Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency

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Recent global events have placed new stress on the relationship among anthropology, governance, and war as, facing prolonged insurgency, segments of the U.S. military have taken a new interest in the discipline. Inspired by these issues, the essays in Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency consider how anthropologists can, should, and do respond to military overtures, and they articulate anthropological perspectives on global war and power relations. This book investigates the shifting boundaries between military and civil state violence; perceptions and effects of American power around the globe; the history of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice; and debates over culture, knowledge, and conscience in counterinsurgency. These wide-ranging essays shed new light on the fraught world of Pax American and on the ethical and political dilemmas faced by anthropologists and military personnel alike when attempting to understanding and intervention in our world.

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Editorial Reviews


"This book encompasses far more than the title suggests. The twenty-two short articles discuss the complex engagement--now and in the past--of social science and the military. . . . This informative, well-crafted, meticulously documented compendium could become a benchmark publication."
George Marcus
“This extensive compendium of critical ideas, information, and narrative accounts makes for an absorbing reading experience. Beyond its cogency for present debates, it might well serve as a historical marker for future researchers, likely to become as important as an expression of a certain epoch of anthropological relevance to events as Reinventing Anthropology has been in the context of the 1960s.”
Catherine Lutz
“This collection deeply and creatively challenges many forms of received wisdom about the nature of security and of U.S. power in the age of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. Its diverse points of view, its productive comparisons, and its lucid ethnographic and historical examples are a feast for anyone concerned with where the history of this turbulent, portentous moment is headed.”
Marshall Sahlins
“When U.S. counterinsurgency strategy took a ‘cultural turn,’ it incited another form of resistance in addition to those it was already fighting, namely from anthropologists who objected to the enlistment of their discipline in the global military projects of Pax Americana. For the great majority of anthropologists, the integrity of other peoples’ existence is at once an intellectual premise of their discipline and its moral imperative. They will not put the peoples they live and work with at risk of bodily harm, foreign domination, or cultural destruction. Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency is a rich and profound exploration of the contradiction between a human science of culture and its militarization.”
"This book encompasses far more than the title suggests. The twenty-two short articles discuss the complex engagement—now and in the past—of social science and the military. . . . This informative, well-crafted, meticulously documented compendium could become a benchmark publication."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226429946
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John D. Kelly is professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago. Beatrice Jauregui is visiting fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of India. Sean T. Mitchell is visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University. Jeremy Walton is assistant professor of religion at New York University.

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The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2010 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-42994-6

Chapter One

Bluing Green in the Maldives Countering Citizen Insurgency by "Civil"-izing National Security


In the Maldives, September 2004 saw the division of the unified National Security Service (NSS) into separate military and civil police components. The NSS, which was eventually renamed the National Defence Force (NDF) in April 2006, remained under the Ministry of Defence, while the new Maldives Police Service (MPS) became a separate organization under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The birth of the MPS was a direct, if partial, response to recurrent popular uprisings protesting the regime of then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

As the cornerstone of a broad agenda for national legal reform, the founding of a civil police was intended to signify to the Maldivian people—and just as importantly, to the international community—that the Maldivian state's control of the means of coercion manifests in a nonmilitary body. In so doing, the reigning authorities hoped to exhibit their adherence to liberal democratic values and thereby legitimize their sovereign authority through a praxis of what I call the Blue in Green paradigm of security and statecraft (Jauregui, Introduction to section 1, this volume). The particular manner in which the Blue in Green suffuses governance in the Maldives today gives rise to (1) contradictory views about which species of law and bureaucracy grow out of democratic reforms and (2) counterinsurgency strategies that, paradoxically, call for the demilitarization of national security.

Domestic "Insurgency" and the Politics of Security: Ethnographic and Historical Background

The island nation of the Republic of the Maldives is, in terms of population (approximately 380,000 in 2008), both the smallest country in Asia and the smallest Islamic country in the world. Sunni Islam in the Maldives generally takes a relatively moderate form—similar to that practiced in much of India, Indonesia, or Turkey—and is inextricably linked with people's sense of nationhood. The country, famed as one of the world's premier island paradise destinations, is exalted by foreign travelers for its stunning coral reefs, luxurious beaches, and breath-taking seascapes. The first tourist resorts opened across the archipelago soon after the fall of the last sultanate and the inauguration of a new republic in 1968; and the tourism industry is now the primary sector of the economy, making up almost 30 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), far ahead of the next most important national industry, fishing.

