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hearts and minds

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From the NYT tonight:

SHABAK VALLEY, Afghanistan — In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a soft-spoken civilian anthropologist named Tracy.

Tracy, who asked that her surname not be used for security reasons, is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her team’s ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations — in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe — has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results

One wonders about what it’s like to receive that phone call or email or whatever way the initial pitch comes, what it’s like to systematically forget all the horrifying mistakes your discipline has made in this or other parallel directions, and say, sure, yes, I’d like to hear some more about this opportunity. Yes, sure, I’d like the informational packet. What is the pay like? And so on. It’s the same sort of doublethinking self-deception, I imagine, that gets otherwise sane and reasonable people to agree to appear as talking heads on cable news shows… 

Written by adswithoutproducts

October 4, 2007 at 10:26 pm

Posted in academia, war

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