Phi Beta Cons


Montgomery McFate is a Yale-educated cultural anthropologist working for the Navy. Having advocated employing social science to ameliorate military strategy and operations, she is now a leader in the Army’s enlistment of anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan
As such McFate is, predictably, under fire by academics averse to scholars working with the military. “I’m frequently accused of militarizing anthropology,” she said. “But we’re really anthropologizing the military.”
But some critics, such as Patrick Porter of the Defense Academy of the United Kingdom, are wary of “the cultural turn in studying war,” which he analyses in the U.S. Army War College’s Parameters Magazine.
Porter is dubious about the deterministic cultural generalizations flowing from the academy, such as “Occidental versus Oriental warfare.” He maintains that tough, reasoned evaluation frequently determines decisions in war, as opposed to culture. For example, today’s Hezbollah avoids pitched battles, as the French resistance did in World War II.
Culturally informed diplomacy is all well and good, but Porter makes sense in warning against “seeing culture as the new magic bullet.”


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