Savage Minds & Department of Defense’s Plan for Academia

Savage Minds, the blog of “notes and queries in anthropology,” has an important post on “Camelot Revisited: The Department of Defense’s New Plan for Academia.” Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense and former university professor, wants to buy our research and shape it to military uses.

As the post says, “His goal is not to further the overall body of knowledge within academic disciplines, but to increase the military’s stock of knowledge about ‘the countries or cultures we [are] dealing with.’ And by ‘dealing with’, he doesn’t mean tourism.”

Why object? Besides the pernicious skewing of free inquiry (funding matters to researchers and university administrators alike), there is a more important argument: “it treats humans—their lives, their culture, their behavior—as means to an end. This is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake, not by a long stretch. It’s not knowledge for the betterment of humanity. It’s not even knowledge for the satisfaction of human curiosity. It’s knowledge for the achievement of strategic goals—goals that are set and grow out of particular political interests, not the priorities of anthropology and the other social sciences. Goals that take a particular status quo—US imperialism, to put a blunt point on it—as desirable, necessary, and even natural.”

Don’t think the military will do such a thing? They certainly are learning how to work the media, as the New York Times reports in Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand. Now they have a plan for academia too.

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