November 03, 2008

Insert Better Post Here

I have tried to get inspired by the presidential election to write a decent history post, but I just can't do it. I am too bummed out by the selection.

I am registered. I know who I will choose. But I definitely have some qualms about it. The only reason I will vote for one over the other is because I know my conscience will be clearer with one's mistakes than the other's.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 25, 2006

Not New, But New to You

The following is a short paper I wrote last semester, which was supposed to be a reaction to this and this, answering the question of whether or not it is ethical for anthropologists to assist the Department of Defense with information about wartime enemies.

In "Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of Their Curious Relationship", Montgomery McFate aims to illustrate that more anthropologists are needed by the Department of Defense to aid in America's warfare. McFate's stance is that anthropology is a valuable--yet underutilized--tool for the military. He gives an overview of anthropology's successes and failures during wartime, and a brief history of the science as used by the government. The successes are generally found in the first half of the 20th Century, whereas the failures center around the Vietnam War and current era.

In World War II, McFate says that knowledge of Japanese culture was very important to the war effort, and helped immensely in ending Japan's involvement. President Roosevelt was "convinced the Japanese were 'culturally incapable of surrender'", and was able to know enough about their society to realize it was important to "leave the emperor out of the conditions of surrender". In this case, anthropological knowledge helped bring the war to a faster end.

McFate blames the failure to win in Vietnam at least partly on the military's refusal to learn from anthropologists. Marine General Victor Krulak, in particular, was sure the military could force "the peasants (to) do what's necessary". Anthropologist Gerald Hickey was largely ignored by the military establishment, and derided by politicians and soldiers alike as not aggressive enough. In Iraq, McFate blames incomplete anthropological knowledge for Abu Ghraib. It was believed that the Iraqis' sexual humiliation would allow them to be blackmailed for information. Instead, sexual humiliation "only destroys honor, and for Iraqis, lost honor requires its restoration through the appeasement of blood." The blackmail attempt failed.

If Japanese culture had not been taken into account by the United States government, how much longer would World War II have dragged on? How many more lives would have been lost? The answers to these questions are not easy to come by, but it does seem entirely likely that many more people--Japanese and American alike--would have died if anthropological knowledge had been lacking or ignored. The refusal of anthropologists to cooperate with the Department of Defense would not have protected the Japanese. Cooperation in this case helped stop more casualties. The failures of Vietnam from an anthropological standpoint increased the length of the conflict--and therefore increased the numbers of casualties as well.

Since the Vietnam era, McFate says anthropologists have been less likely to sacrifice their ethics in order to help the war strategists. Because anthropologists' studies are supposed to be publicly available, giving the military information on completed studies should not be at all ethically questionable. Performing research at the behest of the military is a gray area. However, I believe that withholding information is more dangerous than releasing information. Withholding information will not prevent war, but it does have the potential to shorten war and save lives. As the AAA's statement on ethics says, it is the anthropologist's responsibility to "do everything in their power to protect the physical, social, and psychological welfare...of those studied." An anthropologist has the unique power to help limit the damage caused by war. Any refusal to divulge information to the military is unlikely to persuade the military to cease operations. Is this choosing the lesser of two evils? Perhaps it is, but it is important to realize that actual human lives are at stake. It is necessary to take a pragmatic view rather than a lofty, philosophical view of the ethical question.

Posted by Jennifer at 02:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 21, 2005


On February 26, 1993, Islamic terrorists succeeded in blowing a hole through four levels of the World Trade Center in New York City. Six people were killed and over 1,000 injured.

Patiently, Islamic terrorists waited until they could try again. They formed a plan, and completed the steps necessary to carry out that plan. They patiently waited for over 8 years, and on September 11, 2001, they attacked the World Trade Center once more.

Their patience paid off: they reduced the buildings to rubble. They killed 2,749 people, which unfortunately (for them) was well-below the number they had hoped to accomplish.

Today, somewhere in the world, there are men planning another terrorist attack on American soil. They are patiently waiting for the American public to lower its guard. They are patiently waiting for the American public to tire of regular casualty reports and demand the troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan. They are patiently waiting for America to leave its work half-finished in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that they can take advantage of the turmoil and dissatisfaction we would leave in our wake. There is a precedent for that, you know.

So, to those who think we've been in Iraq and Afghanistan long enough and need to bring our soldiers home, I can only urge patience. We must be as patient as those who right this moment are planning to kill us. Leaving those countries won't make them love us. It won't make them like us. It won't make them think any better of us whatsoever. Exercising patience and helping them get back on their feet--not abandoning them after we throw their country into disarray--is what we must stay there to finish. Support the war in Iraq or not, we HAVE to finish the job.

Posted by Jennifer at 05:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 07, 2005

Missing Information

I mean, there would have to be, wouldn't there?

More than 300 searchers are still scouring the South Platte River near Kersey, Colo., searching for a 4-year-old boy who disappeared Friday night while driving a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle near the river.


A 4-year-old allowed to drive an ATV? And allowed to do it without some serious adult supervision? Like someone following directly behind him at all times?

Posted by Jennifer at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2005

The Rape of Ground Zero

A cemetery is not the place to foster "debate" or "dialogue". A cemetery is a place to honor and remember those who have died. The World Trade Center site is equivalent to a cemetery. Thousands of people died there and we need to honor and remember them. Quietly. Reverently.

Politics do not belong at Ground Zero.

It is important to some people to "understand" why September 11 happened, but the intellectual debate and dialogue should not take place on top of the victims' bodies.

