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31 July 2010


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Why not call it anthroposcopy.


"...as long as the US Military is the preferred operational tool for dealing with almost all of America’s foreign policy problems, from humanitarian assistance to national defense to interstate war to COIN and nation-building it needs to have a good grasp of socio-cultural issues and effects."

Oh man, Dr. Silverman, I wasn't expecting this on this cool and lovely morning -- that you'd get me to thinking about another big problem today -- in addition to the big problem of the economy and jobs, which I think about every day.

In any case, what you say is logical but I have to ask: What have we done to our military? How have we passed so much onto the military and do we intended to keep things that way?

It seems to me that the military is becoming so burdened with new technologies, new missions and unrealistic expectations by the civilian world that we'll break it if we're not careful. I am reminded of the recent severe restrictions on using weaponry in Afghanistan, done in the name of reducing and preventing civilian casualties, that led to our troops finding themselves all but defenseless at times.

What do we do about all this information and mission overload, Dr. Silverman?

Aren't we attempting to redefine the nature and function of the military in a similar way to how we've changed the function of the US Supreme Court? Since the 1950s we've been sending the US Supreme Coirt the thorny and unpopular problems the American people used to take responsibility for working through and solving. The Court has done a better job at this than anyone had a right to expect.

However, for a whole host of reasons I just can't see how the military can do the same, nor should it, in my opinion.

Norbert M. Salamon

Dr. Silverman:

I enjoyed reading your thesis above and the references cited, and I thank you for clarifying the issues.

As the USA by and large is completely ignorant of other cultures, nations, or aggregation of tribes - with a few erxceptions; it behooves the USA's leadership to refrain from invading countries, for their expectations are based on VACUUM [a.k.a. IGNORANCE] and there is no time to correct the mistakes, as the USA is running out of oil [ and rare earth metals for advanced electronics, and most alloying metals needed for armaments, bombs etc] and therefore is facing economic decline.

Perhaps the intelligence services could get the right info about many countries, but by the time the data's meraning is assimilated [years hence] the time of war, invasion etc is completely gone due to economic reality.

Based on your thesis, Dr, Silverman,and time limitations thereto, the notions expressed by Mr. Lang about his views on USA armed forces' position in the World is most appropriate -- get out of the 700+ bases, reduce the armed forces and concentrate on Homeland, for the other options lead to self-destruction in the medium term [5-10 years].

Again, thenk you.

R Whitman

Take this same sociological method of research and apply it to the illegal immagrant problem/ 75% of the Hispanics in the US are Mexican-American-a distinct culture, 75% of the illegal immagrants are Mexican, also a distinct culture not only from the Mexican-Americans but also from the Mexicans who stay in Mexico.

A good understanding of the social, financial and religious culture of all three distinct groups is necessary to even begin to solve the illegal problem.


The reason the DoD gets all the hard jobs in US foreign policy is that they and the intel types are the only ones Congress will seriously resource.

Ya want an interagency, ya gotta pay for it.



The lack of socio-cultural knowledge and linguistic skills is a major problem. An American spokesperson who can function in foreign media is still a rare thing. And the level of ignorance regarding the Middle East is still shocking in this information age. Some of this can be blamed on the poor relations between academia and policy makers. Unfortunately this breakdown provided an intellectual opening for the neocons and other Wilsonian ideologues to take advantage of.

But I don't know if simply knowing or understanding more will solve the problem beyond the tactical level. While there has been considerable change and societies that have been disrupted by war need to be restudied, I don't think that there is a dearth of information available on the Islamic world.

All the information and rational arguments in the world can be defeated by obstinate ideology and venality. The war on drugs is a classic example.

dan bradburd

The India Office Records and Library in London contains, among other material, a vast repository of intelligence reports on Afghanistan and Iran. Much of this was produced by men who spent much of their lives in the region, were truly fluent in the language(s), and worked assiduously at understanding significant socio-cultural aspects of various groups.

Today those records provide fascinating examples of both effective ethnographic/anthropological/socio-cultural understanding and the reverse.

Really understanding another culture is very hard; understanding our own may be harder.

The Twisted Genius

Dr Silverman,

You make an excellent point in marking the important distinction between intelligence and research and analysis. You gently reminded me of this distinction when I blurred the difference between the two in a previous thread. That difference is now crystal clear and the advantages of unclassified research and analysis are also now clear to me. I think your methodological distinction could be very useful in many other areas beyond socio-cultural research and analysis. It may even provide some real advantages in the field of network security. Lord knows the current highly classified cyber intelligence approach has some disadvantages.

BTW, have you ever used the sociological intervention methodology of Alain Tourraine in your HTT work? I was intrigued by his work with Solidarity in the early 80s.

William R. Cumming

Are members of the Armed Services that speak foreign languages and understand other cultures ever trusted by those in command?

Adam L Silverman

TTG: I've been developing spin off applications for everything from pre disaster emergency management planning to post disaster emergency resoponse to public health responses to conflict resolution. There are a number of possible varied application and I don't see why it couldn't be used to assist with network security. The key to this is to keep COL Lang's artist concept in mind and to not go gaga over every technological solution. Well over 90% of our output was based on using pens, notebooks, and cameras then coming back to base and marrying this material with thr seondary source research we were doing and building narrative reports, not confusing slide decks, some maps, and the occasional link diagram. Our effectiveness was in correctly reading our BCT's needs, making sure we had the info and the ability to get it into proper format quickly, and disseminating it - even if it was jugs orally in briefings and meetings. Technology is a great thing, but it's not the philosopher's stone.

As for Tourraine I am familiar with his work, and it like many others theoretically informed my understanding of what we needed to do and how to interpret our data. In terms of actual methodology we kept it very simple: secondary source research, process observation, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews. Though I did run a poisson distribution for the DCO once as he wanted to know the efficacy of our non lethal operations versus the sigacts in our OE. If you or anyone is interested, the first scholarly/research article based on a good chunk of our work in Iraq has just been published in the Cambridge Journal for International Affairs.

Adam L Silverman

RKKA and JerseyCityJoan: the lack of an interagency, or rather a robust interagency, is a major issue here. A good discussion of why the military is always funded can be found in the first 100 pages or so of Dana Priest's book The Command. At some point, as COL Lang and many others have indicated, circumstances both internal and external to the US will force adjustment on us because we seem to be unable to do it voluntary.

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