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All terror is "local"

December 19, 2006

George Packer has an article in the New Yorker on the role of Social Sciences in the War on Terror. Packer specifically looks at how anthropology could be shaping the strategy for the “Global Counterinsurgency”. It is a fascinating piece on how the U.S. Government is missing the bigger picture on War on Terror and what changes we need to be making.

The first revelation is how terrorists and insurgents develop. The short answers in the past have been society and American foreign policy. This is true to some extent. In the larger sense, the forces coalesce around the local social networks in the area. These networks are certainly different if you are looking at Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Great Britain, or any other areas where terror groups have been popping up. The rational behind these networks are also different. These groups are trying to meet different objectives.

The main suggestion is to focus locally. This focus has to be of a granular nature that it even smaller than the nation level. This focus is also not about getting people to “like” the U.S. or about nation building, but is firmly in the realm of realpolitik. The strategy is focused on getting to know the power brokers of the area and what America can do to influence them. You need to know the enemy and its environs before you can beat them.

I am certainly glad that some work is being done to address this issue, but am certainly saddened to see that no one expects a policy shift until there is a new President in the White House. We suffer through two more years off more of the same.

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