Shame on anyone who can't understand that.

For more information, go here.

Posted by Jennifer at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2005

It's 2005

And I don't give half a fig what John Kerry's grades were. And I don't plan to give half a fig until 2007, if ever.

Carry on.

Posted by Jennifer at 04:09 PM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2004


Sometimes it's hard to be happy for other the racist, sexist jackass who gets the promotion instead of you. Or the lying, cheating hypocrite who everybody holds up as a shining example of virtue and goodness.

Or the one you loved once upon a time who gets married, has children, and lives happily ever after while you come home to your empty bed every night.

As for the first two examples, you can be pleased with yourself for not being like those people, and being true to your own values.

The problem with the third example, is you want to be like them. You want that life. You're jealous. Probably not really because they're marrying someone else--unless they dumped you and stomped on your heart and you never recovered, yet for some reason you still think they're perfect for you--but because someone else found what you're looking for.

So, I could mope around about the fact that some guy I've been infatuated with since I was about 9 years old just had a son with his completely gorgeous wife. Or I can just keep looking for that life for myself, and trust that I'll find it with someone who truly wants that life with me as well.

After I watch South Park, of course. Gotta have priorities.

And a tiny bit of free advice...regardless of their reaction, you'll never regret telling someone how you feel as much as you'll regret not telling them how you feel. Wondering what could have been is worse than feeling like a least the latter is temporary.

Posted by Jennifer at 01:40 AM | Comments (6)

November 09, 2004

A Week Later

Okay, people, it's been a week since the election, and y'all are trying my patience.

Bushies: you can stop harping on Kerry now. Really, I know it's a hard habit to break, but there's no point anymore. You won. Get on with life.

Dems: stop whining. Do you even know where your local Democratic Party headquarters are located? If so, go there and find out what you can do. Be involved in picking better candidates for your local, state, and federal offices.

Posted by Jennifer at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)

November 03, 2004

Nov. 3 Thoughts

There are--justifiably--a lot of happy campers on the right side of the political aisle today. The gloating and whatnot doesn't bother me, because it's customary to celebrate the victory after your team wins. Then you get over the thrill of it all and get down to business.

One thing we Democrats need to take away from this is that it's better to select a solid candidate who stands up for what he believes rather than one who tailors his views for whichever audience he's standing in front of at the moment. You can argue that politicians in general fail to do this, but I know that we could have done better. I personally know a few people who normally vote Democrat who didn't vote at all because they didn't want either candidate. John Kerry didn't inspire much of anyone beyond the Bush-haters. And you can't win an election on a platform of hate.

(On a less serious note...) Another thing the Democrats need to take away from this (I'm looking at you, New Hampshire) is that the Iowa Caucus is crap. You don't have to listen to us, you know. We gather publicly in a bunch of rooms and stand in corners and someone decides which group looks bigger. Stupid Iowa Caucus. But at least we got rid of that looney Howard Dean for you.

Posted by Jennifer at 12:01 PM | Comments (7)

November 01, 2004

Quick Reaction

One of the differences between Judaism and Christianity is the missionary position. Ahem. Let me rephrase that. Christians love to send missionaries all over the world, helping people and spreading the word of Christ. "Hey, look at this shiny new way we have of doing things. You'll love it. Come on over to the house later, we're having pie and discussing our Lord and Savior. Bring the kids."

Judaism isn't so big on recruitment. "We're happy over here doing things the way we've done them for thousands of years. We'll mind our own business and let you go about yours. Just don't try to kill us and we'll get along fine."

Democracy as Daniel sees it is like the Christians up in the first paragraph. But the thing is, not everyone wants to do things our way. Some of them aren't ready for it. Tradition is a powerful thing. Look at Great Britain. The royal family has no real useful function, but people like having them around. They're symbolic. They're so closely tied to the country's image that you can't really picture an England without its royalty. "England with no queen? What's the point?" There is talk about ending the monarchy, and it will eventually happen, but that change will evolve as it's ready.

If democracy is as great as we think it is (and I include myself in that "we"), it will spread as it's ready. Sometimes quickly and violently, sometimes slowly evolving over time, but always at the pace the people are prepared for...we just need to be patient. When you force it, you suffer backlash from those in power who will be replaced.

We could fly into Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro tomorrow. Does that mean we should do it? Or should we wait until the old man finally kicks the bucket and see how things play out down there? In other words, do we let time run its course?

There are instances when we can argue there is a moral obligation to help those in need...Sudan comes to mind. But I don't remember hearing that argument before we went into Iraq or Afghanistan. We went into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, who were harboring Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Freeing the people from Taliban rule was just an extra bonus. We went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein reportedly had weapons of mass destruction and posed an immediate danger to us.

American foreign policy should obviously favor and promote democracy, but not through force as Daniel seems to propose. Our military is there to protect us and protect our interests. Is it in our best interest for the whole world to be democratic? Yes. Is it in our best interest to overthrow leaders we don't like? No. What? NO. You can't run around overthrowing governments unless you have a REALLY GOOD REASON. We do need some degree of cooperation from the rest of the world. Could China look at us and decide our power needs to be checked? Could an alliance of smaller nations? We're powerful, but we're not unstoppable. Our military force should be used when we (or our friends) are in danger and not as a tool to forcibly spread democracy.

"Just don't try to kill us and we'll get along fine."

Posted by Jennifer at 02:30 PM | Comments (13)