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Another volley in the battle of the anthropologists

18 April 2008

A volley of shots in the battle of the antropologists:

  1. A Gun in One Hand, A Pen in the Other“, Newsweek (12 April 2008) — “The Army is spending millions to hire ‘experts’ to analyze Iraqi society. If only they could find some.”
  2. Dr. Montgomery McFate replies in “HTS and Newsweek”, posted at the Small Wars Journal (17 April 2008).  Abu Muqawama calls this a “smackdown”; Kings of War says she “swatted down” Newseek.

{Note the update at the end of this post}  Dr. McFate has some substantial and legitimate objections to Newsweek’s article, but imo her major objections are lost amidst the trivial ones, giving an overall impression of “ankle-biting.”  One example:

(#6) Social scientists earn “$300,000″ a year – Overstated. This is true only if hazard pay, overtime, and danger pay are included. The base salary is a low six figures.

This is weak. This is not a significant correction.  Also, people earning six figures seldom get overtime pay. This would have been more serious if phrased as “their salary is low six figures, but of course they get extra pay for as appropriate for dangers and hazards.”

For a full account of this battle about the role of social scientists in war, see Anthropologists go to war AND Revolt of the Anthropologists, with links to the major articles on both sides.

Update:  I owe Newsweek an apology

I re-read both articles.  Of Dr. McFate’s 13 “factual errors”, I count…

  • three corrections of biographical details (#3 – 5, which I presume are correct),
  • six corrections on trivial points (e.g., Newsweek said “special forces” instead of “special ops”) — nbrs 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13;
  • two points which seems disputable (#1, as the HTS has been described in various ways by officials in participants; #12 which depends on period one considers);
  • two corrections in which Dr. McFate misunderstands what Newsweek said — nbrs. 2 and 6.

The misunderstandings seem willful for a person of Dr. McFate’s education.  In #2, Newsweek was clearly referring to the social scientists on the team.  #6 is discussed above.  

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please) or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 June 2008 1:17 am

    “her major objections are lost amidst the trivial ones, giving an overall impression of “ankle-biting.” One example:

    (#6) Social scientists earn “$300,000″ a year – Overstated. This is true only if hazard pay, overtime, and danger pay are included. The base salary is a low six figures.”

    Americans have few taboos about sex but many taboos about money. It’s not surprising she sees the difference between 100,000 and 300,000 as significant.

    As for ankle-biting – Americans are litigious. High-social-class Americans usually keep their positions by rules and laws and codicils. It’s not ankle-biting, it’s lawsuit-culture, in my opinion.

    Like

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  1. The Psycho-Pathology of Imperialism: McFated to McFailure « OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY

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