KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Two years after its formation, a controversial military program to embed civilian social scientists inside combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan is scrambling to recover from a string of crises. How the so-called “Human Terrain System” responds to a spate of combat deaths and a disastrous employee pay cut will determine whether the program survives in its current form. Human Terrain System, headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas, is the brainchild of Montgomery McFate, a Harvard- and Yale-trained anthropologist. In a series of journal articles(.pdf) in 2005, McFate outlined the basic shape of what would become HTS. […]

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Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: PresidentBarack Obama held one of his now-classic town hall meetings in Shanghaiwith Chinese students. The twist? Carefully picked attendees andquestions. In this video, Jim Lehrer interviews human rights experts who saythe Internet, a topic Obama made sure to mention in his talk with thestudents, is the key to human rights in China. Former Secretaryof State Henry Kissinger says the Obama administration has made greatgains for U.S.-Russian relations in this interview with Russia Today. IraqiVice President Tariq al-Hashemi has brought a much anticipate electionin Iraq to a halt. In […]

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In an interview with Al Jazeera, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemitalks about his decision to veto a key law that would enable electionsin Iraq to move forward. He contends that his decision will onlybriefly delay the impending election. Al-Hashemi’s veto was spurred bya stipulation in the election law that he felt would misrepresentexiled Iraqis.

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Le Figaro reports that China is now the number one foreign operator in the Iraqi oil sector. I’m struck by the way in which markets we open, whether by war (Iraqi oil, Afghan copper) or diplomacy (Indian and UAE nuclear energy), are exploited by our friendly competitors (China and France, respectively). That explains why no real American empire is possible so long as we remain committed to the liberal market. It also shows how even an ideologically driven interventionism can be compromised by the adherence to the liberal global trade order. If democracy promotion in Iraq results in a net […]

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Many Iraqi cities have been enclosed in blast walls, making citizensfeel like prisoners and reminding the international community thatviolence in Iraq is still a reality. Though many Iraqis find the wallsconfining and inconvenient, recent violence has shown that it may betoo early to tear them down. Al-Jazeera’s Omar Al-Saleh reports fromSamara.

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Over at Kings of War, Paula Broadwell has a review and discussion of Mark Moyar’s book on leadership in counterinsurgency, “A Question of Command.” According to Broadwell’s reading (I haven’t read the book itself), Moyar presents an alternative to the dominant population-centric approach to COIN, whereby the civilian population represents the center of gravity to be won over through improved security and better governance. Instead, Moyar argues, the determinant factor in counterinsurgency is the leadership elites on both sides, leading him to examine what qualities should then be selected for in COIN leadership. The qualities he arrives at seem pretty […]