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Imagine fact-finding missions as a way to wage peace

In her Aug. 13 discussion of the Human Terrain System (“Is social science our silver bullet in Afghanistan?”), op-ed columnist Farah Stockman asks, “Should we start learning
about other cultures now — just in case we ever decide to invade?”

She is making reference to a proposal to send graduate students throughout the world so that they “could advise the US government if the need ever arose.”

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If we were to start learning about other cultures now, perhaps that increased understanding would help us minimize the friction that leads to invasion. In the end, the author whom Stockman consults concludes that the effort to learn about Afghan culture was no silver bullet.

Were such efforts undertaken in peacetime, however, they might turn out to obviate the need for bullets, silver or otherwise.

Steven J. Swanger


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