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On “tribes” and bribes

“Iraq tribal study,” al-Anbar's awakening, and social science

Roberto J. González

The concept of the “tribe” has captured the imagination of military planners, who have been inspired partly by social scientists. Interest in tribes stems from events in Iraq's al-Anbar province, where the US military has co-opted Sunni “tribal” leaders. Some social scientists have capitalized on these developments by doing contract work for the Pentagon. For example, the “Iraq tribal study”—prepared by a private company consisting of anthropologists and political scientists among others—suggests employing colonial-era techniques (such as divide and conquer) for social control. It also advocates bribing local leaders, a method that has become part of the US military's pacification strategy. Such imperial policing techniques are likely to aggravate armed conflict between and among ethnic groups and religious sects. Observers report that the US strategy is creating a dangerous situation resembling the Lebanese civil war, raising ethical questions about social scientists' involvement in these processes.

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Looking Out from the Tent

Internal Social Research at the IDF

Yehudith Sher and Hadass Ben-Eliyahu

In this article we investigate the unique position of intra-military social research units in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). These units, associated with the IDF's Behavioral Sciences Department, have conducted social research on a vast range of topics for more than five decades. By analyzing developments in the studies on reserve service over the years, we have identified three phases of research. Each phase reflects changes in research questions, theoretical concepts, and definitions of issues to be explored. According to our analysis, researches conducted during the first two phases have similar characteristics and derive from the same theoretical discipline and research paradigm. It is mainly during the third phase that theoretical and paradigmatic changes are evident. The researches carried out in this most recent phase are rooted in critical episte- mology, which enables us to discuss the implications of critical intra-social research within the military and in comparison to the academic world.

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Scientists in Time of War

World War II, the Cold War, and Science in the United States and France

Dominique Pestre

Before addressing its central concern—the convergence of science, war, institutions, and politics in the postwar period in France and the United States—, this essay evokes how scientific knowledge had been of importance to warfare and economic elites in the preceding centuries. In the 1940s and 1950s, scientific activities were profoundly redefined. A culture of laboratory solutions, of calculus, and management won the day. For the scientists, that meant versatility and a willingness to work between disciplines and métiers and to confront the nation's main concerns. It also led to increasingly technocratic versions of politics. Due to science, the state became a managerial apparatus, a "modernizer" arbitrating among different scenarios. Contrary to what happened in the United States, science was not center stage in France in the 1940s and early 1950s. The habitus of scientists was that of the prewar period, and they were still not technique-oriented. They had a more cultural definition of their trade and were not opportunists whose aim was to become pragmatically efficient in the world of business and military action. From the mid-1950s, things started to evolve due to a strong economic recovery and because French scientists had now caught up with the latest developments. The final break, however, occurred in France only when de Gaulle abandoned the Algerian war and elected for an autonomous nuclear deterrence system. By putting la stratégie de l'arsenal at the core of national development, de Gaulle significantly transformed French science, society, industry, and the military.

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How to Scale Factional Divisions in Conflict Situations

Finding Perpetrators and Switchboard Operators in Post-Authoritarian Argentina

Antonius C.G.M. Robben

In conducting fieldwork among perpetrators of state violence, it is a major methodological problem to gain access to competing factions within the research population. Ethnographers often succeed in finding access to at least one faction but this successful rapport might then immediately close off other factions that mistrust the ethnographer’s politics, intentions, or alleged sympathies. The ethnographic challenge is to find intermediaries or switchboard operators, as they are called in this article, who have established informal channels of communication between hostile factions. Switchboard operators have the following characteristics: discretion, neutrality, lack of formal power, disinterestedness, trustworthiness, and they act as a conduit of communication. This article describes how switchboard operators were located in Argentina, and how they played a crucial role in my fieldwork among a broad spectrum of military perpetrators who had terrorized the Argentine people between 1976 and 1983 with enforced disappearances and state repression.

