Page 43 of 48 FirstFirst ... 334142434445 ... LastLast
Results 841 to 860 of 945

Thread: Human Terrain & Anthropology (merged thread)

  1. #841
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Wonderland
    Posts
    1,284

    Default

    The reason why Anthropology is such a "big scary word" is that Anthropology and Anthropologists have by and large allowed their field of study to be co-opted by nut-cases and megalomaniacs who have subsequently made Anthropology fundamentally worthless for all but the most arcane navel-peerers.

    I cannot think of a worse field of study to draw candidates for socio-cultural anything from.

    BTW, if you think the Human Terrain people are doing "Anthropology" or anything like it, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale. It's a concept, frankly, that briefed well, but has not panned out. There are damned few halfway decent products out there by HTS, and both volume and quality of products are disappointing, to say the least.

    Human Atmospherics is another name of a competitive/complementary program that does similar work downrange that is somewhat better named, yet is both more descriptive, as well as having a basis in historical military cultural information gathering. DIA's Stability Operations Information Centers do similar work as well.

  2. #842
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The State of Partachia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean
    Posts
    3,947

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    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.
    Concur. Intelligence work done well does not need "Human Terrain" or Anthropologists. Some thing done badly needs to be done well, not done a different way.
    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

  3. #843
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    827

    Default 120

    Your use of the term "taylorizing" is particularly significant.

    In grad school (many moons ago), I was addressing the weaknesses of "Industrial Policy" delusions while routinely taking the Amtrack through the wasteland of Taylor's early 20th C. industrial paradigm, south of Philadelphia.

    My sad impression of HT comes from 2001 when it appeared that they were, as you said, trying to reconstruct complex "systems dynamics" causal loop diagrams into "on/off" switches to drive the public/civilian side of the equation, with predictable failed results.

    Ultimately, it comes down to relevant intelligence---useful wisdom and understanding---played out on a reiterative basis on a dynamic and interactive field.

    The social, physical and cultural sciences play a role---a role.

    What always impressed me in Gertrude Bell's original source works was her acute eye and understanding of political, administrative, geographic, economic, physical and force details (within the limits of the knowable to a Brit trekster at that time), and had little to do with anthropology. She was a cunning Intel operative.

    Steve

  4. #844
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Posts
    3,098

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L.
    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.
    That's an intel function. Unfortunately, MI appears to be progressing more and more towards competence on the use of systems instead of the development of substantive knowledge and critical thinking which is essential to analysis. Add in the low ratio of language training for intel professionals (and continuing waivers for MOSs that used to require languages), and we have a quality problem that is rooted in training, not personnel. So, instead of fixing the problem at the root - by revising and improving the training of intelligence analysts and HUMINT personnel, we have HTS.

    I concur with 120mm that HTS products are generally low quality (especially the RRC products) partly because of the aversion of HTS with being associated with intelligence. They certainly could do with a decent class on report writing. And lately, HTS has become more closely associated with Civil Affairs - but I don't see that improving their product in any substantive way.

  5. #845
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    106

    Default

    Jedburgh, that's a polite way of saying the system is broke. I love my analysts, but the bottom line is they can't tell me what I need to know. I get better intell from the operators, intell analysts narrow their view to classified traffic, and disregard everything else. I think you're right, it is a training problem, but also a cultural problem, because the mold has been set and it will be hard to change.

  6. #846
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    7

    Default

    Heard much about 'em, but have not seen much of substance from them in multiple tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Seems like a money pit to me.

    E

  7. #847
    Council Member Tom OC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Ft. Campbell
    Posts
    34

    Default The Stupidity of Social Science

    I come from the field of criminology via anthropology, and as primarily an academic, I can safely say there are lots of stupid things that the social sciences do which make it hard to "translate" into actionable or practical application. One is the tendency to typologize or come up with names for things. This is usually either an exercise in semantics or some kind of ego trip in which the academic hopes the name will catch on and they will be forever cited in the literature because, after all, most literature reviews go like this: "Jones et al. remark that there are three types... whereas Smith holds the following four types exist...." Two is the deliberate fascination with theory building, an exercise devoted mainly to the development of "puzzles" for other academics to work on; i.e., providing the "stuff" or starting points for theses and dissertations. Most of this theory-testing only produces R-squares of .20 or .30 at best, which means a large percentage of known factors remain unknown. That's what makes social science a soft science, I suppose. We aren't dealing with close tolerances or things with 999.99% certainty like chemistry. Yet, there are some good practical applications derived from the occasional theoretical insight. Most of these are obtained by luck or serendipity rather than by design. Some are substantive, and the better ones involve being a polymath rather than toiling in the theory-practice divide.

