In almost every military intervention in its history, the US has made cultural mistakes that hindered attainment of its policy goals. From the counterproductive strategic bombing of Vietnam to the misguided accidental burning of the Koran in Afghanistan, the US has blundered around with little consideration of local cultural beliefs and almost no concern for the long-term effects on the host nation's society. Cultural anthropology--the so-called 'handmaiden of colonialism'--has historically served as an intellectual bridge between sovereign Western powers and local nationals. What light can it shed on the difficult intersection of the US military and foreign societies today? Each chapter in this book tells the story of an anthropologist who worked directly for the military, such as Ursula Graham Bower, the only woman to hold a British combat command during WWII. Each faced challenges including the negative outcomes of exporting Western political models to societies where they don't fit, and errors of perception that prevent understanding of indigenous societies. Ranging from the British colonial era in Africa to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Military Anthropology illustrates the conceptual, cultural and practical barriers encountered by military organisations.
Montgomery McFate is Professor at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Formerly, she was the Senior Social Scientist for the US Army's Human Terrain System. She McFate holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, and a JD from Harvard Law School. She is the co-editor of Social Science Goes to War (2015).