Soldiers, Scholars and Subjects at the Margins of Empire
A candid reassessment of the role of anthropologists in mediating encounters between Western armies and non-Western peoples.
In almost every military intervention in its history, the US has made cultural mistakes that hindered attainment of its policy goals. From the strategic bombing of Vietnam to the accidental burning of the Koran in Afghanistan, it has blundered around with little consideration of local cultural beliefs and for the long-term effects on the host nation’s society. Cultural anthropology—the so-called ‘handmaiden of colonialism’—has historically served as an intellectual bridge between Western powers and local nationals. What light can it shed on the intersection of the US military and foreign societies today?
This book tells the story of anthropologists who worked directly for the military, such as Ursula Graham Bower, the only woman to hold a British combat command during WWII. Each faced challenges including the negative outcomes of exporting Western political models and errors of perception.
Ranging from the British colonial era in Africa to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Military Anthropology illustrates the conceptual, cultural and practical barriers encountered by military organisations operating in societies vastly different from their own.
Introduction: Gerald Hickey and the Dangers Inherent
When Culture Matters Most
Story of the Book
Barriers and Impediments
The Policy Implementation Problem
- Robert Sutherland Rattray and Indirect Rule
The Thorny Problems of Cultural Disjunction
- Ursula Graham Bower and Military Leadership
Gender and Leadership
Military Leadership In Extremis
Cross Cultural In Extremis Military Leadership
- Gregory Bateson and Information Operations
Losing the War of Ideas
Bringing Culture Back into Information Operations
- Tom Harrisson and Unconventional Warfare
Acculturation and Assimilation
Adapting to the Indigenous Way of War
- John Useem and Governance Operations
The Complexities of Governance
- Jomo Kenyatta, Louis Leakey and the Counter-Insurgency System
Fantasy Ideology of Empire
Asymmetry of Cultural Knowledge
The Value of Cultural Knowledge
- Don Marshall and the Strategic Objective
Fuzzy End States
The Complexities of War and Social Change
Conclusion: David Prescott Barrows and the Military Execution of Foreign Policy
Way of War Problem
Exporting Western Models
Social Theory Problem
Errors of Perception
Adaptation (And Its Limits)
Montgomery McFate is Professor at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Formerly, she was the Senior Social Scientist for the US Army’s Human Terrain System. McFate holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, and a JD from Harvard Law School. She is the co-editor of Social Science Goes to War (2015).