Sometimes sardonically called "the CEO of the Maldives," President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who came to power in 1978, made it his mission to promote the Maldives as an unparalleled holiday resort. At the time of this writing, Gayoom had just been voted out of power in the country's first democratic elections and replaced by Mohamed ["Anni"] Nasheed. Prior to this historic shift of power, Gayoom had never been officially opposed by another candidate in thirty years. However, this lack of electoral opposition did not equate to ubiquitous contentment with such a long-standing reign by one man, his crony-istic cabinet, and a majlis ('parliament') alleged to be stacked in his favor. There were three attempted coups against the Gayoom government, in 1980, 1983, and 1988, respectively. The last—plotted by disgruntled Maldivian businessmen and some eighty Sri Lankan mercenaries—resulted in the death of fourteen people and was considered serious enough that then prime minister of India Rajiv Gandhi sent paratroopers and a frigate to help suppress the rebellion in the small neighboring country.

This incident, in combination with other evidence of increasing agitation by various groups against his government, led President Gayoom to grow increasingly apprehensive about internal revolts potentially buttressed by external adversaries. So he made efforts to augment the resources and personnel of the NSS, which he had founded during his first term as president as the sole security force in the Maldives. This multifunctional paramilitary organization eventually grew from a size of approximately 1,000 in the 1980s to more than 3,500 by the turn of the twenty-first century. The NSS came to be notorious and greatly feared for its harsh treatment of anyone thought to be engaged in antigovernment or criminal activity. An unofficial study estimates the number of custodial deaths in the Maldives since 1978 to be twenty-six; and according to an unnamed consultant on constitutional reform, the Maldives has had the highest proportion of its population arrested and charged of any country in the world.

Whatever the actual numbers, the fact remains that relatively little attention was paid by the international community to human rights abuses under what many call the dictatorship of Gayoom, until an incident in September 2003. When a nineteen-year-old inmate, Evan Naseem, was beaten to death at Maafushi prison, the largest detention center in the country, fellow inmates revolted out of fear and anger. In the ensuing showdown, three persons were killed, and seventeen others, including one security guard, suffered gunshot injuries (Presidential Commission, Republic of the Maldives 2003). When news of Naseem's death reached the capital island of Malé, crowds of people already agitated by what they felt were the national government's oppressive policies became outraged, and some protestors vandalized public buildings and set fire to police stations and government vehicles. President Gayoom imposed a curfew and declared the republic's first official state of emergency, which lasted for more than one month. These events drew the attention of international media and human rights organizations and spurred the solidification of a growing group of Gayoom detractors into the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which ultimately became the main opposition to the president's Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), or Maldivian People's Party.

From exile in the neighboring island nation of Sri Lanka, the MDP leadership officially announced the founding of their party in November 2003. Back in the Maldives, voices of opposition to the regime continued to grow louder. In response, on June 9, 2004, President Gayoom declared that he would put forth a sweeping reform agenda to constitute a more transparent and democratic government. Among other promised changes, it was announced that citizens would, for the first time, be granted the opportunity to hold open political debates. However, as soon as these public fora became functional, vitriolic criticism of the government spewed forth, and Gayoom was so dismayed at the sound and fury that he revoked this new allowance after just a few months. Meanwhile, MDP and other reformist activists were blacklisted and routinely arrested and detained by the NSS for questioning.

On August 12, 2004, a vigil held in Malé at Jumhooree Maidan ('Republican Square') to protest indefinite detentions transformed over some thirty hours into a mass demonstration of people demanding not only release of the prisoners but also the resignation of President Gayoom. It is reported by some protestors that several pro-Gayoom persons infiltrated the crowd and began acting out violently. Whoever the culprits were, this disturbance gave the NSS a "legitimate" reason to use force, and they ultimately released tear gas and beat and severely injured many protestors. The incident was reported in state-controlled local media as merely a small crowd of rotten apples engaging in patently illegal activity, and a second state of emergency was imposed for two months. Locals came to refer to the event as Black Friday.

After the MDP chairman—and as of October 2008, the new president—Anni (Mohamed Nasheed) was arrested in August 2005 for staging a sit-in at Jumhooree Maidan in further protest of the Gayoom regime, and in remembrance of Black Friday, unrest spread to other atolls (groups of islands) outside of Malé. In the meantime, Gayoom professed to be moving forward with his democratic reform agenda. This agenda included an entire overhaul of criminal law, which proceeded via intensive consultation with legal experts from the United States and involved drafting an entirely new Maldivian penal code, in a unique and controversial attempt to "codify Shar'ia" in a "modern" civil legal form (see Robinson 2006; Robinson et al. 2007; An-Na'im 2007). The process eventually culminated in a new police act and even a new constitution, which was ratified by Gayoom on August 5, 2008, and ushered in with a speech by him declaring that this new era of governance would be based on the principles of modern liberal democracy and the principles of Islam.

