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Old 02-07-2012   #901
ganulv
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Originally Posted by Stan View Post
I'm certainly not going to argue with Malinowski, but I've known people that devoted their lifetime to going local, but yet, had no idea what they were talking about.

One of the things I immediately recognized was the pathetic use of interpreters. Locals like their own spin on things and that never translated into something our Embassy folks could comprehend.
You know, Malinowski had the Slavic soul so he was working at an advantage. Itís true, though, just being there doesnít mean you get it. And every field linguist Iíve known has a clue about local life in the places they have worked even if they hadnít had the bit of formal training in socio-cultural theory per se. (On a tangent, I took a couple of courses from a linguist who is a Kinyarwanda speaker. He seems to think Iím pretty much a moron, not without reason. )

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[Sweats] are the wave of the present and future - the ultimate general purpose uniform even for those doing ethnography and ethnology.
Personally, I think Supplex is gold for the hot and muggy stuff. But I wonít argue with my elders.

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All in all, cross-cultural comparison using textual and non-textual artifacts of various kinds sounds like a less stressful pursuit for aged gummers.
«a dťpend. Iíd take a day in Bali over a day with a crusty old archivist 99 times out of a 100. And thatís being generous!

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True.... then again, I know a lot of people who just don't have the mindset for using the HRAF files.
Itís true, I sometimes forget that Iím a gentleman of the old school.

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Anyway, it looks like the HTS is into a market expansion phase not only trying to sell the system to other countries but, also, getting into the phase 0 action .
ThatísÖ surprising. My admittedly limited understanding of HTS is that it hasnít borne much fruit. Or maybe itís not surprising given the tendency of bureaucracy to spawn zombie programs (braindead but relentlessly expanding and hard to put in the ground).

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LOL - they are nice, aren't they! I'd probably keep them for myself given how much snow we have been getting up here. Not as much as some years, but a few heavy days.
Itís a neat idea to use metal to construct a more traditional frame form and to use lacing rather than Hypalon for the flotation. But thatís a separate paper, as you put it earlier.

Itís so brown and bland down this way it might as well be the Midwest. I had to make a day trip all the way to central Vermont last weekend to get into any of the white stuff. I did get to pass some of the time by listening to the Canadiens/Caps game in the vernacular, at least!
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Old 02-07-2012   #902
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ThatísÖ surprising. My admittedly limited understanding of HTS is that it hasnít borne much fruit. Or maybe itís not surprising given the tendency of bureaucracy to spawn zombie programs (braindead but relentlessly expanding and hard to put in the ground).
What's really frustrating for me is that we really just don't have much decent, publicly available data on it . Anecdotal evidence abounds and, from some of the stuff I've seen, the quality and usability range is huge. My suspicion, though, is that the "export version" is being pushed as a way to generate legitimacy (and revenue). The phase 0 move is probably to try and avoid coming cuts since I suspect that a lot of what they will be doing is already done. Guess we'll just have to see....

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Itís so brown and bland down this way it might as well be the Midwest. I had to make a day trip all the way to central Vermont last weekend to get into any of the white stuff. I did get to pass some of the time by listening to the Canadiens/Caps game in the vernacular, at least!
We've been having rain for the past couple of days. After all, "Waterlude" (real name Winterlude) is a tradition up here. Looks like we'll get snow again on Friday, though.

Cheers,

Marc
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Old 02-07-2012   #903
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Hey Matt,

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You know, Malinowski had the Slavic soul so he was working at an advantage. Itís true, though, just being there doesnít mean you get it. And every field linguist Iíve known has a clue about local life in the places they have worked even if they hadnít had the bit of formal training in socio-cultural theory per se. (On a tangent, I took a couple of courses from a linguist who is a Kinyarwanda speaker. He seems to think Iím pretty much a moron, not without reason. )
I guess my original point would be that we can't just take an ordinary soldier and hope to have an anthropologist. As bleak as some conclude the HTS program is, there are just as many of us that fully applaud their contributions. That "edge" may in fact work out to saving lives on both sides of the fence.