  8. #848
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    Hi Tom,

    Long time, no chat !

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    I come from the field of criminology via anthropology, and as primarily an academic, I can safely say there are lots of stupid things that the social sciences do which make it hard to "translate" into actionable or practical application.
    Too frakin' true! Not the least of which, IMKO, is the artificial, status-driven distintcions between "applied" and "Theoretical" (the capitalization shows which one is usually considered more important ).

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    One is the tendency to typologize or come up with names for things. This is usually either an exercise in semantics or some kind of ego trip in which the academic hopes the name will catch on and they will be forever cited in the literature because, after all, most literature reviews go like this: "Jones et al. remark that there are three types... whereas Smith holds the following four types exist...."
    Again, spot on, although I will quibble with you on the semantics issue. I think most academics don't take semantics seriously except as a game, which is something I deplore.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Two is the deliberate fascination with theory building, an exercise devoted mainly to the development of "puzzles" for other academics to work on; i.e., providing the "stuff" or starting points for theses and dissertations. Most of this theory-testing only produces R-squares of .20 or .30 at best, which means a large percentage of known factors remain unknown. That's what makes social science a soft science, I suppose. We aren't dealing with close tolerances or things with 999.99% certainty like chemistry.
    Yup. There's also so much energy put into turf wars that even if you could get an R-square of, say, 50-60% in an area, you will get hammered if you cross disciplines to do it: THAT's applied work !

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Yet, there are some good practical applications derived from the occasional theoretical insight. Most of these are obtained by luck or serendipity rather than by design. Some are substantive, and the better ones involve being a polymath rather than toiling in the theory-practice divide.
    Personally, I've often found that the best insights come when you do some insanely radical discipline crossing as well. For example, my choir is now prepping Schutz's musicalishe exequiens (1637), and some of the structures really only "make sense", in the sense of evoking a particular emotion via words and music, if you know something about the battlefield weaponry and tactics and the historical situation of the prince whose funeral it was written for.

    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/

  9. #849
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    133

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Most of this theory-testing only produces R-squares of .20 or .30 at best, which means a large percentage of known factors remain unknown. That's what makes social science a soft science, I suppose. We aren't dealing with close tolerances or things with 999.99% certainty like chemistry.
    Tom,

    If memory serves, R-square values are a numeric expression of the probability that a given model will predict future behavior. Perhaps the problem is social scientists are trying to predict behavior. This seems somewhat difficult to accomplish in a social system where the agents have a choice, emotions, subjective rationalities, cultural forces, etc...

    By way of contrast, in the "hard" sciences atoms (above the quantum level), molecules, etc... obey predictable laws. Thus, it would seem models which predict the behavior of agents (that themselves must follow predictable laws) would result in very high R-square values.

    I don't mean to assert that there isn't a significant amount of stupidity in the social sciences (there is in every discipline). Rather, I would suggest less that reliable predictive models in social systems says more about the system in question and the approach to understanding it than it does about the scientists.

    Often, the answer you get depends on the question you ask. Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions? I would argue the failings in social science are related to our attempt to study it as if it were a hard science; that is to say reductionist, analytical, linear thinking.

    For example, if you are doing any type of research you must state your independent and dependent variables. However, social systems are not composed of independent and dependent variables, and applying such a construct is doomed to fail. The construct asks the wrong question, i.e. "What are the cause and effect relationships?" There are few cause and effect relationships in social systems because people have choices.

    Social systems are composed of interdependent variables. Therefore, we cannot study one or two in isolation, but we must study the system as a whole to understand the interdependency of the variables and the emergent properties of the system.

    Additionally, classical sciences attempts to remove context from the equation in order to isolate the cause and effect relationships between variables. However, context is everything in a social system. To study a social system without context is to invite failure. Results of context-free experimentation will not be useful in the "real world" because context exerts a heavy influence on behavior.

