Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Social Science Made Relevant

On Friday, this article ran on the front page of the New York Times. Front page, above the fold, left corner.

I got around to reading it this morning, time and news both being slow in Louisiana. The article is very well written, and is more or less required reading (the NYT being free online now, this shouldn't be a problem). This is not required reading in the sense of "if you want to understand this blog post, you should read this." Blog posts are ultimately far too trivial to warrant a "required". This is required reading in the sense of "if you are a decent human being, you will read this." My criterions for being a decent person are rather biased, but read this. I'll give you plenty of time.

Good, good, keep going.

Okay. I'll assume you're done now.

This is the most brilliant military innovation since, well, diplomats, far as I am concerned.

We have here a fusion of academia and its flaunted understanding, and the military with its desire to act. Taken independently, we'll get books critiquing what should be done from people who are removed from the situation, and we'll get get soldiers acting without any connection to these enlightened policies churned out by intellectuals.

With deployment alongside the military, cultural anthropologists can augment the military with a whole array of capabilities that have little to do with winning battles, but have everything to do with maintaining order. The best evidence that this is a good idea? Since February, the 82nd airborne (to which anthropologists are deployed) has reduced combat operations by 60%.

This is huge.



For an entirely unrealistic example, this is World War II, with only the European theater, both fronts, but no rest of the world.

60% reduction in combat operations is just plain incredible. That it does so through a program that facilitates discussion, positive tribal interactions with US forces, and the simple premise that things are more complicated than merely shooting can resolve, is incredible. Just plain incredible.

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