Reconsidering American Power

A conference organized by the workshop on Science, Technology, Society & the State

In the Science, Technology, Society, and the State Workshop’s 2008 conference on Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, participants analyzed and interrogated new relations among American power, geopolitics, military interventions and anthropological practice. This year, we want to broaden the issues to the future of American power and the social sciences generally. Our conference, “Reconsidering American Power” asks a difficult, timely question: In the face of two ongoing hot wars and after a potentially transformative election, what now?

The papers that constituted the conference unite a concern for specific practices of knowledge production with the questions that adumbrate contemporary political and ethical/moral horizons of possibility.

The first day of the conference was broadly defined by the rubric “Disciplines and Deployments: American Academics and American Power.” For this day, the focus was on what US social science disciplines have done and can do to influence both the ends and means of contemporary US power, and, in turn, the influence of the history of US power on the US social sciences.

The first panel, “Emergent Problems in the New American Century,” initiated our reconsiderations through an interdisciplinary discussion of the dilemmas and political horizons of possibility that define the present and near future. Following this, our plenary session, “Reconceptualizing the Question: Intervention Strategies,” interrogated the heart of the problem itself, with two nuanced criticisms of both the ends and means of American power in recent deployments. In this first panel, we were proud to feature papers by Roger Myerson and Marshall Sahlins, each addressing failures of American military intervention from their own disciplinary point of view. A double panel then followed on “Uses and Abuses of Social Sciences: Disciplines of and for What?” The scholars in this panel, including anthropologists, historians, and political scientists, revisited the critical, often fraught relationship between the American academy and the American state with careful attention to the pasts, presents and possible futures of their own disciplines.

The second day of the conference reoriented our reconsiderations to transnational perspectives on American power and its relationship to global cultural, political, and economic formations. Each of the panels and on this day, including a summary roundtable, fell generally under the rubric “Is There a New World Order?”

The first morning panel, “Practices and Projections of American Power,” addressed the local realizations of American military, political and economic influence, both historically and contemporarily. The day’s second panel, “Cultures of the Military, Cultures for the Military,” returned to the theme of the cultural turn of the US military, to further explore how culture as a category has become a hallmark feature of contemporary American military culture itself.

Finally, the conference closed on an open-ended, Tolstoyan note with a capstone roundtable discussion, titled “Bretton Woods, Bandung and Beyond…What is to be Done, by Whom?” Here, in brief orienting presentations, panelists contextualized questions of global power in the age of Pax Americana with reference to watershed moments, starting with the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944 and the Bandung Asian African Conference of 1955. Drawing together the themes of the two days, participants were invited to comment on the current and future missions of the social science disciplines in light of real changes in the world of Pax Americana.

SCHEDULE

(See individual sessions for panel locations.)

Thursday April 23rd

6:30 PM

Orienting Remarks
(Wilder House)
Chair: Evalyn Tennant, Center for International Studies, University of Chicago
John Kelly, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Self-Determination and the World of Pax Americana

Friday April 24th

Disciplines and Deployments: American Academics and American Power

8:45 AM – 10:15 AM

Emergent Problems in the New American Century
(International House, Assembly Hall)
Chair: Jeff Bennett, Department of Sociology, University of Missouri Kansas City

Jeremy Walton, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago: Good Muslim World, Bad Muslim World,

Anne Harrington, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago: U.S. Nuclear Policy and the Fetishism of Force,

Matthew Sparke, Department of Geography, University of Washington: From Bombs to Bonds to Vaccine Bonds: Bad Geographies of Global Health in the New American Century

10:30 AM – 12:15 PM

Reconceptualizing the Question: Intervention Strategies
(International House, Assembly Hall)
Chair: John Kelly, Department of Anthropology University of Chicago

Roger Myerson, Department of Economics, University of Chicago: A Field Manual for the Cradle of Civilization

Marshall Sahlins, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago On the Anthropology of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual

1:45 PM – 3:15 PM

Uses and Abuses of Social Sciences: Disciplines of and for What? Part I
(Stuart Hall, Room 102)
Chair: Sean Mitchell, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame
Kurt Jacobsen, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago: American Power and the New Mandarins Redux: Hegemony, Orthodoxy and International Relations Studies

David Price, Department of Anthropology, St. Martin’s University: On the Impossibilities of Counterinsurgent Anthropological Theory: or, by the Time You Are Relying On Counterinsurgency you’ve Already Lost

Dustin Wax, Women’s Studies, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: Are We Ready Yet for Action Anthropology?