    In short, social systems can't be studied like physical or chemical systems, yet this is what we are doing. As long as we continue to do so, we are unlikely to have much success.
    There are two types of people in this world, those who divide the world into two types and those who do not.
    -Jeremy Bentham, Utilitarian Philosopher
    http://irondice.wordpress.com/

  10. #850
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    Hi M.L.,

    Well, I'll let Tom handle the "hard" (hah! Stats is hard?!?!) side but, from what I remember, R-squared is a CYA fudge factor applied to an apparent (presumed?) [pseudo-]causal relationship. You know the type "X causes Y with .27% rsq validity; of course, Y causes X with .23% rsq validity" .

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    If memory serves, R-square values are a numeric expression of the probability that a given model will predict future behavior. Perhaps the problem is social scientists are trying to predict behavior. This seems somewhat difficult to accomplish in a social system where the agents have a choice, emotions, subjective rationalities, cultural forces, etc...
    It this belief that in order to be a "science" something must be quantified using the simplest form of mathematics (statistics). Sure, we're trying to predict behaviour, but the people who rely on simplistic models a la Quettelet are committing an ID10T error: Markov chains, probability "sprays", Chaos and Catastrophe theory are better languages for some of what we study for exactly the reasons you list. Then again, most of us got into the social sciences to escape from math....

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    By way of contrast, in the "hard" sciences atoms (above the quantum level), molecules, etc... obey predictable laws. Thus, it would seem models which predict the behavior of agents (that themselves must follow predictable laws) would result in very high R-square values.
    Well, yeah. Then again, almost everyone seems to forget that "prediction" is based on probability, and it can't account for a "new" event (Taleb's Black Swans). I've always suspected that this is one of the reasons why people who get heavily involved in the philosophy of science and, especially, cosmology get heavily into some very "odd" head spaces that are right outside of the common understanding of causation.

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    I don't mean to assert that there isn't a significant amount of stupidity in the social sciences (there is in every discipline). Rather, I would suggest less that reliable predictive models in social systems says more about the system in question and the approach to understanding it than it does about the scientists.

    Often, the answer you get depends on the question you ask. Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions? I would argue the failings in social science are related to our attempt to study it as if it were a hard science; that is to say reductionist, analytical, linear thinking.
    Totally agree with that ! It's one of the reasons I use both music and dance to try to grok what I study. That, BTW, is one of the lesser advertised / discussed components of Anthropology ("groking" I mean). There's little written about it, barring a chapter by Rhoda Metreaux from the '50's, and we only seem to talk about it after the third drink.

    So, what happens if you don't "ask questions" but, rather, set your mind in "neutral" and just "perceive"? That's what a good fieldworker does (or should do) when confronted with something which they have no good predictive model for. When I was doing my grad work, we used to have a joke (well several...) about the differences between Anthropologists and Sociologist:
    An Anthropologist and a Sociologist walk into a bar and see a good looking women at the bar. The Sociologist walks up to the bar next to one of the women, orders a beer and, looking out the side of his eye, carefully slides a paper in front of the woman which reads "Would you like to XXXX? Yes ___ No ___"; gets slapped and slinks off to watch the game on TV. The Anthropologist shakes his head, goes over to the other side of the woman, orders a Scotch and mumbles "Men!". Five minutes later, he and the woman leave the bar.
    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    For example, if you are doing any type of research you must state your independent and dependent variables. However, social systems are not composed of independent and dependent variables, and applying such a construct is doomed to fail. The construct asks the wrong question, i.e. "What are the cause and effect relationships?" There are few cause and effect relationships in social systems because people have choices.

    Social systems are composed of interdependent variables. Therefore, we cannot study one or two in isolation, but we must study the system as a whole to understand the interdependency of the variables and the emergent properties of the system.
    Well, now here's an interesting question: why do you assume variables exist ? I would argue that patterns and forms exist in people's minds and exert a sense of "rightness" on individuals, but "variables"? That, I suspect, is highly debatable. Now, I could stop playing silly semantics, but I think that this is, really, an important semantic distinction. All too often, "variables" are proxy variables - my favorite one has always been church attendance as a proxy for religious belief: it fails, in Canada at least, because church attendance or, rather, the spike in the late 1980's - early '90's, was related to a general pattern expectation that it was good / safe for the children. It also fails in a whole slew of other areas as well....

