Anthropologists go to war

The use of social scientists in the Army’s Human Terrain Teams has sparked intense controversy among anthropologists.  Here are some of the major articles in the debate.

Please send links for anything not listed to fabmaximus at hotmail dot com {this is the spam-protected form of the address, to fool bots}.


  1. Recent volleys
  2. Anthropologists go to war — key articles in the debate
  3. The battle of the anthropologists about anthropologists role in the Long War
  4. Articles by and about Ann Marlowe, the Human Terrain System, and the Afghanistan War
  5. Other sources of information about HTT and HTS

I.  Recent volleys

  1. Commission of the American Anthropological Association Releases Final Report on Army Human Terrain System, 8 December 2009

II.  Anthropologists go to war — key articles in the debate

  1. The Human Terrain of Urban Operations“, Ralph Peters, Parameters, Spring 2000 — A breakthrough work in 4GW art and theory!
  2. Present Dangers, Past Wars, Future Anthropologies“, David H. Price, Anthropology Today, February 2002
  3. Lessons from Second World War Anthropology: Peripheral, Persuasive, and Ignored Contributions” David H. Price, Anthropology Today, June 2002
  4. The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture“, Montgomery McFate,  Joint Force Quarterly, July 2005
  5. An Organizational Solution for DOD’s Cultural Knowledge Needs“, Montgomery McFate and Andrea Jackson, Military Review, July-August 2005
  6. On the Uses of Cultural Knowledge“, Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Strategic Studies Institute, November 2007

III.  The battle of the anthropologists about anthropologists role in the Long War

  1. Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones“, New York Times, 5 October 2007 — a summary of the conflict
  2. We Must Fight the Militarization of Anthropology“, Roberto J. Gonzalez, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2 February 2007
  3. Towards Mercenary Anthropology? US Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 and the Military-Anthropology Complex“, Roberto J. González, Anthropology Today, June 2007
  4. Anthropologists and War: A response to David Kilcullen“, Hugh Gusterson, Anthropology Today, August 2007
  5. When Anthropologists Become Counter-Insurgents“, By Roberto J. Gonzalez and David H. Price, Counterpunch, 28 September 2007
  6. Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus’s Counterinsurgency Manual“, David Price, Counterpunch, 30 October 2007
  7. Reply to Price:  “Desperate People with Limited Skills“, John Nagl, SWC, 1 November 2007
  8. Army’s Response to Counterpunch article by Price, Major Tom McCuin, 1 November 2007
  9. Counter-reply:  “Refuting Colonel John Nagl“, David Price, Counterpunch, 3 November 2007
  10. Human Terrain: Past, Present and Future Applications“, Roberto J. González,  Anthropology Today, February 2008
  11. 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.”
  12. “HTS and Newsweek”, Dr. Montgomery McFate, Small Wars Journal, 17 April 2008 — Her major objections are lost amidst the trivial, giving an overall impression of “ankle-biting.”
  13. Human quicksand for the U.S. Army, a crash course in cultural studies, Steve Featherstone, Harper’s, September 2008 — First person accounts, not much depth.
  14. Excerpts of articles in Anthropology Today by the debate’s major figures (Roberto Gonzales, Montgomery Fate, and Kilcullen)
  15. A complete Archive of links to debate about role of anthropologists in war (most of these are subscription-only  from Anthropology Today).

IV.  Articles about the Human Terrain System

  1. The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century“, Jacob Kipp et al, Military Review, September-October 2006
  2. Anthropology Goes to War“, Ann Marlowe, The Weekly Standard, 26 November 2007 — “There are some things the Army needs in Afghanistan, but more academics are not at the top of the list.”
  3. Is the Human Terrain System Worth Its Spit?“, Joshua Foust, posted at, 18 November 2007
  4. On Anthropology Goes to War“, Dave Dileffe, posted at the Small Wars Journal, 20 November 2007
  5. A (Brief) Dialog With Ann Marlowe“, Joshua Foust, posted at, 20 November 2007
  6. Two Myths About Afghanistan“, Ann Marlowe, op-ed at the Washington Post, 11 February 2008
  7.  “Ann Marlowe Thinks Afghanistan Is Doing Awesome“, Joshua Foust, posted at, 11 February 2008
  8. Human Terrain Mapping: A Critical First Step to Winning the COIN Fight“, Jack Marr (Lieutenant Colonel, US Army) et al, Military Review, March-April 2008
  9. All Our Eggs in a Broken Basket: How the Human Terrain System is Undermining Sustainable Military Cultural Competence“, Ben Connable (Major, USMC), Military Review, March-April 2009
  10. The Press and Human Terrain Systems – Counterinsurgency’s Free Ride“, David Price (Assoc Prof Anthropology and Sociology at St. Martin’s U, in Lacey, WA), Counterpunch, 7 April 2009
  11. Rough Terrain“, Washington Post, 30 August 2009 — “Under an experimental program in Afghanistan, teams of anthropologists and social scientists are working alongside soldiers to help win the war by winning over the Afghan people. It may seem like a brilliant idea. But in this battle, nothing is as it seems.”
  12. Human Terrain Teams“, Christian Caryl, Foreign Policy, 8 September 2009 — “It sounded like a good idea: Swarms of social scientists would help U.S. troops better understand local customs and avoid cultural mishaps. But is the program creating more problems than it solves?”
  13. House Armed Services Committee Assessment Of The Human Terrain System“, Marc Tyrrell, Small Wars Journal, 30 September 2009
  14. After Setbacks, Human Terrain System Rebuilds“, David Axe (journalist), World Politics Revew, 25 November 2009
  15. Human Terrain Systems Dissenter Resigns, Tells Inside Story of Training’s Heart of Darkness“,  David Price (Assoc Prof Anthropology and Sociology at St. Martin’s U, in Lacey, WA), Counterpunch, 15 February 2010
  16. John Stanton’s critical articles, posted at Cryptome — He’s written a large body of widely read (if seldom mentioned in the mainstream media) articles about corruption and scandals in the HTS program.

V.  Other Sources of Information

  1. The Essential 4GW reading list: David Kilcullen
  2. The Counterinsurgency Library — a vast listing of online articles about COIN.
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