3:45 PM – 5:30 PM

Uses and Abuses of Social Sciences: Disciplines of and for What? Part II
(Stuart Hall, Room 102)
Chair: Bruce Lincoln, Divinity School, University of Chicago

Catherine Lutz, Department of Anthropology and the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University: Anthropology of and Anthropology for the Military

Robert Vitalis, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania: The Noble Science of Imperial Administration and its Laws of Race Development

Manan Ahmed, Department of History, University of Chicago: Locating Pakistan in South Asian Studies: A View from the US Academy

Hugh Gusterson, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University: Military Uses and Abuses of Anthropology

Saturday, April 25th

Is There a New World Order?

8:30 AM – 10:30 AM

Practices and Projections of American Power
(Haskell Hall, Room 315)
Chair: Amahl Bishara, Department of Anthropology, Tufts University

Greg Beckett, Harper-Schmidt Fellow, University of Chicago: The End(s) of Occupation

Kevin Caffrey, Public Anthropologist in Residence, Department of Anthropology, American University: Events of Fear and Error in Modern ‘Empires’

Andy Graan, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago: “Public” Diplomacy and the Politics of Carrots and Sticks: “International Community” Press Conferences in Post-Conflict Macedonia

Marston Morgan, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago: The Golden Bough at Bretton Woods: Anticipating a Decline and Fall from World Power

10:45 AM – 12:45 PM

Cultures of the Military, Cultures for the Military
(Haskell Hall, Room 315)
Chair: Joe Masco, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Rochelle Davis, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University: Using 1950s Anthropological Concepts of Culture in a 21st Century War

Roberto Gonzalez, Department of Anthropology, San Jose State University: “Tribal Engagement” and American Power

Bea Jauregui, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago: Military Communitas? Re-centering the Citizen-Soldier Interface at the Army Experience Center

Keith Brown, The Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University: Threatening Civilians: Order, Obedience and Otherness in America’s Three-block Wars

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM

Roundtable: Bretton Woods, Bandung and Beyond…What is to be Done?
(Haskell Hall, Room 315)
Chair: Chris Nelson, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina

ABSTRACTS

Day One — Disciplines and Deployments: American Academics and American Power

Orienting Remarks

John Kelly, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Self-Determination and the World of Pax Americana

Emergent Problems in the New American Century

Jeremy Walton, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Good Muslim World, Bad Muslim World

In both his inaugural address and his first interview with a major foreign media institution, al-Arabiyya News, Barack Obama, the 44th American President, forecast a new, amicable relationship between the United States and the ‘Muslim World.’ This presidential address to a vague, religious defined collective subject was clearly meant to signal a change in both foreign policy and more abstract attitude of the new administration and a break from the belligerent actions and words of the Bush Administration. Nonetheless, it was unclear exactly where this ‘Muslim World’ might exist (is it on any known map?) and which subjects it includes and excludes. This paper draws upon Mahmood Mamdani’s hallmark analysis of the manner in which post-Cold World ‘Culture Talk’ essentializes a distinction between ‘Good Muslims’ and ‘Bad Muslims’ in order to interrogate this imagined mass geographical subject, the ‘Muslim World.’ In order to do so, it contrasts Obama’s address to other mass mediated fantasies of Muslims that maintain currency in the contemporary United States, as embodied by the sensationalist DVD Obsession, a demonization of Islam on par with such films as Fitnah and Submission, which was mailed to US voters in swing states before the November 2008 elections. Finally, it incorporates reflections on this ‘Muslim World’ by Turkish Muslim civil society activists from interviews conducted in April of this year.

