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Fragile States, Failed States and Spatial Anthropology

A pleasant downstream effect of having blogged for a while is that readers will send you interesting things from time to time. Like the following…

Check out: The Complex Terrain Laboratory


This is muddled and confusing. Human Terrain is “an emerging area of study”? No it’s not. Human “terrain” is a label, a metaphor, for guess what? History, geography, anthropology, sociology, psychology, communications, etc., etc. It’s “major goal is to create operational technologies”? No it’s not. That’s what mathematicians and engineers can deliver on multimillion dollar DoD contracts. Human terrain is, just in case anyone hasn’t read a newspaper or wireclip over the last few years, about people, what they think, their perceptions, their loyalties, the consequences they bear in wartime, the support they may or may not provide to insurgents, the physical, cultural, and informational spaces they create and occupy in  times of conflict and crisis. 

Freaking mad scientists. They’re everywhere. Technology is a tool, not the answer


What is really meant by ‘fragile’ states is ones that have acquired legal sovereignty but that have lost, or more probably never acquired, the effective powers attached to that status. There are more and more such states. How many depends on one’s definition of fragility. The United Kingdom’s government development agency, the Department for International Development (DFID), one of the smartest outfits in the business, estimates that 46 states, over one quarter of the world’s total, fall within its definition of ‘fragile states’. The population of these 46 states is over 870 million. DFID bases its definition of fragility on a state’s record in combating poverty. Others define fragility not by reference to poverty, but to security. Referring to the slightly different concept of ‘failure’, in the United States’ 2002 National Security Strategy, President Bush stated that America ‘is now more threatened by weak and failing states than…by conquering ones’.

Human Terrain Mapping” is one of those relatively new concepts I’ve been meaning to investigate and CTLab – run by a distinguished trio of scholars and authors Stephen D.K. Ellis, Michael A. Innes and Brian Glyn Williams – fits the bill. Definitely a “blogroll-worthy” site for all of the Intel/COIN/IO/DIME/Foreign Policy bloggers and of interest to the history blogosphere as well since two of the three gentlemen are professional historians.

I look forward to many enjoyable and profitable visits.


Mike Innes has written in to explain that CTLabs is still expanding their team of SME’s as well as the working on the aesthetic and functionality aspects of the site itself, which will be formally “rolled out” with a higher level of interactivity and collaboration.

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