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Armed with Expertise

Armed with Expertise: The Militarization of American Social Research during the Cold War

Joy Rohde
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Armed with Expertise
    Book Description:

    During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon launched a controversial counterinsurgency program called the Human Terrain System. The program embedded social scientists within military units to provide commanders with information about the cultures and grievances of local populations. Yet the controversy it inspired was not new. Decades earlier, similar national security concerns brought the Department of Defense and American social scientists together in the search for intellectual weapons that could combat the spread of communism during the Cold War. In Armed with Expertise, Joy Rohde traces the optimistic rise, anguished fall, and surprising rebirth of Cold War-era military-sponsored social research.

    Seeking expert knowledge that would enable the United States to contain communism, the Pentagon turned to social scientists. Beginning in the 1950s, political scientists, social psychologists, and anthropologists optimistically applied their expertise to military problems, convinced that their work would enhance democracy around the world. As Rohde shows, by the late 1960s, a growing number of scholars and activists condemned Pentagon-funded social scientists as handmaidens of a technocratic warfare state and sought to eliminate military-sponsored research from American intellectual life.

    But the Pentagon's social research projects had remarkable institutional momentum and intellectual flexibility. Instead of severing their ties to the military, the Pentagon's experts relocated to a burgeoning network of private consulting agencies and for-profit research offices. Now shielded from public scrutiny, they continued to influence national security affairs. They also diversified their portfolios to include the study of domestic problems, including urban violence and racial conflict. In examining the controversies over Cold War social science, Rohde reveals the persistent militarization of American political and intellectual life, a phenomenon that continues to raise grave questions about the relationship between expert knowledge and American democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6960-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 2007, a handful of American social scientists arrived in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were armed with conventional military weapons, but more significantly, they possessed an arsenal of cultural knowledge. Embedded in army brigades, their job was to bridge the military’s culture gap. They provided commanders with information about the battlefield’s “human terrain”—military parlance for the beliefs, values, grievances, and social structures of the populations living in war zones. These civilian social scientists were part of the Human Terrain System (HTS), the army’s new, controversial counterinsurgency weapon. HTS was designed to make the Iraq and Afghanistan wars less violent...

  5. 1 CREATING THE GRAY AREA: Scholars, Soldiers, and National Security
    (pp. 9-36)

    In 1946, sociologist Philip M. Hauser confronted his fellow social scientists: Were they ready, he asked, “for the supreme challenge of providing enough knowledge about human institutions and human relationships in time to prevent the suicide of the human race?” World War II had ended, but dire threats remained: social dislocation and physical destruction threatened Europe’s future; inequality and anti-imperialist unrest loomed in Asia and Africa; and a growing ideological chasm divided the Americans and the Soviets. Although the physical sciences produced miraculous results in the last war, their triumphs only intensified the destructiveness of military conflict. It was time,...

  6. 2 A DEMOCRACY OF EXPERTS: Knowledge and Politics in the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex
    (pp. 37-62)

    Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address introduced a new term into the American lexicon, but his fear that the national security state’s experts might endanger democracy was not new. In fact, it was one that social scientists had anticipated. Harold Lasswell’s “garrison state” and C. Wright Mill’s “power elite”—a symbiotic triumvirate of political, military, and corporate leaders—both reflected a concern that the nation’s obsession with security might endanger American democracy by allowing “specialists on violence” to assume control of political decisions.¹ These men’s warnings gained some popular attention in the 1950s and early 1960s but inspired little action. Even so,...

  7. 3 DEEPER SHADES OF GRAY: Ambition and Deception in Project Camelot
    (pp. 63-89)

    Galvanized by researchers’ sense of America’s democratic righteousness, SORO charged ahead in late 1964 with a bold new attack on the problem of communist insurgency. Combining insights from anthropology, psychology, political science, and sociology, the research office promised to unearth the fundamental causes of communist revolution and prescribe antidotes to them. Researchers informed their sponsors that they should “anticipate the possibility of spectacular results.”¹

    SORO’s staff hailed this multiyear, multimillion-dollar unclassified investigation as the Manhattan Project of social science. Promising a breakthrough in “peace research,” Robert Boguslaw described it as “an attempt to find nonmilitary and nonviolent solutions to international...

  8. 4 FROM DEMOCRATIC EXPERTS TO “AUTOMATIC COLD WARRIORS”: Dismantling the Gray Area in the Vietnam Era
    (pp. 90-115)

    In early 1968, Americans debated the appearance of a new research study with results so “interesting and horrifying” that it accomplished something perhaps no other government-sponsored study of nuclear deterrence had: it soared to number eight on the New York Times best-seller list. Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace detailed the secret conclusions of a study ostensibly initiated by the Pentagon in 1963 to determine the social, political, and economic implications of lasting peace in the United States. Leaked by a member of the study group, who claimed that its implications were so unsettling that...

  9. 5 FADE TO BLACK: The Enduring Warfare State
    (pp. 116-147)

    The Vietnam War compelled American activists to attack the military-industrial-academic complex. But their goals were far loftier than merely ending the conflict in Southeast Asia. As Michael Klare argued emphatically in his 1970 exposé War without End, “only the complete dismantling of the Pentagon’s intervention capability … will guarantee that we will not be dragged into more Vietnams.” By systematically unmasking what Klare termed “the Pentagon’s counterinsurgency apparatus”—its rich coffers, dense institutional network, faulty science, perverse psychology, and secretive and brutal operations—activists aspired to end militarization itself. The war, it seemed, had proven Harold Lasswell prophetic. Secrecy, national...

    (pp. 148-156)

    The American public betrayed little concern about the persistence of both the contract state and militarization after the gray area’s demise. But when four American contractors were burned alive by insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, Americans once again expressed concern. With American military forces stretched thin in the Middle East, federal contracting mushroomed beyond the realm of ideas and doctrine; to many Americans, it seemed that the government was contracting for war-fighting itself. In the mid-2000s, the national security state’s relationship with private firms became the subject of vigorous concern. With an estimated one contractor in the field for...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 157-188)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-214)