirkuk Boundary Committee. Their first question (logically) was: Which Kirkuk are we studying? (Gareth Stansfield from our team published a lot of the Kirkuk issues in Summer 2009).

    Problem, too, comes when (as the AAA raised), when the opponent press starts blurring lines between reconstruction, PRTs and Drones/Death Squads.

    Getting good civilian information requires either personal contacts or organizational trust. Very important.

    Steve

    PS- I have most of the tribal, religious, ethnic data back to the 1930's on a hard drive collecting dust in my office. Nobody in Iraq had any use for it.

  8. #828
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    Right. That was the problem:

    "Slow down, kid. You'll make the rest of us look bad!"

    Yep! I am familiar with concept

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    Default HTTs

    It should be noted that the concept of HTTs was pitched to the JIEDDO Task Force rep in Bagdah in 2006, but it was pitched along the lines of the SF Area Studies for ODA teams that would be deploying into a specific country.

    BUT it was pitched with the concept of tying it into the MI flow on info collection to be used to verify information being collected on the interrogation side as there was in 2005/2006 no effective way of verifying information provided by detainees.

    The presentation was forwarded to the JIEDDO Task Force and the Lincoln Group rep Andrea Jackson. What occurred out of that presentation was not what was presented which I initially think was the tie of the Lincoln Group to academia.

    Who became the future Program Director--it was in fact the very same JIEDDO officer that the presentation was made to and the Lincoln Group eventually pulled out or was forced out and the program became an academic program with a total wall between them and MI as they refused to be tasked initially nor did they want to be tasked by MI via RFIs. There was a true need to tie them to the interrogation process in order to confirm or deny statements being made by detainees as it was virtually impossible in the 2005/2006 period to check anything in the way of tribal or community issues unless a specific HCT was sent out to specifically check something which naturally never happened.

    The presentation made intially to JIEDDO was in fact along the lines of the old SF area studies program and when one see's today how HT is handled in assessments and IRs there is little to no difference to the former FAO area studies---so it begs the question why can not the FAOs that use to this work step up and tie into the troops on the ground thus eliminating the need for an extremley costly program that is in fact faltering and which has not become a Program of Record.

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    Outlaw:

    You really packed a mouthful in.

    What was intended versus what was created.

    Mission creep.

    Transition from challenged project to formal program status.

    Bottom line for me is that if this COIN stuff has legs in these ill-defined wars with no military solution, it needs to know more, and be more engaged on more levels than some other solution for some other problem.

    I have no idea what military intelligence should or should not do as a program, but I have apretty good idea of what it needs to do (and not do) in major aspects of this application.

    I first heard about HT in the context of geography---doing background people, place, thing studies to make up the recent knowledge deficit in those areas.

    Then, in application, it seems to have morphed into anthropology, and field based tribal studies in support of local targeting and tactics. So everybody is doing tribal and religious mapping and papers, but nobody is assembling the background stuff that I thought was the basis for the knowledge gap.

    So, I don't know how it became what it became. I do know, as MG Flynn indicates, that it has not filled the gaps adequately, and, collaterally (since US civilians were relying on the military for their work) left the whole effort unsupported in so many ways.

    I'm still of the dumb-ass opinion that if the focus is on creating programs and fusion cells, it misses the point. There needs tyo be an analytical core or information resource available to set a Common Operating Picture (on a continuous learning basis), provides actionable guidance in response to challenges faced, and collects, synthesizes and uses the knowledge flow coming and going between commanders and the field.

    The wiki definition of social sciences is:

    "anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, cultural studies, demography, economics, history, human geography, international development, international relations, linguistics, media studies, music therapy, philology, political science and social psychology."

    The fact that anthropology is the first alphabetically does not suggest to me that it is of great moment. Most of what is needed, it seems to me, can be divided into two categories:

    1. Observable/Measurable Social Sciences: Geography (including basic infrastructure, systems, markets etc..), Demographics (people, counts, types (ethnicity/religion/tribe), etc..., Development & Economics, History, and Politics (political/admin systems, processes and players, really); and,

    2. Interpretative Social Sciences: Anthropology, cultural studies, psychology.

    Not having enough of one or the other can pose serious problems, but US terrain/imagery, while impressive and technically capable, does not encompass an end state solution for many of the important applications.Making leaps from religious or tribal data to basic economic and geographic issues is not always reasonable or productive.

