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American Counterinsurgency

Human Science and the Human Terrain

Politicians, pundits, and Pentagon officials are singing the praises of a kinder, gentler American counterinsurgency. Some claim that counterinsurgency is so sophisticated and effective that it is the “graduate level of war.” Private military contracting firms have jumped on the bandwagon, and many have begun employing anthropologists, political scientists, psychologists, and sociologists to help meet the Department of Defense’s new demand. The $60 million Human Terrain System (HTS), an intelligence gathering program that embeds social scientists with combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, dramatically illustrates the approach. But when the military, transnational corporations, and the human sciences become obsessed with controlling the “human terrain”—the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan—what are the consequences? In this timely pamphlet, Roberto González offers a searing critique of HTS, showing how the history of anthropology can be used to illuminate the problems of turning “culture” into a military tool.

134 pages | 4 1/2 x 7 | © 2009

Culture Studies

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society

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"A timely, hard-hitting critique of Human Terrain Systems and the dangers of social science subservient to counterinsurgency."—Counterpunch


"González strongly critiques the human terrain concept in its historical and contemporary contexts."—Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed

Table of Contents

1.  The Myth of a "Gentler" Counterinsurgency
2.  The Origins of Human Terrain
3.  Phoenix Rising? The Birth of HTS
4.  Imaginary Terrorists, Virtual Tribes: HTS as Technological Fantasy
5.  Social Science and the Imperial Imperative
Glossary of Terms

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