War, Academia, and Finding the Middle Ground

According to Israeli ambassador Dan Gillerman:

“Hezbollah, Hamas, together with Syria and Iran comprise the world’s new and ominous axis of terror, an infamous club the entry to which is the blood of innocents and the terrorizing of the entire world.”

I find the use of the term “axis of terror” very interesting. More on the conflict between Israel and Lebanon can be found in this article.

I’m thinking of the discussion that came up a couple of entries ago, this one called “Where is Anthropology Going?” It seems that anthropologists might have the tools to go into a place like this and help opposing sides understand one another. After all, being a cultural anthropologist takes both a lot of diplomatic skill, and being able to respect and attempt to represent the people you’re working with. Strangely, you rarely see anthropologists on the front lines at times like these. I think there are probably many reasons for this, one of them being that anthropologists issue a lot of political statements but may be discouraged by the nature of the field from getting too politically involved … in the interests of attempting to be objective where no objectivity exists, perhaps. (I’m with the camp that says that everything is subjective, “hard” science or not.)

I wonder if anthropologists should attempt to get more involved in world affairs and what it would take to accomplish that? Historically, several anthropologists have worked for the U.S. government as “spies” and subsequently been shunned out of the discipline. Spying is a different line of work from diplomacy, but I wonder if the stigma carries over to all government work. I suspect it does.

But which do you think is really more ethical – getting actively involved in promoting human rights and peace in as many contexts as possible, or hanging back and observing, watching, and doing under the umbrella of academia?

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