Social Science at War

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OK all you Bachelor-of-Arts candidates, listen up. A declared major in sociology* or anthropology is no longer a one-way ticket to manning a register at Barnes&Noble or asking, "Do you want fries with that?" In fact, social scientists are actually responsible for a bit of progress in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon has an experimental program whereby social scientists are dispatched to troubled areas to study the mores and norms of the community, and use what they learn to help soldiers help the locals. The first unit of -ologists, a.k.a. the Human Terrain Team, have helped soldiers get past tribal issues so they can focus on bringing services like health care and education to combat areas. And the brass is so happy with their progress that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has authorized a major expansion. Sounds good, right? Well, not entirely... critics fear the -ologists' hard work is being used more for political gain than anything else, in what amounts to "mercenary anthropology." What do you think?

*Full disclosure... I majored in sociology!



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Good Morning,

In May I returned from being mobilized to service in Northern Afghanistan (Mazar-E-Sharif). I was fortunate to be able to interact with local Afghans. For the most part it was very rewarding. I made new friends who I sincerely hope are achieving their dreams. Training relating to the local culture was very helpful. Afghans have some unique customs that are different from ours. Like us Afghans take umbrage when their customs are violated. Like us they appreciate a person that, to the best of their ability, honors their customs.

Are promoting a political message? Absolutely! Our message was how to have a better life. That doesn,t necessarily mean accepting American customs and beliefs. We often had very frank discussions about America, our history, and our issues. America is not without its faults. Afghans are not dumb. They know that. They also know they don,t like the Taliban hanging heads and hands from trees lining the center of major streets. They want to move beyond the barbarism of the Taliban and war. How could a person with a shred of moral character not want to help?

I become upset hearing people such as Professor Gonzalez (sp?). He should be ashamed of himself. Afghans are people; most of them are good people, pray to the God of Abraham and want a better life for them and their families. They are people NOT test subjects to be analyzed under a microscope.

Afghanistan is not a safe place. Weapons are commonplace. A foreigner not carrying a weapon has made him/herself a target. That is not healthy. Nor does it engender respect from a very tough and strong populace. Learn something about the area before passing judgment. It is not the Disneyland that most of the United States is. Anyone questioning why a person would carry a weapon in such an area lives in the bliss of fools.

Knowing local customs and making connections in the local villages saves lives. American and Afghan. Following Professor Gonzalez's direction would lead to avoidable loss of life. It would promote poverty and a very very hard life lived by most Afghans.

We wouldn't appreciate that. They are no different.


Sent by Mark | 10:38 AM | 10-10-2007

there's been a peace corp for as long as i can remember.(dec 29 49)when the going got tuff they science people will always be an important aspect to foriegn deplomacy. Gun-battels don't need case- workers,they need military.where is the line being drawn?WAR IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE,WAR IS A LAST RESORT!!!

Sent by frank mastre | 8:39 PM | 10-10-2007