Anne Harrington, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

U.S. Nuclear Policy and the Fetishism of Force

Framing the debate about U.S. nuclear policy around the question, ‘what are the military requirements of deterrence?’ places force at the center of debate to the exclusion of politics. Complete nuclear disarmament reverses the exclusion by proposing a purely political solution to a problem of regulating the possession and use of military force. Instead, asking about the basis on which a state should form preferences about national security opens up the possibility of new policy alternatives by shifting the focus of debate to the political processes through which military force is conceptualized and defined. In this paper I develop a theory of nuclear fetishism. I argue that the power of nuclear weapons appears to be a natural feature of the physical object we refer to as a ‘nuclear weapon,’ but that power is actually produced through the structured interaction of states as codified in international law. By identifying nuclear weapons as fetish objects it becomes possible to explain the profound paradoxes of nuclear power, enabling us to imagine policy alternatives that escape the dialectic of disarmament or deterrence.

Matthew Sparke, Department of Geography, University of Washington

From Bombs to Bonds to Vaccine Bonds: Bad Geographies of Global Health in the New American Century

This paper seeks to highlight how even in its decline American power remains bound-up with forms of neoliberal governmentality that seek both to manage populations through the market and at the same time explain away, externalize and target for intervention resistant populations as market misfits in need of regime change. Geography, particularly in the form of environmentally determinist geographical diagnoses of poverty, is in this regard playing an important role in explaining, targeting, and, most of all, blaming poor peripheries for their affliction. At one level these neoliberal geographies of blame are nothing new. They fit the model of American century casuistry about the need for development and modernization in line with American norms of free-market capitalism. But now in the not really ‘new American’ twenty-first century, the decline of US governmental dominance has coincided with a heightened tendency to deny long term linkages with peripheral places and blame them and their own people for their suffering. Tellingly, this tendency is most pronounced in the new non-governmental forms of philanthropic and foundation-based intervention that focus on global health and microfinance as major fields of action. Led by academic celebrities such as Jeffrey Sachs, these new biopolitical interventions map the fields of their micrological actions and target areas for treatment in ways that rework old ideas about environmental determinism. They obscure global histories of exploitation at the very same time as they focus in on geomorphology, weather patterns and access to the sea as explanations of suffering. By contrast critical geographies of American geopolitics enable us to track the new norms of territorial treatment through health initiatives and microfinance as a series of donorgraphic screen allegories that foreclose an analysis of American dominance even as they index its decline.

Reconceptualizing the Question: Intervention Strategies

Roger Myerson, Department of Economics, University of Chicago

A Field Manual for the Cradle of Civilization

Marshall Sahlins, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

On the Anthropology of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual

Uses and Abuses of Social Sciences: Disciplines of and for What? Part I

Kurt Jacobsen, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

American Power and The New Mandarins Redux: Hegemony, Orthodoxy and International Relations Studies

Forty years ago Noam Chomsky published American Power and The New Mandarins, a landmark essay collection containing virtually all the controversial critical themes he elaborated ever since. Apart from demolishing rationales for the Vietnam war, and its conduct, the book criticized the pliant way that the American academy processes and construes superpower politics for itself and for the wider public (which is viewed with Lippmanesque distrust, if not distaste).

Nonetheless, some ‘new Mandarins’ – not to mention their acolytes – named as such at the time are still active and influential. Despite his reputation abroad as one of America’s leading intellectuals, Chomsky remains a pariah in the American discipline of international relations to this day. Why? And what does this exclusion tell us?