As far as your DIE verbs go, ask that Kinyarwanda speaker to battle with Lingala with but 800 words and phrases. Tons of vocabulary doesn't always translate into difficult

As an aside, I'm glad you finally met Marc. We have battled with wit and brawn with no equal. It's now on you
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Old 02-07-2012   #904
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Default Separated by a common language

ethnography (interviewing people, establishing rapport, communicating "stuff") - in my (former) world, that may or may not have involved shaping (manipulation) of the "stuff" to meet the requirements of my client's end goals determined by the client's policy. "What is Truth ?" asked Pilate - and received no answer. Shaping (manipulation) may be used to support good, indifferent or bad policies. Anthropology also may be used to support good, indifferent or bad policies.

ethnology (cross-cultural comparison using textual and non-textual artifacts of various kinds) - been there, done that and do it here; and admit to the shaping (manipulation) of the resultant product. Again, the issue becomes whether the methodology is used in support of good, indifferent or bad policies. That opens up a new endeavor - as to which, one might pursue further adventures in ethnography and ethnology, or engage in adventures in babysitting.

Stan: The interpreter thing is interesting - and sometimes one gains a personal insight. Flashback: I'm with a gal and her parents (the dad having been a partisan in the Winter War after the Russians burnt the family farm; and then a regular in the Continuation War) to talk about legal options. The gal (very well educated) offered to translate - which was wise, considering my lack of any fluency in the spoken language (esp. real Finnish). I was surprised on how often "mutta" (but) occured - translating something like: on one hand ..., but on the other hand ... (yksilla kadella ..., mutta toisaalta ...). I sounded like some legal academic.

ganulv: While Supplex rings my bell as a chemist (and I've a little Dupont stock), I buy my wardrobe at the Family Dollar Store - no fancy Yuppie stuff. Besides, the only hot and muggy places up here are saunas - no clothes worn there.

I'd never argue anthropology with Marc; he's the one who keeps bringing up things like Hittite Law (as to which, he clearly needs guidance ). No point in fighting - our ancestors did enough of that in 1755-1760 (Lake George and the Plains of Abraham, wins for Marc's; Fort William Henry and Le Moulin a Vent, wins for mine). They then went on to join in building a nation, Canada - although admittedly, a few others did help in that process.

Regards

Mike
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Old 02-07-2012   #905
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Default exfoliating in a Finnish Sauna - Talk about a cultural shock !

Hei Mikka !

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Stan: The interpreter thing is interesting - and sometimes one gains a personal insight. Flashback: I'm with a gal and her parents (the dad having been a partisan in the Winter War after the Russians burnt the family farm; and then a regular in the Continuation War) to talk about legal options. The gal (very well educated) offered to translate - which was wise, considering my lack of any fluency in the spoken language (esp. real Finnish). I was surprised on how often "mutta" (but) occured - translating something like: on one hand ..., but on the other hand ... (yksilla kadella ..., mutta toisaalta ...). I sounded like some legal academic.
Regards

Mike
Interpreters are locals and they are prone to what all locals say and do. Who wants to look like a prime idiot in front of a bunch of Yankees
But, if you want to ever walk away with even a clue as to what was discussed and the context of the conversation - you better up your game.

My first real Finnish sauna was with a great bunch of Finnish bikers. Being beaten with soaking birch branches is definitely an acquired taste thing. I got more out of that 2-hour session than I would have in 10 years talking to Finns. My Finnish, BTW, sucks

I just completed interviews with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to see if we had some candidates for tours in Africa with the UN. Out of 77 candidates, I came up with 6 I felt met the grade. During the interviews two of them decided to use the "N" word to describe Africans. Having just been read the riot act (death by powerpoint) on conduct inside the MSB. What the HR folks from Sweden didn't know, was that the N word is merely part of the Estonian language and means very little - certainly not racist. What the Estonians didn't know was that their tiny country and secret language was taken completely out of context.

While I was able to defuse the situation I made it a point to slam home the often conceived version of a simple mistake with languages and cultures.

I could have done nearly anything at the Finn's house and sauna and little would have happened. Finns are a tolerant and friendly bunch. I doubt that such acts and slights in the Sub-Sahara would be so easily forgotten.

Regards, Stan
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Old 02-07-2012   #906
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Default Accurate

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from Stan
Finns are a tolerant and friendly bunch
but not always accurate.

I could point you to commentary by an African-American who lives in Helsinki - racial slurs of him vary (use and non-use thereof) from person to person.

On the other hand, Finns are used to their Black or Dark Finns (my mother was one - she'd tan very dark even in what summer we have - despite the blue eyes), which is said to be because of the 25-30% "Eastern" genetic component that runs in most Finns.

