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The military-academic complex

By Owen Paine on Wednesday April 8, 2009 05:08 PM

Meet Montgomery McFate.

This improbably-named and improbable-looking creature is America's leading imperial field ethnologist. She's profiled by the exceedingly delightful Davey Price over at Alex's site.

Ever heard of human terrain systems (HTS)? No? I guess you don't get around much more than I do.

HTS, as I gather from Mr Price's piece, "are part of counterinsurgency operations designed to provide military personnel with cultural information that will help inform troop activities in areas of occupation."

That is, a diabolical fusion of boots and mortarboards, both placed firmly on the ground in the same patch of densest darkest insurgent-infested Ethneristan. Want to win hearts and minds? Then obviously you gotta know who yer shootin' through as well as talkin' to.

Eggheads as as embeds -- sociologists, ethnologists, no doubt even cunning linguists and paleo-economists -- and here's where Lady McFate steps forth, according to doc Price at any rate:

"Over the years, Human Terrain’s saleswoman, anthropologist Montgomery McFate, has a adopted a policy of not answering the academic critiques of her many critics regardless of the documentation upon which these critics base their work.

This policy has allowed Dr. McFate to avoid answering some pretty serious questions; questions about her reported involvement in the surveillance of an American gun control group; questions about the unattributed writings of other anthropologists appearing in the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual; questions about why, rather than acknowledging that Human Terrain Teams raise complex ethical issues to be negotiated, she has instead moved forward without even trying to publicly address these issues.

And while this approach works well in the political environment of Washington, D.C., where accountability and memories are short, this is the most non-academic approach imaginable. Academics engage with each other when disputes arise, they answer critiques with data and arguments rather than rely on silence and professionals to spin stories in the press.

Dr. McFate’s position of leaving critiques unanswered appears to have become that of HTS, and a compliant corporate media has followed this lead as it increasingly refuses to report on the problems, corruptions, and complexities of HTS, instead only providing the public with narratives that would have them believe that HTS anthropologists are good caring people trying to lesson harm, while critics are either invisible or portrayed as ivory-tower America-hating kooks."

Comments (7)


Looks like Claude Lévi-Strauss was on to something when he wrote the following about Anthropology:

It is the outcome of a historical process which has made the larger part of mankind subservient to the other. During this process millions of innocent human beings have had their resources plundered and their institutions and beliefs destroyed, whilst they themselves were ruthlessly killed, thrown into bondage, and contaminated by diseases they were unable to resist. Anthropology is daughter to this era of violence.

Those Kids Today:

Nothing new here.

The French used anthropologists as part of their counterinsurgency program in Algeria.

They actually worked pretty well, even though the French eventually got kicked out.

A much more successful use of anthropology as counterinsurgency was used by the Zionists leading up to 1948.

Kind of funny though that you're getting on her case for not answering criticisms from her collegues.

Your all totally cynical about power in Washington but the idea that an academic might not be totally pure and oh noes, your worldview falls apart.

Tee Hee


The person "getting on her case" about criticisms from colleagues was the Counterpunch writer, not OP.

We've actually been pretty severe on what we call the Credentialling Sector here. There's a whole topic with that name, devoted to berating the professoriate.


"Your all totally cynical about power in Washington but the idea that an academic might not be totally pure and oh noes.."

forgive my obscuring of the obvious tkt
by leaving the "tell"
to just the word "delightful"
if you read the piece
u'll see its filled
with an indignation quite becoming
an unspoiled egg head
but not becoming of the likes of gore fisted me
i'm rotten pal
to my crypto mega-statist core

and as far as my head goes
mine's hardly an egg

a pitless peach of a head



great quote

i'm very fond of that old fraud


I like how the anthropologist only wears a single strand of pearls to show she's down, not like those double strand wearing establishment bitches.

With the academic integrity nonsense, I feel like we should have an "office" pool about which Ivy she's going to retire to when she leaves the United States Institute of Peace.


op, Hehe, he managed to outlive fellow frauds such as Althusser and Lacan to be sure. And, like them he could make oracular statements that contained kernels of truth. The particular one I quoted is one of those. It was no coincidence that Cultural Anthropology was founded as an academic specialty in England at high noon of European Imperialism in the 1880s ("Scramble for Africa", Berlin Conference, etc.):


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