David Price, Department of Anthropology, St. Martin’s University

On the Impossibilities of Counterinsurgent Anthropological Theory: or, by the Time You Are Relying On Counterinsurgency you’ve Already Lost

Setting aside the political and ethical questions of using anthropological methods and theories for counterinsurgency operations, this paper considers how historical and contemporary conceptions of how counterinsurgency operations are imagined to work within the context of the universe of anthropological theory. While no single strain of anthropological theory provides a basis for the COIN programs developed and deployed today and in the past, the contradictorily eclectic range of latent and manifest theoretical assumptions and claims about how culture works informs us not only of poor intellectual base underlying these efforts, but of the impossibility of counterinsurgency programs ever working in the ways they are being sold to the military. While the composite theories of culture found in counterinsurgency manuals and counterinsurgent anthropologists’ writings make extraordinary promises of cultural engineering, these composite theories ignores the reality that by the time a military has converted a “liberated” population into an occupied enemy and is relying on counterinsurgency for victory, it has already lost.

Dustin Wax, Women’s Studies, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Are We Ready Yet for Action Anthropology?

The world is clamoring for a more relevant anthropology. Programs like the Army’s Human Terrain System and proposals like the Pentagon’s Minerva Project seem to equate “relevance” with furthering the aims of the state, and supporters of those programs lament anthropologsts’ willingness to “withdraw from the world”. But is helping apply government and military policy the only avenue for relevance in today’s world? In the 1950’s, Sol Tax and several of his students proposed a model for anthropological action that developed from the ground-up, instead of applying policy from the top down. Despite several efforts to revive “action anthropology” over the ensuing decades, it has never really gained traction in the anthropological community. Is “action anthropology” up to the task of dealing with large-scale global problems like transnational terrorism, global corporate power, or widespread poverty, disease, and environmental degradation?

Uses and Abuses of Social Sciences: Disciplines of and for What? Part II

Cathy Lutz, Department of Anthropology and the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

Anthropology of and Anthropology for the Military

Anthropologists are increasingly called on to work within and for military institutions in the United States. The entanglement of anthropological knowledge and military power should be set in context of the monumental growth and size and the imperial deployment of the US military. There has been a striking absence of work in anthropology around the question of US military power during the six decades of its permanent mobilization. This paper distinguishes between an anthropology of and an anthropology for the military, and proposes research foci that might help our discipline understand militarization, its effects, and the routes to its reversal.

Robert Vitalis, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

The Noble Science of Imperial Administration and its Laws of Race Development

This paper interrogates disciplinary or professional “self-knowledge” production in the social sciences in the United States. I use political science as a case study to explore the limits of the contemporary social sciences’ imaginary of a position outside culture from which to observe the social world. As I show, the interdisciplinary fields of international relations and development studies first emerged in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century as scholars turned to solve the problems that they believed racial differences posed for the efficient rule by whites over “semi civilized peoples.” The discipline’s leaders defined their mission at the time of the founding of the American Political Science Association in 1903 as advancing new policy relevant knowledge for imperial administration and social uplift of subject races.

Scholars who wrote the first articles, papers, treatises, and textbooks in international relations all saw the “Negro problem” in the South as something to be included within the new interdisciplinary field of study. Political scientists theorizing about race development imagined two fundamentally different logics and processes at work, and thus different rules that were to be applied, across the boundary dividing Anglo-Saxons or Teutons and the inferior races found in Indian Territory, New Mexico, the Philippines, the Caribbean, Africa, and Oceania. Here was political science’s original and signal contribution to the theory and practice of hierarchy, a theory that W. E. B. Du Bois and the handful of black political scientists who followed him challenged in his continuing arguments about the global color line.

Manan Ahmed, Department of History, University of Chicago

Locating Pakistan in South Asian Studies: A View from the US Academy

This paper will provide a brief overview of scholarship on Pakistan produced within the US Academy from 1955-2005. Taking the Area Studies paradigm as the locus, I will examine the ways in which Pakistan has remained modernity’s other – whether during the stolid Cold War era or the tumultuous War on Terror. The “construction” of Pakistan within the Security or Developmental Studies paradigms as a “failed state” is now a hegemonic account that offers no relief. I will showcase the ways in which this construction was aided by US governments throughout the 50 year period and how it continues to inform the forthcoming policies of the Obama administration.