Then, there is the Swedish-speaking Finn vs Finnish-speaking Finn thing, which goes beyond all reason. It supposedly is gone - along with other 19th and early 20th century things. But, it is far from gone if enough beer goes down the throat of a still dyed in the wool "Fennoman" - attestation by fairly recent personal experience.

Now, is the Stan-JMM conversation ethnography or ethnology (JMM being something of an artifact) ?

Regards

Mike

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Old 02-07-2012   #907
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Hey Matt,

I guess my original point would be that we can't just take an ordinary soldier and hope to have an anthropologist. As bleak as some conclude the HTS program is, there are just as many of us that fully applaud their contributions. That "edge" may in fact work out to saving lives on both sides of the fence.
I guess my reservation is that some seem to conceive of socio–cultural knowledge as a panacea. If the expectations are reasonable I could see how having an anthropologist around on the ground could help in this way: anthropologists are aware that there is always more than one way to do things as well as of the fact that variation in social life isn’t infinite. An anthropologist could conceivably 1) help steer troops on the ground away from understanding the locals’ motivations too much from their own (the troops’) point of view as well as 2) help save some time making assessments of communities because they can immediately eliminate a lot of options that someone cutting things from whole cloth might consider in their initial assessments.

I remain skeptical that anthropologists working with troops in an area where there’s an insurgency underway can elicit consistently reliable opinions and detailed pieces of information from the locals. One of the things an ethnographer usually needs to get at those is trust, and that takes time even when everyone isn’t paranoid (and with good reason!) about everyone else’s real intentions. I hope no one is under the impression that ethnographers can get what an interrogator can in those contexts, just without the consequences of running interrogations.

I’m beyond skeptical about efforts at directed culture change. I’m not saying it can’t be done successfully. I’m not convinced anyone knows how to do it predictably, though. And I just don’t believe the U.S. is ever going to see a long term culture change project through to the end, and that’s a recipe for things ending up more chaotic than before when the project is left off. Reconstruction is—or at least should be, IMHO—the type specimen for such as that.


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As far as your DIE verbs go, ask that Kinyarwanda speaker to battle with Lingala with but 800 words and phrases. Tons of vocabulary doesn't always translate into difficult
Noun classes, always a party… With some vowel harmony and a little tonal morphophonology as party favors!
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Old 02-08-2012   #908
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Default cultural phenomena

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Now, is the Stan-JMM conversation ethnography or ethnology (JMM being something of an artifact) ?

Regards

Mike
Hey Mike,
Without a doubt ethnography
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Old 02-08-2012   #909
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Hey Matt,

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I guess my reservation is that some seem to conceive of socioĖcultural knowledge as a panacea. If the expectations are reasonable I could see how having an anthropologist around on the ground could help in this way: anthropologists are aware that there is always more than one way to do things as well as of the fact that variation in social life isnít infinite. An anthropologist could conceivably 1) help steer troops on the ground away from understanding the localsí motivations too much from their own (the troopsí) point of view as well as 2) help save some time making assessments of communities because they can immediately eliminate a lot of options that someone cutting things from whole cloth might consider in their initial assessments.
A good point and something the Army often does to their FAO and SF with extremely high (unobtainable) expectations. I saw the use of HTS as a one-person team working towards the same goals, but not hanging out with a bunch of armed men. In the end the anthropologist is yet another tool in the kit bag and not construed as the answer to everything culturally-related. The anthropologist is also a great mentor and instructor. Where better to learn and practice than in the country in question.

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I remain skeptical that anthropologists working with troops in an area where thereís an insurgency underway can elicit consistently reliable opinions and detailed pieces of information from the locals. One of the things an ethnographer usually needs to get at those is trust, and that takes time even when everyone isnít paranoid (and with good reason!) about everyone elseís real intentions. I hope no one is under the impression that ethnographers can get what an interrogator can in those contexts, just without the consequences of running interrogations.
That I think is the problem with our command (upper echelon) - when and how to employ your best assets should be left to the folks on the ground, and even then only with adequate training. For example: We have explosive detection dogs, but they are not the cure-all and certainly will not respond passively during a fire fight or under duress.