    As an old tank commander, I just wanted a map with terrain features. As a civilian-mil implementer, it is better for a local to draw a napkin sketch of the governance or economic system which I can later reconcile geo-spatially, and consolidate with the other napkins to, maybe, bring insight to other alternatives.

    Something about intelligence theory is basic. The more you know and learn, the more you can know and apply.

    Professionally, I would rather use data (scrounged and verified by any sources) to cross-check against field verification and systemic consistency (smell test)) in sets, and update those sets with field changes on as real-time a basis as possible. Then, use that knowledge base to fill in gaps for people while they fill mine. If it isn't engaged and actionable, its just another contract..

    Question is: What is needed?

  11. #831
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    Something about intelligence theory is basic. The more you know and learn, the more you can know and apply.

    Professionally, I would rather use data (scrounged and verified by any sources) to cross-check against field verification and systemic consistency (smell test)) in sets, and update those sets with field changes on as real-time a basis as possible. Then, use that knowledge base to fill in gaps for people while they fill mine. If it isn't engaged and actionable, its just another contract..

    Question is: What is needed?
    You are correct with the last question--what is needed. We answer that question by knowing what the mission is IMHO and that brings us around to the discussion of the MG Flynn CNAS report.

    The breakdown occurs in my opinion when one moves from position "the more one knows, the more one can know" (which is fine) to the position "the more one can know, the more one must know."

    I'm not at all convinced that simply because we can know, for example, that the soil 10 feet below the surface at UTM grid LC 1234554321 consists of a specific form of clay that we usually need to know that. If I am planning to build another Burj Kahlifa I might need that knowledge, but I doubt it is important if I'm trying to decide where to erect my TACSAT antenna.
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. — Sydney J. Harris

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    No doubt that, on application, overkill obscures, like notifying someone that a Nigerian with a bomb is coming, but burying it in a big info dump.

    A map, or any geo-spatial product should be composed for the user's purpose--not too much or too little. But the other layers still have meaning and purpose---just not to you then.

    If somebody back home has a reasonably good hydro-geology assessment for well-drilling purposes that shows where and how much volume is appropriate in a certain aquifer, or soil types are a relevant condition for building or planting, it is the first level.

    If I was on a military patrol, I might only be interested in the immediate situational items, but you might want more if it is for civ/mil.

    On a patrol basis, it might also be nice to know for the first two or three rounds, where the routes are between market locations, which may also be used for poppies. And which is a public school versus a madrassa. Later, you might not want that on your map, but it still might be relevant (example: when are the routes used, by whom? Where do they connect to? Is the route abandoned, intermittent, only used at night?)

    How is that kind of information compiled, made available, fed? Is there broader meaning in the aggregate of a lot of little pieces sometimes?

    Steve

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    Default Reachback Center

    Unable to clarify if the Reachback Center's unclassified product 'My Cousins Enemy is My Friend A Study of Pashtun Tribes' is known here, but hat tip to Patrick Porter's blog: http://offshorebalancer.wordpress.com for drawing attention to it (Pub. Sept '09): http://www.scribd.com/doc/19595786/M...ashtun-Tribes-

    Military officers and policymakers, in their search for solutions to problems in Afghanistan, have considered empowering “the tribes” as one possible way to reduce rates of violence. In this report, the HTS Afghanistan RRC warns that the desire for “tribal engagement” in Afghanistan, executed along the lines of the recent “Surge” strategy in Iraq, is based on an erroneous understanding of the human terrain. In fact, the way people in rural Afghanistan organize themselves is so different from rural Iraqi culture that calling them both “tribes” is deceptive. “Tribes” in Afghanistan do not act as unified groups, as they have recently in Iraq. For the most part they are not hierarchical, meaning there is no “chief” with whom to negotiate (and from whom to expect results). They are notorious for changing the form of their social organization when they are pressured by internal dissension or external forces. Whereas in some other countries tribes are structured like trees, “tribes” in Afghanistan are like jellyfish.1


    Instead of “tribal engagement” in Afghanistan, the HTS Afghanistan RRC advocates for “local knowledge, cultural understanding, and local contacts,” in the words of David Kilcullen.2 There are no shortcuts. What this means in practical terms is a need to focus on ground truth, looking at local groups and their conflicts, rather than arriving with preconceived notions of how people should or might, given the proper incentives, organize themselves tribally. Most of Afghanistan has not been “tribal” in the last few centuries, and the areas that might have been (majority-Pashtun areas that make up parts of Regional Commands South and East) have changed drastically over the past 30 years.

