Anthropologists and the Human Terrain System

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  1. Ethics is the least of the problems of HTS. Aside from being a multimillion dollar white elephant without a shred of evidence that it does what it purports to do, it is poorly managed, wracked by internal strife, and far too expensive to justify the mediocre research results it produces. To its credit, HTS has a core of hard-working, intelligent, dedicated legitimate social scientists, who would do well in any environment. On the other hand, HTS has more than its share of unqualified, untrained oxygen thieves, who manage to elude scrutiny by saying the right things and looking busy. If you want to induce a coma in the latter, just ask them to show you what they’ve actually done to deserve such an obscene salary. Calling them social scientists after a few weeks of God-awful training, doesn’t make them such, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. The only way HTS can redeem itself, is to allow its training to be supervised and delivered by real Cultural Anthropologists and Sociologists, who have experience in data collection and research methods, instead of an ad hoc mixture of Political Scientists and History majors without a single research project to their credit, and who spent all of their time in air-conditioned comfort on a Forward Operating Base answering phones and collecting overtime. US Brigade Combat Team Commanders would be better served with more linguists and regional or local subject matter experts, trained to work with local populations and collect relevant sociocultural information.

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