The question of the debate on the uses of anthropology by the military, it is also a  question about the ethics of scientific and academic  practice towards other human beings.

If I want to  do studies in education or other fields of  study involving human subjects I  had to follow certain guidelines on human research subjects base on ethical principles. Among those principles it is the one that states the need to  protect those human subjects from harm.

Thus, the use of anthropologist as part of military operations is highly problematic.

From  The Chronicle, November 30:

During two packed sessions at the annual conference of the American Anthropological Association on Thursday afternoon, scholars continued to debate the ethical rules that should constrain anthropologists’ work with military, intelligence, and national-security agencies.

The sessions came a day after a special committee of the association released a lengthy report on the topic (The Chronicle, November 29).

The report emphasizes two central principles: Anthropologists should be open and transparent in their work, and they should not harm the people they study. Unsurprisingly, no one at Thursday’s sessions objected to such broadly stated principles—but there was plenty of disagreement about how to put them into practice.

Some of the discussion concerned the Human Terrain System, a year-old program in which social scientists embed within military units in Iraq and Afghanistan. No participants in that program, however, were present at either session[….]

Most members of the audience had apparently not had time to read the committee’s report. But one scholar raised a criticism: Daniel A. Segal, a professor of anthropology at Pitzer College and the association’s secretary, suggested that the report’s authors were too quick to infer that no anthropologists were doing certain kinds of ethically dubious military activity, simply because the authors were unable to find any such anthropologists.

“I’m concerned about how you’re interpreting these absences,” said Mr. Segal, “given that we have an administration that never acknowledged prisons that it’s running in other countries. … It seems to me that when we don’t find something in this context, to interpret it as not being there, as opposed to our not knowing whether it’s there, is a mistake.”

[Read full]

This article at the Military review seems to point out that anthropology  , once more, be used as an instrument of domination, part of intelligence gathering of the military, rather than a ethical discipline of study:

Once called “the handmaiden of colonialism,” anthropology has had a long, fruitful relationship with various elements of national power, which ended suddenly following the Vietnam War. The strange story of anthropology’s birth as a warfighting discipline, and its sudden plunge into the abyss of postmodernism, is intertwined with the U.S. failure in Vietnam. The curious and conspicuous lack of anthropology in the national-security arena since the Vietnam War has had grave consequences for countering the insurgency in Iraq, particularly because political policy and military operations based on partial and incomplete cultural knowledge are often worse than none at all.  [read full]

It is anthropology coming back to be the “handmaiden of colonialism”?

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