Hugh Gusterson, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University

Military Uses and Abuses of Anthropology

The debate over Human Terrain teams is the most extreme instance of an array of conflicts over the degree to which social science should be instrumentalized on behalf of the military. We see the same underlying issues in debates about Project Minerva, PRISP and the new corporate anthropology. Focusing in particular on Human Terrain Teams, this paper identifies ways in which anthropological entrepreneurs of militarization exaggerate the practical leveragibility of anthropological knowledge and analyzes the reasons — bureaucratic and intellectual –for the Human Terrain System’s failure. Anthropological boosters and critics of the Human Terrain teams were both caught up by this frame of applied leveragibility. The paper concludes by reflecting on the stunted representations of professional and political ethics used to legitimate this endeavor.

Day Two — Is There a New World Order?

Practices and Projections of American Power

Greg Beckett, Harper-Schmidt Fellow, University of Chicago

The End(s) of Occupation

This paper considers the problem of withdrawal from the perspective of the US military occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). In its first four years, the occupation provoked an armed insurrection. In the wake of the “pacification” of these “bandits,” the US mission was increasingly criticized by both Haitians and Americans, many of whom decried this new form of “imperialism” and called for its rapid end. By the 1920s, there were a number of fact-finding missions and assessments, including a Senate investigation, focused on the causes and nature of the occupation, the claims of abuses of military power, and the possibility of withdrawal. Still, the occupation far-outlived these criticisms, and dragged on well past the time-frame established by the initial treaties that legitimized it. Why did it last so long? How did it end, and how was the end of the occupation conceived and implemented? In this paper, I argue that any adequate understanding of the formal end of the occupation must proceed from a historical and theoretical discussion of the imagined and stated ends – that is, goals – of the occupation itself. In this sense, I propose to consider the problem of withdrawal by thinking of the particular nature of US military occupations. I argue that the occupation of Haiti – and in a similar sense that of Iraq today – was explicitly framed as a moral mission. As such, the occupation had only vague goals – to protect property, institute free markets, uphold democracy, restore order – thus making it difficult to evaluate whether such goals had been met or to conceive of an end to the occupation on pragmatic grounds. This tension between the ends of occupations, conceived of as matters of value, and the formal withdrawal or conclusion of such missions, enacted as matters of fact, lies at the heart of both the problematic nature of the end of formal US military presence in myriad contexts and the frequent misapprehension of US missions as “imperial” or “colonial” formations.

Kevin Caffrey, Independent Researcher

Events of Fear and Error in Modern ‘Empires’

Our task is “Reconsidering American Power,” with an eye towards shedding critical light on the future of the relationship between American power and the social sciences more generally. I am less concerned with exploring new practices of knowledge production that might better outline political and moral horizons of American power than I am with pointing out that the techniques and methods of inquiry we already have in our scholarly toolkits would serve our needs well if we actually used them. The cases I am going to contrast will, in keeping with our interest in understanding Washington’s forward deployment in the world, address questions regarding local realizations of American influence. A chance event involving an unnamed anthropologist conducting fieldwork on the southwestern Chinese frontier, and another chance event involving a by now named taxi driver in an Afghan militarized zone, are here juxtaposed for the purposes of inquiry into motivations, fears, structures, and choices made at the point of exercising political control in the current world order of massive socio-political variation dominated by the nation form and its components. Both events involved the exercise of state authority involving arrest and some manner of “debriefing,” though only one ended well. The Chinese empire-turned-nation-state (with international designs of imperial flavor that can only be called “Chinese characteristics”) and the American nation-state-turned-empire (currently the sole superpower, but with delusions of permanency) expose some of their strengths and failings in these events. Though the occurrences are neither conjunctural nor particularly significant in weight, their incremental addition to what must be the multitude of like-minded practices makes them something like capillary events in a circulatory system of political life in today’s imperium form. The devil of exercised power in this case, however, is in the details of fear and error, and only the accumulated meaning to these many capillary events will be able to generate a prognosis—coping, healing, and continued life; or acute political cardiac arrest.