But in the four years prior to these reform "results," which ultimately included the voting out of Gayoom and voting in of Nasheed as president, the Gayoom government struggled to demonstrate its sincere adherence to a program of democratization. To prove its progress, just two weeks after Black Friday, the Gayoom government announced that it was going to split off from the NSS an entirely separate civil police. With great ceremony, on September 1, 2004, the Maldivian government held a grand public event signifying a "renaissance" in governmental security through the birth of a national police organization. Many Maldivian citizens with whom I have spoken interpreted this reorganization as a post haste dog-and-pony show by the government merely to "appear reform minded" to both Maldivians and the international community in the wake of Black Friday. These detractors claimed that the purported change really led to nothing more than old wine in new bottles—or more to the point, the same tyrants in different costumes. However, while I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Malé in 2007, while Gayoom was still well entrenched in the presidency, commissioned officers (COs) in the new police service informed me that, in fact, plans and operations to form a civil police had begun in March 2004, five months prior to the events of Black Friday.

COs told me that for the half year prior to the September 2004 uniform change ceremony, the Change Maintenance Committee had been expending an extraordinary amount of time and resources on activities related to founding a civil police organization. These activities included conducting research into the structure of other police departments across the globe, signing memoranda of understanding with some of these departments and their training academies, drawing up programs of operation and training that would be "community oriented," and designing the new uniform. Although I asked, it was never made clear to me what initially inspired the formation of this committee. It seems most likely, however, that the events surrounding Evan Naseem's death in 2003 were a significant factor.

Notably, many of the COs interviewed emphasize the conscious choice of the word "service" over "force" in naming the new organization the MPS. This clearly was supposed to connote the civil nature of the national police as distinct from the military. Some police admit, however, that there was quite a bit of debate among planners regarding the necessity and advisability of this choice (cf. Comaroff and Comaroff 2006a). This is only one of myriad internal conflicts still plaguing the neophyte organization. Indeed, as I interviewed serving and former police and military officers of various ranks, it became clear that there was no firm consensus regarding the utility and legitimacy of the separation of military and civil security institutions.

Even following the election of a new president, it is fair to say that there is no definitive interpretation of the still emerging effects of the division. As the Maldives continues to democratize and integrate into a globalized political economy that is still dominated by U.S. power and interests and by United Nations (UN) ideologies of peace and stability, it must manage the inevitable tensions of balancing liberty and rights with security and order. These tensions both produce and are reproduced by a peculiarly local, but neither new nor unique, "culture war" regarding how best to organize national security. Some argue that a military organization should take the lead in securing order, particularly in the event of mass demonstrations. However, others believe that if the country is to become truly modern and democratic, then the military and the civil police should be completely separate. Moreover, persons in this latter group tend to believe that the civil police should direct order-keeping operations by following a "community policing" model. The debates continue in both discourse and practice. But while the "keep-'em-separated" perspective seems to be winning, there are many moments in which the dividing line between (Green) martial and (Blue) civil becomes blurry, shifts situationally, or seems to disappear altogether.

Chains of Command and Twists in Democratic Reform

There are myriad formal-legal and informal-illegal facets to the globally integrated tourism and domestic consumption sectors of the Maldivian economy that mount challenges to national security. One problem in this realm that appears to be increasing exponentially is drug trafficking. Several MPS officers have told me that the supply of drugs coming into the country—allegedly aided by "corrupt customs officials in India"—passes primarily through personnel of the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS). These reproachful police officers aver that DPRS personnel sell or give the illicit paraphernalia to prison inmates (along with other contraband like mobile phones, radios, and other electronics), which then exacerbates crime. "They [DPRS] are not even police," chides one MPS officer, "but they are completely corrupt, and make us [police] look bad." Indeed, he is not alone in believing that the police in the Maldives get a disproportionately "bad rap" because of such conflations.

Of course, this poor public image and its concomitant conflations have a history. When the police were but a small wing of the NSS, many people considered all security officers to be Gayoom's goons, a sort of private militia for the president. When I spoke with MPS officers, some would admit that this was not far from the truth and that the people's fear and loathing today is understandable since, "mistakes [had] been made in the past" ("mistakes" like torturing detainees and then, accidentally or intentionally, killing some of them). They would also acknowledge that, even after programmatic reform and the founding of the MPS, police would still ultimately have to answer to the president. Thus a full changeover from the "military mind-set" had not yet occurred, and, therefore, remarks one officer resignedly, "the people do not like us; they are scared of us." Some MPS officers, especially leaders of the reorganization of the police, argue that it is precisely the continuing association between them and "the military" (then NSS, now NDF) that is the bête noir of their public image. One CO who has been integral to the restructuring of the police—and who affirms that his studies in the United Kingdom and the United States convinced him wholeheartedly that the police and the military should be completely separate—explains, "The military mind-set is that you shoot to kill the enemy. Police must understand that the people are not the enemy." However, this same CO follows up the previous statement by saying, somewhat mysteriously and performatively, "Of course this is only true if you are pro-democracy. If you are a dictator, then the people are the enemy."

