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Palgrave Macmillan

"Soft" Counterinsurgency

Human Terrain Teams and US Military Strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan

ISBN 9781137404800
Publication Date June 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Pivot

'Soft' Counterinsurgency reviews the promise and actual achievement of Human Terrain Teams, the small groups of social scientists that were eventually embedded in every combat brigade in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book, based on interviews with both HTT personnel and their military commanders, examines the military's need for sociocultural information, the ethical issues surrounding research carried out in combat zones, and the tensions between military and social science organizational cultures. The account provides a close, detailed account of HTT activities, a critical reflection on the possibilities of creating a 'softer,' less violent counterinsurgency, and the difficulty of attempting to make war more 'intelligent' and discriminating.

Paul Joseph is Professor of Sociology at Tufts University, USA.

1. The Program
2. The Battle Space
3. 'Success'
4. Violence
5. Occupation


"An original, inside look at the role of militarily embedded social scientists in Afghanistan seeking to win the hearts and minds of the people. Paul Joseph shows the inherent contradictions in the fashionable doctrines of 'soft counterinsurgency' and the inevitable failure of any war based on occupation, while also illuminating the ethical compromises affecting social scientists who would conduct their craft under combat conditions." - Charlie Derber, Professor of Sociology, Boston College, USA
"Joseph's book artfully evokes the idealistic intentions of the Human Terrain Teams social scientists, the bureaucratic disorganization of a program in disarray, and an unforgiving wartime environment. This book is indispensable reading for anyone seeking to understand not just why this program failed, but why civilian and military employees of the Pentagon have difficulty working together." - Hugh Gusterson, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, George Mason University, USA
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