Andy Graan, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

‘Public’ Diplomacy and the Politics of Carrots and Sticks: ‘International Community’ Press Conferences in Post-Conflict Macedonia

Unlike more-discussed forms of direct military intervention or direct foreign political administration, post-conflict Macedonia experienced an intervention of another sort: a foreign incursion into the public sphere. Via press conferences, speeches and published interviews, so-called “representatives of the international community”—most often diplomats and officials from the European Union or the United States—saturated the Macedonian public sphere with value-laden and politically instrumental “evaluations” of Macedonia’s political maturity and prescriptive “expectations” for its future. This paper examines how the “indirect intervention” of international powers in post-conflict Macedonia reverberated through consequential public discourses in the country and bore upon local forms of political engagement. Focusing on a relic of diplomacy from Macedonia’s 2001 conflict—the bi-weekly, joint press conference of the embassies of the EU, NATO and the OSCE—I explore how the semiotics of indirection that informed internationals’ mass-mediated remarks on Macedonian politics culminated in a subtle, but powerful, form of censoring political language in Macedonia.

Marston Morgan, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

The Golden Bough at Bretton Woods: Anticipating a Decline and Fall from World Power

This paper takes its opening from an economic conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944 which was perhaps the most poignant instance when the United States firmly grasped something akin to Frazer’s golden bough, giving this newcomer to the world stage the standing to defeat British global hegemony, and take its place to reign supreme over the Free World in the era of Pax Americana.

Before the war British administrators seemed to have a long-held obsession with Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a story which served as precedent and prescription and cautionary tale. In thesis, Britain could endure forever if it avoided the patent errors of the Romans. However, Gibbons was no use for anticipating how Britain would be succeeded by a younger and stronger American candidate to the high priesthood of world economic order.

How then does Bretton Woods and the British example help us re-think American power today? I argue that it places contemporary statements about American power in a critical light, particularly statements which come out of disciplines and academic think-tanks closely tied to the policy side of American Power (for instance Comparative Politics, International Relations, and the Hoover Institute). I argue that although this academic work may be no more useful than Gibbon’s to anticipate the shape of future change, it does however offer us a picture of the self conceptualizations and depictions of this power by the academics who are the most closely involved in it.

The post-war U.S. discipline of Comparative Politics was meant to examine the world of Pax Americana by explicitly approaching the rest of the world with that America has it hands on a patent truth, of which the rest of the world would eventually awaken. Nothing could genuinely challenge American values of free markets, democracy, and liberty—except for communism. The fall of the U.S.S.R. lead Francis Fukuyama to propose with all sincere belief in 1989 that we might have reached the end of history.

The transcendental quality posited for American power by some U.S. academics is decidedly un-anthropological. While Frazer’s work can be derided for many reason, the analytic value of assuming that all hegemonic systems will eventually fall remains a valuable perspective. Bretton Woods does serve as precedent for how American hegemonic power might be challenged, although the more recent fall from grace of Milton Friedman’s economic agendas seems a more relevant lesson for academics of the value of segregating their modes of empirical analysis from their politics.

Cultures of the Military, Cultures for the Military

Rochelle Davis, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Using 1950s Anthropological Concepts of Culture in a 21st Century War

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the continuing occupation have resulted in unprecedented levels of contact between Americans and Middle Easterners. This contact, albeit unidirectionally coercive, has altered US military and government policy interests in “the hearts and minds” of Iraqis, and has spurred on the acquisition of knowledge and training about Iraqi culture and society. This paper explores the concept of culture that has been developed in the military,which is based on the national character studies that typified the culture research and cultural anthropology of the 1940s and 1950s. These frameworks of national character allow us to interpret behavior (paraphrasing James Scott) not as products of current contexts and “the exercise of arbitrary power” or of historical situations, but to the inherent characteristics of a national group. By exploring both the generalizations and realizations that American soldiers have developed through their various interactions with Iraqis and through comparative analysis of US military handbooks and training manuals on Iraq, this paper reflects on the circulation of “culture” as a form of knowledge and the contradictions and pretenses of being “culturally sensitive,” while simultaneously occupying a country.