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Iím beyond skeptical about efforts at directed culture change. Iím not saying it canít be done successfully. Iím not convinced anyone knows how to do it predictably, though. And I just donít believe the U.S. is ever going to see a long term culture change project through to the end, and thatís a recipe for things ending up more chaotic than before when the project is left off. Reconstruction isóor at least should be, IMHOóthe type specimen for such as that.
Both Marc and I were subjected to a virtual cultural training video years ago. While we both had some serious reservations and both concluded it was not ready for prime time, it is out there and ... Well, dunno
Any skepticism about the HTS would soon seem mediocre once you took the cultural challenge
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Old 03-28-2012   #910
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Default Analyzing the US Army Human Terrain Teams

Hat tip to Circling the Lion's Den for this item:
Quote:
The US Army's Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin for Oct-Dec 2011 is a special issue devoted to the subject. Some of the articles relate to Iraq, but several are devoted to the HTS in Afghanistan, including case studies of Rural Human Terrain in Kandahar, engaging local religious leaders in the Central Helmand River Valley and articles on bilingual data collection and HTS support to Information Operations.
Link to the Bulletin's issue:http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/army/mipb/2011_04.pdf

Quote:
...one of the papers notes: "Difficulties integrating HTS teams into Army units arise because the HTS program brings together two professions (social science and military studies) that tend to operate within different problem-solving paradigms, speak different languages, consist of different personalities, and have misconceptions one about the other. Academia is stereotyped as theoretical, long winded, and perhaps of no practical use at the moment. Military studies are stereotyped as too practical, laconic, and operating under the slogan that a 70 percent solution is good enough right now in the battle space."
Link to Circling:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot....ain-teams.html
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Old 03-29-2012   #911
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Hat tip to Circling the Lion's Den for this item:

Link to the Bulletin's issue:http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/army/mipb/2011_04.pdf

Link to Circling:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot....ain-teams.html
Many thanks for these links. I scanned the bulletin just now and will aim to read a couple of the articles tomorrow.

What I have seen of the bulletin so far reinforces my impression that the U.S. military and civilian contingents in Afghanistan seem to be fairly ignorant as to the basics of agriculture. (That's not a criticism. In my experience few Americans know much about where the food they eat comes from.) Am I way off base here?
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Old 03-30-2012   #912
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What I have seen of the bulletin so far reinforces my impression that the U.S. military and civilian contingents in Afghanistan seem to be fairly ignorant as to the basics of agriculture. (That's not a criticism. In my experience few Americans know much about where the food they eat comes from.) Am I way off base here?
That matches my impression, and in more areas than just agriculture. Still working through the articles, though....

Cheers,

Marc
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Old 03-30-2012   #913
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Default I know that the Afghans have a reputation of not taking s*#t off nobody

but I still find the case study of the village of fig farmers in Kandahar where no one knew rotted manure is fertilizer to be absolutely bizarre. I have to wonder what you would find if you were able to scratch beneath the surface of that one.
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Old 03-31-2012   #914
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but I still find the case study of the village of fig farmers in Kandahar where no one knew rotted manure is fertilizer to be absolutely bizarre. I have to wonder what you would find if you were able to scratch beneath the surface of that one.
You'd find out HTS members are drooling idiots. But that's ok; they fit in with the rest of the US contingent, there.
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Old 03-31-2012   #915
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You'd find out HTS members are drooling idiots. But that's ok; they fit in with the rest of the US contingent, there.


In all seriousness, that they happened upon a settlement full of people who farm for a living where no one knows how to manure their fields and didn't go beyond teaching them about organic fertilizer speaks volumes to me. In that kind of situation I would think that either a) they haven't been farming for a living for long and start trying to figure out if there is a recent history of population movement and/or a "development" project or b) the folks in that settlement were actually doing something else for a living. Pursuing those possibilities might really reveal a lot (whether or not ISAF and GIRoA would like the things revealed is another question).

It all could just be a problem with the text. Who knows what got edited out? And I'm not pretending I know the constraints involved with the case. But still, the article leaves me scratching my head.
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Old 03-31-2012   #916
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What I have seen of the bulletin so far reinforces my impression that the U.S. military and civilian contingents in Afghanistan seem to be fairly ignorant as to the basics of agriculture.
Why would the 'US military contingent' need to understand the basics of agriculture?
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Old 03-31-2012   #917
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Default Great question!

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Why would the 'US military contingent' need to understand the basics of agriculture?
I've been wondering the same thing while following this thread...
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Old 03-31-2012   #918
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I've often been curious about the fixation on Afghan agriculture as well, in regards to how improving it might somehow be a cure for insurgency.

