Human Terrain System May Be Alive, After All

March 14, 2016

The Human Terrain System was controversial throughout its history -- and that history may still be going on. The program set off intense debates among anthropologists and other social scientists when the U.S. Army in 2005-6 introduced the idea of embedding scholars with military units in Iraq and Afghanistan. The theory was that these scholars would help military leaders understand tribal groups and potentially reduce danger to civilians and the military. But many scholars viewed the program as violating their professional ethics and cheered the news last year that the program had been shut down.

But USA Today reported last week that the program remains alive and that the Army has simply kept it quiet. (The Army isn't talking.)

The news prompted the American Anthropological Association to call for the program to be shut down completely once and for all. "The fact is that when social science research is done at gunpoint, with researchers surrounded by armed combatants, it is coercive, professionally irresponsible and highly unlikely to yield reliable and accurate results," said a statement from the association.

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