    So, I've always held that what we should be looking at is a) a pattern of behaviour and b) the "explanation" or "meaning structure" ascribed to that behaviour by those who perform it is a much better, and more useful, unit of analysis and theory construction.

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    In short, social systems can't be studied like physical or chemical systems, yet this is what we are doing. As long as we continue to do so, we are unlikely to have much success.
    Totally agree.

    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. #851
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    133

    Default Mind, Context, and Soda

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Well, now here's an interesting question: why do you assume variables exist ? I would argue that patterns and forms exist in people's minds and exert a sense of "rightness" on individuals, but "variables"? That, I suspect, is highly debatable. Now, I could stop playing silly semantics, but I think that this is, really, an important semantic distinction. All too often, "variables" are proxy variables - my favorite one has always been church attendance as a proxy for religious belief: it fails, in Canada at least, because church attendance or, rather, the spike in the late 1980's - early '90's, was related to a general pattern expectation that it was good / safe for the children. It also fails in a whole slew of other areas as well....
    You make a great point. This goes back to asking the right questions, the relationship of context to behavior, and the complex mental models inside thinking, feeling humans within a socioculutral system.

    I'm reminded of the "Pepsi Challenge" in which (in classical scientific reductionist analytical style) subjects were given a blind taste test of Coke and Pepsi. The majority of subjects preferred the taste of Pepsi.

    Of course, Coke continued to dominate the market. Execs at Pepsi puzzled over how they could be losing market share if their product tasted better. The answer, of course, is that in real life people don't drink soda without labels; in real life people drink from a bottle with Coke or Pepsi displayed prominently.

    Subsequent studies discovered that when the subjects were given taste tests with product labels, i.e. they knew whether they were drinking Coke or Pepsi, they preferred Coke, not Pepsi. Furthermore (and this is the really fun part), researchers monitored the brain activity of these tests, and found that Coke actually produced increased activity in the pleasure centers of the brain when subjects could see the label, whereas Pepsi produced more when the labels were concealed.

    People didn't just irrationally believe Coke tasted better. Seeing the label actually changed the activity level of the brain. To them, Coke really did taste better.

    This has got to be incredibly frustrating to a scientist. However, if you accept that context, emotion, and subjective perceptions are all part of the sociocultural fabric, it may not allow you to predict behavior, but it will at least lead you to accept that there are vast unknowns out there, and that any attempt to understand or influence a sociocultural system should proceed from that basic premise.
    There are two types of people in this world, those who divide the world into two types and those who do not.
    -Jeremy Bentham, Utilitarian Philosopher
    http://irondice.wordpress.com/

  12. #852
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Wonderland
    Posts
    1,284

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    People didn't just irrationally believe Coke tasted better. Seeing the label actually changed the activity level of the brain. To them, Coke really did taste better.

    This has got to be incredibly frustrating to a scientist. However, if you accept that context, emotion, and subjective perceptions are all part of the sociocultural fabric, it may not allow you to predict behavior, but it will at least lead you to accept that there are vast unknowns out there, and that any attempt to understand or influence a sociocultural system should proceed from that basic premise.
    This is brilliant, btw. However, I do not agree that these are "unknowns" or at least that they are "unknowable".

    They are probably unknowable from a purely rational scientific POV, but they are certainly knowable or at least recognizable on a viscerally conscious level. The problem with traditional "science" is that it limits the range of intelligence one can apply to a problem.

    Liking something better because you can see the label certainly makes sense on a gut level. Just like hamburgers taste better when eaten right side up. (at least to me...)

  13. #853
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    133

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    This is brilliant, btw. However, I do not agree that these are "unknowns" or at least that they are "unknowable".

    They are probably unknowable from a purely rational scientific POV, but they are certainly knowable or at least recognizable on a viscerally conscious level. The problem with traditional "science" is that it limits the range of intelligence one can apply to a problem.

    Liking something better because you can see the label certainly makes sense on a gut level. Just like hamburgers taste better when eaten right side up. (at least to me...)
    I agree, however, gut instincts seems to be a world apart from scientific method. Perhaps social science requires a melding of the two; a place for exploring what makes sense intuitively.

    Perhaps "unknowns" is a poor choice of wording. "Complex variables" might be better; complex in that the value of the variable can change with changing contexts. In other words, the value of "most preferred soda" is not an absolute value, but changes as context changes.
    There are two types of people in this world, those who divide the world into two types and those who do not.
    -Jeremy Bentham, Utilitarian Philosopher
    http://irondice.wordpress.com/

  14. #854
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    Hi ML.

    BTW, I agree with 120mm - really nice example .

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    I agree, however, gut instincts seems to be a world apart from scientific method. Perhaps social science requires a melding of the two; a place for exploring what makes sense intuitively.
    Umm, yeah, we used to call that pace "Anthropology" . Unfortunately, the discipline got hijacked in the 1980's, and the flip side of using intuition as a tool of scientific enquiry - "Know thyself" - got dumped from most curricula and the more important informal training.

    Quote Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
    Perhaps "unknowns" is a poor choice of wording. "Complex variables" might be better; complex in that the value of the variable can change with changing contexts. In other words, the value of "most preferred soda" is not an absolute value, but changes as context changes.
    Well, names do have power (Coke? Pepsi?), and the art to naming something is to try and capture a perceived essence and have it associated with the name. "Complex variables" is better than "unknowns" in some ways, but it still implies some form of absolute value from the implication of causality and, as you noted, context changes "absolutes", which means that a) they aren't absolutes and b) the implied causal model is operating at the wrong level (i.e. it's trash at prediction).

    I've been spending a fair bit of time over the past 15-20 years looking at how thinking in terms of patterns, rather than causal lines or networks, may prove to be a more fruitful approach: "life as improvisational jazz" rather than "the Billiard Ball universe" as it were. That doesn't mean that there aren't grammars or deep structures operating with a bounding effect on social action, it just means that linear logic can only be applied to a limited part of social action.

    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. #855
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    827

    Default Confusion

    ML:

    I'm somewhat confused about this hypothetical discussion on "soft sciences."

    As an undergrad geographer/econ, I built urban parking rate studies as a proxy for demand variables, then spent time with CSX on route mapping, rights of way and box car movements.

    In grad school (planning and policy), I was tracking coal supply/demand factors for budget/policy implications to major project investments, and identifying regional economic patterns and drivers.

    So what was my career path? Running a parking management company through grad school. Afterwards, running a large business park development/construction company.

    The majority of my fellow "soft" scientists followed the same path---site location, resource planning/analysis, transportation/shipping, weather forecasting, GIS, intel, consulting...

    As a senior civilian adviser in Iraq, I worked on the same stuff I work on in civilian world, but more oriented to rebuilding the systems. We were in the field every other day---driving from Tikrit to Baghdad, or up to Bayji to inspect projects, looking at oil/fuel movements. After six months, I probably traveled to more different places across Iraq (civilian and military) than any military folks for the simple reason that their uniforms kept them out of many places/activities/conferences where a green suit was inappropriate.

    I spent the next six months as an expert assigned from DoS to the UN, looking at all the disputed boundaries and working closely with the international expert teams, and a large network of civ/mil contacts, on borders, populations, trade patterns, pipelines, etc...

    Personally, I believe the DoS PRT effort was really poorly structured and managed, but, within it, and especially through the EPRTs (linked to Battalions), there were some really bright, capable, committed and daily engaged civilians who carved out deep knowledge and contacts with locals---based on efforts to actually do things with them (drainage canals, seed, businesses, cultural programs).

    There was never a time that I could learn anything useful about any civilian matter in any part of Iraq where a DoS EPRT person (or military assignees), did not know evereything relevant about it, including the challenges and pitfalls. Whether DoS or DoD these folks were experienced civilians (even if in a green suit for that tour) on the ground helping other experienced civilians in real life conditions.

    What useful information could I have gained from an HTS academic passing through? Fact is, in 14 months, I never ran into one or heard of one contributing anything useful.

    120 talks about tasting the burgers. There are so many folks like him who have actually tasted all these burgers with every kind of condiment applied, that it makes no sense to go looking for a theoretical analysis of the shape of the burger, the symbology of the burger, or the societal linkages of the burger. If I have a question about the burger, it can only be answered by a person with daily experience with burgers: How do I get one? What does it costs? How do I get more? Is the meat rancid?