While a proudly post-NSS cluster of officers argues that the conflation of the police and the military is the main problem, other officials partly disagree. This latter group claims that it is not an association with the military but rather the epithet of "police" itself that incites negative feelings from the public. One CO laments that "[p]ast wrongdoings by NSS personnel became known as 'police atrocities' ... and so now, even though we are brainwashing the former military mind-set out of, and the new police mind-set into, our new personnel, the people still think that anyone called 'police' is bad." Many in this latter group also assert that, in fact, now that the police and military have been separated, common people voice more support for the military as protectors of the nation and see the police as bullies in blue, who daily harass and oppress people in the name of "the law"—a law that is, in actual fact, the president's command. Notably, this claim of a respectable military vis-à-vis a reprehensible police seemed to bear out in discussions I have had with several citizens in Malé who are not associated with the government.


Excerpted from ANTHROPOLOGY and GLOBAL COUNTERINSURGENCY Copyright © 2010 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Culture, Counterinsurgency, Conscience John D. Kelly Beatrice Jauregui Sean T. Mitchell Jeremy Walton 1

Section 1 Categories of Conflict and Coercion: The Blue in Green and the Other Beatrice Jauregui 17

1 Bluing Green in the Maldives: Countering Citizen Insurgency by "Civil"-izing National Security Beatrice Jauregui 23

2 Phantom Power: Notes on Provisionality in Haiti Greg Beckett 39

3 The Categorization of People as Targets of Violence: A Perspective on the Colombian Armed Conflict Paola Castaño 53

4 Seeing Red: Mao Fetishism, Pax Americana, and the Moral Economy of War John D. Kelly 67

Section 2 Ethnographic Experiences of American Power in the Age of the War on Terror Jeremy Walton Sean T. Mitchell 85

5 Paranoid Styles of Nationalism after the Cold War: Notes from an Invasion of the Amazon Sean T. Mitchell 89

6 Hungry Wolves, Inclement Storms: Commodified Fantasies of American Imperial Power in Contemporary Turkey Jeremy Walton 105

7 Rwandan Rebels and U.S. Federal Prosecutors: American Power, Violence, and the Pursuit of Justice in the Age of the War on Terror Elizabeth Garland 117

8 Weapons, Passports, and News: Palestinian Perceptions of U.S. Power as a Mediator of War Amahl Bishara 125

9 The Cold War Present: The Logic of Defense Time Mihir Pandya 137

Section 3 Counterinsurgency, Past and Present: Precedents to the Manual Jeremy Walton Beatrice Jauregui 149

10 The Uses of Anthropology in the Insurgent Age Dustin M. Wax 153

11 Small Wars and Counterinsurgency James L. Hevia 169

12 Repetition Compulsion? Counterinsurgency Bravado in Iraq and Vietnam Kurt Jacobsen 179

13 Counterinsurgency, The Spook, and Blowback Joseph Masco 193

Section 4 The U.S. Military and U.S. Anthropology Sean T. Mitchell John D. Kelly 209

14 An Anthropologist among the Soldiers: Notes from the Field Marcus B. Griffin 215

15 Indirect Rule and Embedded Anthropology: Practical, Theoretical, and Ethical Concerns Roberto J. González 231

16 Soft Power, Hard Power, and the Anthropological "Leveraging" of Cultural "Assets": Distilling the Politics and Ethics of Anthropological Counterinsurgency David H. Price 245

17 Yes, Both, Absolutely: A Personal and Professional Commentary on Anthropological Engagement with Military and Intelligence Organizations Kerry Fosher 261

Section 5 Constructions and Destructions of Conscience John D. Kelly 273

18 The Cultural Turn in the War on Terror Hugh Gusterson 279

19 Cultural Sensitivity in a Military Occupation: The U.S. Military in Iraq Rochelle Davis Dahlia El Zein Dena Takruri 297

20 The "Bad" Kill: A Short Case Study in American Counterinsurgency Jeffrey Bennett 311

21 The Destruction of Conscience and the Winter Soldier Kevin Caffrey 327

22 No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy: History, Memory, and the Conscience of a Marine Christopher T. Nelson 343

Reference List 355

List of Contributors 381

Index 385

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