Roberto Gonzalez, Department of Anthropology, San Jose State University

“Tribal Engagement” and American Power

The concept of the “tribe” has captured the imagination of US military planners, even as most contemporary anthropologists avoid using the term. The military’s interest in “tribal engagement” stems in part from events in Iraq’s al-Anbar province, where the US military has co-opted Sunni “tribal” leaders. Some social scientists have capitalized on these developments by doing contract work for the Pentagon specifically geared towards understanding and enlisting “tribal” peoples. For example, the influential Iraq Tribal Study—a report prepared by a private company consisting of anthropologists and political scientists among others—bluntly suggests employing colonial techniques (such as divide-and-conquer) for tightening social control in western Iraq. It also advocates bribing local leaders, a method that has become part of the US military’s counterinsurgency tactics. In recent months, American and British commanders have begun extending “tribal engagement” strategies to the Afghan war, even though critics suggest that such measures are likely to increase violence in Iraq and Afghanistan over the long run. This paper will give a contextual analysis of “tribal engagement” in the past and present, with a particular focus on the role of social scientists’ influence in this process.

Bea Jauregui, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Military Communitas? Re-centering the Citizen-Soldier Interface at the Army Experience Center

August 2008 witnessed the grand opening of the Army Experience Center (AEC), an experimental site intended both to “dispel myths” about the US military through public relations and community outreach, and to evaluate innovative marketing and recruiting strategies. Staffed by serving or prior US Army personnel, who wear uniforms of polo shirts and khaki pants, the AEC provides visitors with a chance to talk to soldiers about their individual experiences and, of their own initiative, to inquire about potentially joining the service if they are interested. The unique 14,500 square foot “virtual education facility” is located at the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia, and equipped with video games; simulators of battle experiences in scale-model military vehicles, like the AH-64 Apache helicopter; and a variety of interactive technologies that allow for exploration of Army career opportunities. It also plays host to events like video game tournaments and high school class trips, and to a program that helps persons attain their high school diploma–all without any obligation by participants to join the Army. Opponents of the AEC protest that this pilot program is nothing but a devious and insidious attempt to “sucker” young people into signing up for the military by “glorifying killing” as a fun set of games. AEC staff and PR representatives vehemently deny these allegations, and argue that the program’s goal is not only, or even primarily, to increase recruitment numbers, but is “more about changing perceptions” by the public of military life and functioning. Participant-observation of social interactions in this uncommon gathering place reveals not only a sincerity to this denial, but also a “truth” that goes beyond a simple claim that the AEC aims to change perceptions and improve the Army’s public image. In fact, what appears to be happening is nothing short of a restructuring of the citizen-soldier relationship–and, potentially, of conceptions of the military’s social and political roles in American society–through a creative exercise in building a sense of community and common cause. An ethnographic analysis of activities at the AEC demonstrates how this new kind of social space contributes to the re-presenting, re-producing, re-imagining and re-ordering of practiced ideologies of the American military industrial complex, and of global dominance by the US more generally.

Keith Brown, The Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

Threatening Civilians: Order, Obedience and Otherness in America’s Three-block Wars

The U.S. military has over a century of experience in so-called “irregular” warfare, dating from the nineteenth-century Indian wars, through the invasion of the Philippines, through the post-colonial experience of counter-insurgency in the 1960s, and the post-Cold War “intervasions” in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. In 1999, Marine Commandant Krulak drew from the Somalia experience to introduce the concept of the “three-block war” to describe the highly ambiguous, fluid and contested urban encounters in which the U.S. military now often operates. Junior military personnel, or “strategic corporals,” must quickly distinguish between allies, enemies and bystanders, while also recognizing that their own actions create and populate those categories. Although Krulak’s piece circulates widely in military intellectual circles, its theoretical significance has not been fully explored (in connection, for example, with discussions of interpellation, obedience and authority, or fractal logic): nor has it been revisited in the light of the significant body of first-hand memoir material from “strategic corporals” themselves in Iraq. This paper seeks to bring these literatures into dialogue with Krulak’s article and the discussion it has engendered, focusing in particular on U.S.-Iraqi, military-civilian encounters at roadblocks.

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