Thursday, January 29, 2009

Are we going far enough?

Thanks for a well-organized and thoughtful symposium.  As an audience member, sociologist, and regular critic of U.S. military policies, I came away with a couple of questions.  In an effort to keep the dialogue going, and to push us all a little farther, I welcome your responses.

1) The military may recognize the value of social sciences for their purposes, but is the reverse also true?  The symposium left me feeling that the military has successfully captured the debate on its own turf.  That is, we social scientists, it seems, are very concerned about our role in their war.  Why are we not asking about their role in our academic community?  What could their role be?  How might this benefit the social sciences?  Might this create opportunities to influence the military?

2) Where should social scientists direct their influence?  The symposium directed attention toward social scientists working with the military.  The above question directs attention toward activity within the Academy.  Yet many of our criticisms are aimed at policies developed in Washington, within the political arena.  Well we know something about how academics influence the political process.  Think of economists, lawyers, and political scientists; think of professional lobbyists, elected officials, think-tanks, and non-governmental organizations.  Are we as social scientists doing all we can to influence military decisions?  Are we going far enough?

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