Skip to content

“To wage war, become an anthropologist”

30 May, 2008

Brian McKenna writes in CounterPunch that he wants to work for the Army War College. Here’s an excerpt:

“To wage war, become an anthropologist.” That’s the opening line from a 2007 article in the U.S. Army War College journal “Parameters.” The feature, by Oxford educated historian Patrick Porter, says, “from the academy to the Pentagon, fresh attention is being focused on knowing the enemy.”

Today anthropologists are busy at work for the CIA and Pentagon…. I agree with the idea that “to wage war, become an anthropologist.” The trouble is that it turns out that we are on different sides of the war. “Human Terrain” anthropologists are with imperialism. I’m with Gramsci. …

McKenna goes on to outline a 10-day curriculum for soldiers. For example:

Day 3: NACIREMA: Discussion Where is this? What is capitalism? Discussion of Marx’s labor theory of value.

Day 6: How to keep from Dying: Are you safe? Discussion of April 17, 2008 RAND report which details 101,000 U.S. casualties a year. See “Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery.” Other Readings: Grand Theft Pentagon: How they made a Killing on the war on Terrorism.

Day 4 is a fieldtrip to the US Veteran’s administration hospital; Day 7 includes discussion of the Geneva Convention. Read the rest at

–L.L. Wynn

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 May, 2008 1:50 pm

    Thanks for posting this article Lisa. It is, of course, hilarious to imagine soldiers sitting down to discuss Marx and Gramsci — to get an education that cuts through ideology and allows them to make an informed choice about what they are doing — rather than the versions of “cultural competence” training that you can imagine the military would actually allow.


  1. snippets of media, anthropology, design, culture and politics.
  2. More Publications on Anthropology & Counterinsurgency « OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: