War Zone Advisors

Is there a difference between non-military experts serving alongside combatant soldiers in a war and those that are part of a peacekeeping force in a war-torn country?

I wondered about this today after reading about plans to add  “green” advisors to U.N peacekeeping operations in countries where chronic instability is fueled by over-exploitation of the environment and/or bloody conflicts over natural resources.

If you’re the U.N. and your aim is to reduce war and suffering in impoverished countries, of which some of the root causes are degraded agricultural land, water scarcity, and pandemic disease, then it seems to make good sense to embed a few scientists with those peacekeepers.

And wouldn’t the same go for social scientists serving alongside U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, where an understanding of the language and culture can potentially help bring the wars there to a quicker end?

This is not to minimize the problems, “growing pains“, and tragedies associated with the Pentagon’s Human Terrain teams. (The Danger Room blog at Wired has consistently provided the fullest perspective of the controversial military program.)

Academic anthroplogists have been queasy about the Human Terrain program from its inception. Lately, criticism has come from once cautious boosters and from within the military.

But let’s say Human Terrain’s defects can be fixed. Can anthropologists serving in a military capacity be a force for good in wartime, in the same way that environmental experts serving with peacekeepers can be a force for good in war-torn countries?

One Response to “War Zone Advisors”

  1. The green advisors are more likely to be natural resource and development specialists rather than natural or physical scientists, but UNEP’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch which is the driving force behind this within UNEP uses both in their assessments. 

    Interesting link to Human Terrain system.  Often strikes me that the military is criticized on this program for trying to address the previous criticism about intervening with a lack of understanding of cultural setting and therefore being less effective in winning hearts and minds and incurring more collateral damage.   Suggests the criticism is based in the larger point about not going in to begin with rather than the tactics once you are in and who is or isn’t appropriate to be engaged in those interventions.

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