    I think there is a big tendency in this discussion toward a typology of social sciences that inaccurately implies that social science folks are all academic theoreticians. I suspect that most people with economics degrees are, in fact, gainfully employed in very practical day to day real life things that could never be defined as "soft."

    The implementation failure for HTS, in my opinion, was to become lost in academia and "soft" theoretical analysis. They would have been better of at the HR/Recruiting stage to avoid academia completely and go after "hard" social scientists with deep reasoning skills in real world applications.

    Re: Jed's comments. The answers can't be found by playing with the system. They are a combination of recruitment, deployment, and interaction with the real world and the real problems being faced.

  16. #856
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Latitude 17 5' 11N, Longitude 120 54' 24E, altitude 1499m. Right where I want to be.
    Posts
    3,136

    Default

    The idea that the tools of social science in general and anthropology specifically can provide military commanders with valuable insights on the "human terrain" is not unreasonable in itself. What I suspect is often overlooked is the reality that good field work takes a great deal of time. Even a very good anthropologist cannot walk into a new community, open some sort of intellectual spigot, and produce a stream of valuable insights. A good anthropologist wouldn't even try. Sending social scientists who have not specialized in an area into the field for a few weeks or months and expecting useful information to emerge is generally going to be futile, especially in a security environment that requires the people doing the study to have military escorts, restricts their time and movement, and makes the community slow to trust and reluctant to provide accurate information.

  17. #857
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Wonderland
    Posts
    1,284

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The idea that the tools of social science in general and anthropology specifically can provide military commanders with valuable insights on the "human terrain" is not unreasonable in itself. What I suspect is often overlooked is the reality that good field work takes a great deal of time. Even a very good anthropologist cannot walk into a new community, open some sort of intellectual spigot, and produce a stream of valuable insights. A good anthropologist wouldn't even try. Sending social scientists who have not specialized in an area into the field for a few weeks or months and expecting useful information to emerge is generally going to be futile, especially in a security environment that requires the people doing the study to have military escorts, restricts their time and movement, and makes the community slow to trust and reluctant to provide accurate information.
    Actually, a fairly talented person with even a modicum of information can increase a commander's knowledge incredibly even in a short period of time.

    The security environment you describe is largely a myth; someone with just a little bit of fieldcraft can navigate most of Afghanistan quite easily with very minimal security.

    The ethnographic interview is a very flawed technique; people lie and they most often lie to themselves. Observation ethnography and looking at societal outputs actually make rapid ethnographic surveys very do-able and are usually more accurate, to boot.

    The problem is, most Anthropologists are wonks, who work slowly, pedantically and often come from white-bread America with no experience in anything but academia.

    Someone with a broad background, especially with one in agriculture, mechanics, history and linguistics and who is sensitive to nuance and has good perception can make rapid assessments and be correct.

    I once sat on a hill in Helmand for four hours, and was joined by a US DoS guy who engaged me in conversation. I proceeded to tell him things he'd never heard before about "his" district that he'd never imagined before, based solely on that morning's observations of things like architecture and planting patterns. That guy had been there five years.

    I just returned from a district that was reputed to have "no industry" by so-called "experts" who'd been there since 2002. I spent less than one day in the district and was able to identify a thriving brick-making industry, a combine factory and a large and apparently expanding machining business along the route we took through the district.

  18. #858
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    OCONUS
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Originally Posted by Steve the Planner
    Personally, I believe the DoS PRT effort was really poorly structured and managed, but, within it, and especially through the EPRTs (linked to Battalions), there were some really bright, capable, committed and daily engaged civilians who carved out deep knowledge and contacts with locals---based on efforts to actually do things with them (drainage canals, seed, businesses, cultural programs).
    If you insert HTS (for Dos PRT) and HTT (for EPRT), is the statement not accurate as well?


    Originally Posted by Steve the Planner
    There was never a time that I could learn anything useful about any civilian matter in any part of Iraq where a DoS EPRT person (or military assignees), did not know evereything relevant about it, including the challenges and pitfalls. Whether DoS or DoD these folks were experienced civilians (even if in a green suit for that tour) on the ground helping other experienced civilians in real life conditions.
    That’s a mighty bold statement.