    Pashtuns may choose to organize themselves along many different forms of identity, and may be conscious of belonging to more than one form of community simultaneously. Pashtuns’ motivations for choosing how to identify and organize politically— including whether or not to support the Afghan government or the insurgency—are flexible and pragmatic. “Tribe” is only one potential choice of identity among many, and not necessarily the one that guides people’s decision-making.
    I am sure it is of relevance.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-07-2010 at 11:53 AM. Reason: Add text and links
    davidbfpo

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    Default Culture as a Weapon System

    “Culture as a Weapon System”

    Rochelle Davis

    Middle East Report 255, Summer 2010


    At the fourth Culture Summit of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in April 2010, Maj. Gen. David Hogg, head of the Adviser Forces in Afghanistan, proposed that the US military think of “culture as a weapon system.”[1] The military, Hogg asserted, needs to learn the culture of the lands where it is deployed and use that knowledge to fight its enemies along with more conventional armaments. This conceptual and perhaps literal “weaponization of culture” continues a trend that began with the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.[2] Endorsed at the highest level by Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command, the Pentagon unit in charge of the greater Middle East, the idea of culture as a weapon grows out of the “‘gentler’ approach” to America’s post-September 11 wars adopted after the departure of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.[3] This approach is best articulated in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, that Petraeus oversaw and that the Army released in December 2006.

    In the Field Manual, this peculiarly military application of culture uses cultural anthropologists’ definitions of culture as the behaviors, beliefs, material goods and values of a group of people that are learned and shared.[4] The weaponization of culture posits that culture can be a crucial element of military intelligence, used to influence others, to attack their weak spots and, more benignly, to understand the others the military is trying to help. While scholars and military analysts have shown how “culture” was enlisted to play a role in the Vietnam war,[5] today’s wars are the first in which culture has been so clearly articulated. Maj. Gen. John Custer, commander of the Army’s Intelligence Center of Excellence, describes this shift as “a tectonic change in military operations.”[6]

    ...
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  15. #835
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    Thanks for posting the link, Rex. It does nicely encapsulate some of the problem areas I've been working with .
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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  16. #836
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    Default Culture as a Tool of War

    Culture as a Tool of War: US Military Approaches to Occupation in Iraq

    featuring:

    Rochelle Davis
    Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
    Georgetown University


    Tuesday, July 27, 2010
    12pm-1pm
    Middle East Institute
    1761 N St. NW
    Washington DC 20036


    The Middle East Institute is proud to host Rochelle Davis, professor of Anthropology at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, to discuss US military conceptions of culture and the war in Iraq.

    Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the proposal of a new counterinsurgency doctrine in late 2006, culture has been named as a key to the success and failure of US military operations. Nevertheless, cultural training material has provided erroneous information about Iraq and Iraqis and has fundamentally shaped US troops' attitudes about Iraqis. More recently, all four branches of the US Military have established new culture-centered institutions which are producing significantly different material, suggesting a fundamental shift in their approach to cultural training.

    Davis' research, based on analysis of cultural training material and interviews with US troops and Iraqi civilians, suggests that military decision makers, current policy makers, and troops on the ground face fundamental challenges when approaching the role of culture as it relates to tactics of war.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  17. #837
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    Default Human Terrain: Are We too Stupid for Big Words like Anthropology?

    an·thro·pol·o·gy (ăn’thrə-pŏl’ə-jē) n.