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Great Expectations

Revisiting Canadian Economic Footprints in Siberia, 1890s–1921

J.L. Black

Canada's interest in Russia's Far East and Siberia has a long history, propelled in the nineteenth century by London's Hudson's Bay Company driving eastward and St. Petersburg's Russian-American Company driving westward. Competition and sometime cooperation led to mutually beneficial projects shaping up in the early 20th century, among them plans to link up the Canadian Pacific Rail and Steamship Line with the Trans-Siberian in a trading complex that would have circumnavigated the world. The Great War, the Russian Revolution, and Civil War, sealed the fate of this grandiose vision. Studies on Western involvement in the Russian Civil War highlight, reasonably, the military dimensions of intervention. Canada sent troops to Siberia as well, but Ottawa's ambition was primarily trade. Using untapped Russian archival material and contemporary Siberian newspaper reports, this article revisits Canada's participation in Russia's postwar conflagration with emphasis on the extent to which expectation of economic gain shaped Canada's official and private presence in Siberia.

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Abraham Mansbach

This article discusses the form in which the “I-We“ relationship is configured in Israel, in terms of its intersection with democracy. It argues that what is usually considered as a sine qua non for a robust democracy, namely, an agonistic tension between the “I,“ that is our individual uniqueness, privacy, and personal liberty, and the “We,“ that is our collective liberty and autonomy, is absent from Israeli society. Moreover, when we examine the distribution, consumption, use, and negotiation of power in the sphere of everyday life in Israel, we find that “the military,“ its discourse, and its practices suffuse precisely those spaces where the social fabric as well as identities are being shaped. The conclusion is that the Israeli society is actually drifting away from democracy in an increasingly oppressive erasure of personal identity claims, as well as of their discourse and praxis.

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Brian C. Rathbun

Germany's behavior during the lead-up to the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003 seemed to confirm that the country is marked by a strategic culture of pacifism and multilateralism. However, a closer look at German actions and pattern of participation in military operations reveals that German pacifism is a myth. There was no cross party consensus on German foreign policy in the 1990s around a principled opposition to the use of force. Even in the early years after the Cold War, the Christian Democrats began very quickly, albeit deliberatively and often secretively, to break down legal and psychological barriers to the deployment of German forces abroad. Pacifism persisted on the left of the political spectrum but gave way following a genuine ideological transformation brought about by the experience of the Yugoslav wars. The nature of Germany's objection to the Iraq invasion, which unlike previous debates did not make ubiquitous references to German history, revealed how much it has changed since the end of the Cold War. Had the election in 2002 gone differently, Germany might even have supported the actions of the U.S. and there would be little talk today of a transatlantic crisis. It is now possible to treat Germany as a "normal" European power.

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Christian Kehrt

A closer look at military pilots promises new insights into processes of automation, changing man-machine relations, and the cultural and political meaning of these experiences. The review of recent scholarship is combined with concrete historical examples. By drawing from the German case between the two world wars, the author discusses how the material and cultural experience of flight can be investigated and which new directions such an approach makes possible.

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Liberal Whispers and Propaganda Fears

The American Jewish Committee and Israel’s Palestinian Minority, 1948–1966

Geoffrey P. Levin

This article examines the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) engagement with Israel regarding the state’s Palestinian-Arab minority. It focuses on the period of military government (1948–1966), when the rights of most Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel were curtailed under military rule. In the mid-1950s, AJC leaders became interested in examining and alleviating the plight of the Arab minority. Rather than publicly confronting Israel, the AJC privately lobbied Israeli officials on the matter and later attempted to educate Israelis about liberalism using ideas more closely associated with its work in America than its human rights advocacy abroad. To understand the AJC’s motives, the article points toward AJC’s domestic civil rights and ‘human relations’ activity, its distinct form of pro-Israel non-Zionism, and its concerns about ‘Arab propaganda’, anti- Semitism, and Jewish-Christian relations in America.

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Shelling from the ivory tower

Project Camelot and the post–World War II operationalization of social science

Philip Y. Kao

This article is a historical examination of several watershed episodes in the militarization of US social science. It off ers an assessment of the actual “science” underpinning such initiatives as Project Camelot, and traces how American anthropology in its reaction to Project Camelot and Cold War studies moved from certain kinds of scientific/knowledge production toward others. By critiquing the intellectual foundations of Project Camelot alongside other examples of action-oriented social science, this article examines the connections between functionalism and the conceptual bias toward social order. What linked development, militarism, and imperialism was a more often than not oversimplified view of human behavior. In order to comprehend how models of development and modernization continue to shape American hegemony, this article scrutinizes a particular history of “military modernity.”