    Originally Posted by Steve the Planner
    What useful information could I have gained from an HTS academic passing through? Fact is, in 14 months, I never ran into one or heard of one contributing anything useful.
    Well, with all due respect, maybe some perspective on how much you actually didn't know about every possible civilian matter in Iraq. From my experience this was highly useful. YMMV


    Originally Posted by Steve the Planner
    If I have a question about the burger, it can only be answered by a person with daily experience with burgers: How do I get one? What does it costs? How do I get more? Is the meat rancid?
    You don’t need a “hard” social scientist to answer these questions though. Any semi, non-retarded kid that’s old enough to count will do. In addition, “Soft” social scientists have been known to go out and eat a burger from time to time.

    It's useful to know the "why" behind things like this. On which norms are you basing the rancidity of the meat, yours or theirs? Is it supposed to taste like this? Why would they eat meat that tastes like this? Is this a reflection of poor refrigeration, slow transport, sickly livestock, etc? Or do they actually prefer it this way? Why would they serve me a rancid burger? Are they just messing with me, or are they deliberately trying to make me sick (to make a point)? Which point? Which is the “wink” and which is the “blink”. How does this help achieve cultural intimacy? Those are obviously simplistic questions, but the more you know what something means, and how it works, the greater your ability to interpret/manipulate a person/situation towards a desired outcome. However, sometimes the meat just stinks.


    Originally Posted by Steve the Planner
    The implementation failure for HTS, in my opinion, was to become lost in academia and "soft" theoretical analysis. They would have been better of at the HR/Recruiting stage to avoid academia completely and go after "hard" social scientists with deep reasoning skills in real world applications.
    Just because the anthropological community threw the largest (and loudest) hissy fit, doesn’t mean they were the only social scientists HTS recruited. Should HTS have avoided academia altogether? I certainly don’t think so. To imply that an anthropologist lacks “deep reasoning skills in real world applications” is absurd. I really think you may have the wrong idea about what anthropology is, and what a good anthropologist can do.

    Are there a bunch of useless twerps in the field? Absolutely. But don’t mistake the current majority membership of the field for its capacity to contribute or its lack of relevance. History has proven otherwise. A good anthropologist has the potential to make great impact and/or wreak great havoc (IRB committee and AAA aside). Or they can analyze the heck out of a perfectly rancid burger.

    G
    Last edited by -G-; 10-21-2010 at 12:12 PM. Reason: Added OP

  19. #859
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    DeRidder LA
    Posts
    3,949

    Default Human Terrain Systemic Failures

    As a former FAO I am a believer in cultural intelligence and as an anthro minor, history major, I would have to class myself with the social science crowd.

    I was and still am a believer in the concept of a dedicated human terrain capability. But I will say after a year as the POLAD in MND-B, the human terrain capablity never was applied in anything near to what it advertised.

    There were bright, even brilliant spots on the human terrain teams. Some were antthropologists, most were not. What was lacking was a system to direct and capture relevant information based on the CCIR, not on a whimsy of a social scientist who felt that the Iraqis were not really happy having us there. Gee, who knew? The same fellow wanted to take the summer off because Baghdad was hot.

    There were too many like him and not enough of the brilliant ones. None of them really got the concept of telling the commander what he needed to know versus telling him what they found to be "interesting" on any given day.

    I again say that the concept is sound but its fielding was done so haphazardly that it left commanders and staffs puzzled on how to best integrate these teams. When those in the system don't have a system to begin with, integrating that system into military planning is systemically doomed to failure.

    Best
    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 10-21-2010 at 06:29 PM.

  20. #860
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    When those in the system don't have a system to begin with, integrating that system into military planning is systemically doomed to failure.

    Best
    Tom
    That is Quote of the week stuff!

Similar Threads

  1. Terrorism in the USA:threat & response
    By SWJED in forum Law Enforcement
    Replies: 486
    Last Post: 11-27-2016, 02:35 PM
  2. Human Terrain Team study
    By Michael Davies in forum RFIs & Members' Projects
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 10-02-2011, 01:20 AM
  3. Human Terrain Team Member Killed in Afghanistan
    By SWJED in forum OEF - Afghanistan
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 05-09-2008, 08:05 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •