Scholars Weigh in on Pentagon’s Minerva Program

Price cover small
Yesterday the New York Times reported on the Pentagon's new Minerva program, which will recruit social scientists to strategize with the military about security threats such as Iraq and global terrorism. While some scholars are excited about the project, many more have serious reservations. Anthropologists have been particularly vocal about their opposition to academics collaborating with the Pentagon. As reported in Inside Higher Ed, the Network of Concerned Anthropologists issued an open letter to the Pentagon in late May, criticizing the Minerva project. In response to that letter, the Pentagon was considering inviting the National Science Foundation to play a role in peer review for the Minerva project. David Price, a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, has been quite outspoken about his belief that anthropologists should not work directly for the military. He cites his research on the role of anthropologists in World War II (the topic of his new book Anthropological Intelligence) and on the persecution of anthropologists during the McCarthy era (covered in his first book, Threatening Anthropology) as a cautionary tale. Hugh Gusterson, another co-founder of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, also cites the McCarthy era as a warning: "One reason the State Department misread Vietnam so badly in the early
1960s is that the liberal experts on East Asia were purged under
McCarthyism. I fear that a conversation about the sources of
violence and terrorism run under the auspices of the Pentagon might be
similarly misshapen.”

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