    The scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans.
    [Source: http://www.answers.com/topic/anthropology]

    I’ll confess: This is a rant. I hate the term “Human Terrain.” If you are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to a U.S. Army program which uses social science and social scientists to help commanders understand the social dynamics of local populations. This kind of understanding is particularly valuable when conducting counterinsurgency operations because winning the support of the local population is the most important objective. This is in contrast to more conventional warfare in which seizing (actual) terrain is the more important objective.

    I can only assume the Army uses this phrase to help the cognitively challenged segments of the officer corps who might look at you with a blank stare if you used the word Anthropology, or the words Social Science, or similar phrases. “You see, CPT Schmedlab, we used to seize key terrain, but now the people are the terrain, get it?”

    My problem with this term is twofold. First, it assumes the majority of officers are absolute idiots who can’t understand a concept unless one can relate it to something familiar in existing military jargon. If this is the case, the Army needs to reassess the quality of the officers it is recruiting. Second, the term itself is misleading. Humans are not terrain. They are not even like terrain.

    Terrain is static. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t have families or choices or feelings or culture. Humans, on the other hand, have all these things and more. Human socio-cultural systems are incredibly complex, which is why we need to increase our institutional knowledge of social sciences. Comparing social systems to dirt and rocks, to use some jargon, “ain’t gettin’ it.”

    Of course, this isn’t the first time the Army has done this. I remember “Non-Lethal Fires.” WHAT?! The only way fires can be non-lethal is if you miss your target. Of course, this was intended to convey information operations intended to influence certain actors within the populace. Actually, the term is still floating around. I guess we can now fire some non-lethal fires into some human terrain. Or, we could just say “influence the local populace.”

    In short, humans are not rocks. But whoever came up with the term “Human Terrain” most certainly is.

    I will now step off my soapbox.
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  18. #838
    Council Member Brett Patron's Avatar
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    Folks spend more time complaining about terms for new, hairy, or hard to define terms, and spend less time actually defining things.

    Human Terrain is adequate. What the concept lacks is advocacy and folks actually finding a way to best integrate it into operations.

    THAT is what Human Terrain (or whatever the uncomfortable would prefer to call it) really needs.

    BJP

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    The phrase "Human Terrain" was actually a working title, and the folks at FMSO who came up with it attempted to rename it using weather terms, but by that time, the now discredited used car salesman Steve Fondacaro and Mitzie McFate had already codified it.

    And you're wrong. It's not "Anthropology". In fact, the Anthropology field has been trying to simultaneously "own" the Human Terrain program, while demonifying it.

    It's not really about Anthro, or Social Science. It's about filling in the blanks that the Intel community has discarded in their "taxonomizing" and "Taylorizing" of Intel by applying scientific/academic rigor to qualitative data versus quantitative data. Don't feel bad, though, HTS itself has no clue as to what it's supposed to be doing, so you are not alone.

    In fact, precious few Anthro types are involved in HTS and of those, precious fewer are worth a crap. Those with the most useful skill set in HTS are the Political Scientists, Economists and Historians.

    I am no lover of buzz words or acronym-mania, but prior to ranting, it might help to know something about the subject . HTS is not about Anthropology; Anthropologists just seem to think everything is about them.
    Last edited by 120mm; 10-08-2010 at 03:27 AM.

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    Default Just for the record...

    ...my basic argument is not that Human Terrain is anthropology. In my opening paragraph I describe HT as "...a U.S. Army program which uses social science and social scientists to help commanders understand the social dynamics of local populations."

    I didn't say HT was anthropology. My post is about what HT is NOT rather than was HT is.

    Obviously, there are more social sciences involved than just anthropology. however, I use the big scary word anthropology to illustrate the larger point that there are words (some scary, some hairy) which describe what human terrain people are doing. We should use those words. Why? Because human terrain is misleading. Humans are not anything like terrain, with the possible exception that they both exist here on planet earth. You can't gain an understanding of the local populace the same way you would gain an understanding of terrain.

    Perhaps my problem is that I didn't propose an alternative name. So, here you are:

    Name: Human Sociocultural Systems Teams.
    Purpose: To assist Army commanders by gaining knowledge about local populations which includes values, beliefs, normative behaviors, practices, and interactions that shape the choices and behavior of people within the area of operations.
    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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