January 20, 2014.
Lecture 3 – WAR
Montgomery McFate.Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of their
• What is McFate’s purpose and justification for writing this essay?
o Produce cultural knowledge of the “enemy”; counterinsurgents
• What is “insurgency”?
o Armed rebellion; uprising; of a political and ideological nature
o Against current social order
o “Cool” as opposed to “hot”
o E.g., Vietnam/Viet Cong
o Every super power has something to do with some kind of counterinsurgency
• Two examples of US military ethnocentrism?
o US monitoring Japanese signals during WW2; couldn’t believe Japan would be
so irrational as to attack Pearl Harbour
o India detonating nuclear bombs underground during testing; “Only we do that,
how could they!”
• What is “mirror imaging”?
o Assuming your opponent will act the way you act and trying to predict their next
move based on this
o Key factor of the ethnocentrism in the US military
• What does “nuts and huts” refer to?
o Derogatory term used amongst US military personnel for anthropology or
o Also “tits and spears”
o Used at Westpoint, one of the most prestigious military academies in the USA
• What is the National Security Council?
o She mentions anthropologists having no sway with the NSC, but they should
o Consists of a few dozen people; one of the most “important” systems in US
o The elite of the elite in military and politics
o The council that takes over if war or crisis breaks out so that there is no order; no
acting president or cohesive government
o CFR: council of/on? foreign relations; first step to NSC
o Both councils set major policy
• What is the Powell-Weinberger doctrine?
o To stick to asymmetrical warfare; overwhelming military power to combat
opponents; only engage in warfare where the US will be the clear winner
o No more “unconventional” wars; after massive failure in Vietnam
o Anthropology could have a softening effect on this idea
• What is the problem with the US military code?
o Revised during the Cold War era and constructed for that kind of expected war i.e., Powers of “European heritage” going against each other/fighting in
similar ways; culturally similar
• The US army was not defeated on the battlefield in Vietnam, claimed the US colonel.
Why did the North Vietnamese colonel reply to the US colonel, “That may be so, but it is
also irrelevant”?And why is this the same for Iraq?
• How does the British approach to counterinsurgency differ from the US?
o British approach is based on deep cultural knowledge and intelligence; they dealt
with it in excess both through colonialism as well as in conflicts with Northern
o As little policing and monitoring as possible; get the population to police
themselves through education
• Why is anthropology not involved in US military considerations?
o Military personnel dismiss anthropology because it doesn’t use quantitative
methods; military science is all numbers and quantitative
o Found anthropology muddled and confused and couldn’t understand it
Post-modernist, ULTRAself-reflexive, “retreat into the Ivory Tower”
quality that anthropology took
• What was the role of anthropology in the colonial era?
o Malinowski’s paper Practical Knowledge
o Aiding super powers in understanding the people they were taking control of
In the long run aiding and abetting; but in the short-run possibly helping
mitigate the situation and save lives?
• Who was Sylvanus Morley? What did Franz Boas think of him?
o Recruited by US naval office to spy for them; was working in Mexico and knew
the country in great deal
o During WW1 Germany had worldwide operations and extremely
o Went looking for German submarines in SouthAmerica and didn’t find them but
returned with extreme details about every aspect of the places he explored
o Boas was completely against any use of anthropology for military purposes
Morley was very anglo, US born and raised? Whereas Boas was a Jewish
immigrant to Germany; in touch with the marginalized? Probably had
something to do with their opposing viewpoints.
• What were the military connections of the following anthropologists?
o Carleton Coon
American anthropologist immersed in all four “units” of anthro
Wrote lots of books
Worked mainly in NorthAfrica (Morocco, Nigeria, etc.)
By the time of WW2 he was leading teams of “insurgents”; bombing
German military operations?
o Tom Harrison
Worked in Bornea with guerilla fighters Insurgent during WW2 fighting Nazis and Fascists
o Cora Du Bois
Recruited by Office of War Information to organize resistance in Southeast
o Gregory Bateson
Son of William Bateson; prestigious scientific family
Operating in Burma
Rescue missions in enemy territory; producing anti-Jap