I'm no expert on the topic, but I did grow up in rural Oregon and my undergrad was in forestry so I have some appreciation about those who live close to the land and what works and what doesn't work. I also spent a bit of time flying over Helmand, Oruzgan, Kandahar and Zabul provinces; and being fascinated with the grandeur of the place, and also very interested in the study of terrain as it shapes the fight, and the study of how man works to squeeze a living out of a harsh environment; I spent much of that time staring down at the ground and thinking in those terms.

From this I earned a tremendous respect for the Taliban fighter and his ability to defy our tremendous technology through his equally tremendous hardiness, dedication and ability to become one with his surroundings. Also for the Afghan farmers, who seemed to squeeze every drop of life out of the soil and water available with their efforts.

I also spent a couple hours standing on the roof of the Arghandab District center looking out over the Arghandab valley in conversation with a USDA SME discussing his work, his observations, recommendations, etc. So, no expert, but I have some experience on this topic.

I too don't get it.

People tell me how the Afghans don't know how to maximize the agricultural potential of their land. Bull####. With the tools and resources available to them they maximize it very well. Sure, if they had massive tractors, irrigation, computers, etc they could do ma ore to be like Americans farm in Kansas, but hey, Afghanistan isn't Kansas. Who is going to sustain and maintain those capabilities? To provide such a capacity would be as silly as building a massive Western-style Army that they cannot afford to sustain and that is inappropriate to the security concerns of the region...

Second, where in the history of conflict between those who are governed, and those who govern them (insurgency), has it been a function of said populace not knowing how to farm their land?? Not owning the land they farm? Definitely. That is a classic grievance for insurgency, one that Mao leveraged very well. Land ownership is one of the largest problems in Afghanistan today as well, but for very different reasons. In this "winner take all" patronage society, where fortunes have swung 180 degrees so often over the past 40 years there is truly no way to sort out the mess of who has best title to any of the very valuable plots of arable or city land.

But is there a role for military personnel in this? No, not really.
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Old 03-31-2012   #919
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Why would the 'US military contingent' need to understand the basics of agriculture?
If the strategists have decided upon undertaking a population-centric counterinsurgency and 80% of the population is engaged in agriculture, how could these same strategists even pretend to formulate strategy if they know nothing about agriculture?

But is the implicit question whether or not I think military professionals need to know something about agriculture? I don't see how it would help the young man scanning the Fulda horizon with his field glasses c. 1985; I don't see how it would not help the military governor of an agriculturally rich state then, now, or ever.

And my semi-informed opinion is that with COIN 2.0 the United States Military asks far too much of itself.
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Old 04-01-2012   #920
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Default Who are these Strategists of whom you write?

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If the strategists have decided upon undertaking a population-centric counterinsurgency and 80% of the population is engaged in agriculture, how could these same strategists even pretend to formulate strategy if they know nothing about agriculture?
Civilian or military, they need agricultural expertise in an advisory capacity, no question. They do not need to possess the knowledge themselves. In fact, I suggest if they were not bona fide agriculturalists / farmers with crop and area specific knowledge they'd do mor harm than good. If the Strategists did possess such knowledge it would be area and crop or product specific to such an extent that it could very easily be superficial and do more harm than good. There are few things more dangerous than a person with directive power who thinks he or she knows more than is the case...

(See Afghanistan and most US sponsored agricultural efforts therein...)

All that begs the question. The military function is combat. Period. Other applications are possible but all will have an adverse impact on the primary function -- and far more importantly, those other jobs will never -- never -- be done very well.

So-called population centric COIN is a holdover from the colonial era when the colony's nominal government was integrated and military governors existed -- with copious civilian expertise provided by other government agencies in a more or less unified effort. We, the US, did not have that tradition, do not have it today and should have foregone the COIN bit with our abject failure in Viet Nam. We're slow learners...

Changes in both US and world societal norms since the 1960s have made those types of operation even more difficult and made even marginal success less possible.
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And my semi-informed opinion is that with COIN 2.0 the United States Military asks far too much of itself.
Amen! May or may not be be less than fully informed but it's a quite accurate assessment.

It asks too much of itself and our system of governance and budgeting forces it to do so. It just cannot say "It's not my job..." even though many things it does are clearly not its job and in fact detract significantly from ability to do the principal job.
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