In this essay, Stuart Schrader traces the arc of US security assistance to Latin America from the late nineteenth century to the present, and finds deep continuities amid the policy changes. From gunboat diplomacy and direct occupation to training and support for militaries, police, and counterinsurgency, economic and geopolitical interests have predominated. At the same time, the legacy of former policies constrains new ones, and Latin American elites, once dependent on the United States, have grown more autonomous in pursuing their own political projects.
Samar Al-Bulushi marks the twentieth anniversary of the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania with a reflection on their legacy for the securitization of much of the African continent. Based on extensive field research in Kenya (supported by SSRC’s Dissertation Proposal Development and International Dissertation Research Fellowships), she analyzes the extension of American and European military presences in the region, the Kenyan military’s role in Somalia, and the ways in which police forces target Muslim citizens under the banner of antiterrorism. Even aid agencies and civil society organizations, Al-Bulushi argues, contribute to the discourse and practice of “countering violent extremism” with serious consequences.
A "big data" project for its day, the SSRC's The American Soldier series was deeply influential in shaping the social science of military organization and in developing new research methods. On the occasion of its four volumes and the underlying trove of data becoming openly accessible, Items republishes several archival essays on The American Soldier. Here, Rodrigo Ugarte provides an overview of the project's origins and impact.
In this piece from the Items archive, Carl I. Hovland, Arthur A. Lumsdaine, and Fred D. Sheffield encapsulate the work of volume III of The American Soldier series, Experiments on Mass Communication, which analyzed efforts at indoctrination and instruction conducted on soldiers during World War II. In particular, they highlight the controlled experiment comparisons on responses to the US Army’s “Why We Fight” film series, as well as the limitations of conducting research on the effectiveness of various media of communication.
Studies in Social Psychology in World War II: The Work of the War Department’s Research Branch, Information and Education Divisionby Items Editors
Almost 70 years ago, the SSRC organized and assembled the publication of a four-volume series titled Social Psychology in World War II, now commonly referred to as The American Soldier. This 1949 piece from the Items archive introduces the series, summarizing each volume’s contents, and focuses on the first two volumes, which aimed to heighten social scientists’ theoretical and empirical knowledge of social behavior through the research conducted on World War II soldiers during the war.
Forty years after the publication of the first volume of The American Soldier, John Clausen, one of the series’ contributors, reflected on the project’s history and the volumes’ impact in this 1989 Items archive piece. Clausen explains how the four-volume series anthologized the research conducted by the War Department Research Branch during World War II, which studied soldiers’ attitudes on a wide range of issues, from the war effort to unit desegregation, and utilized various methodologies. In particular, he highlights the role the SSRC and its associates played in developing the Research Branch and the volumes.
Danny Hoffman’s new essay explores the expansive role of militaries as “armed first responders,” which has become “the new normal of humanitarian intervention.” Based on his research on both the US and Liberian armies as they intervened in the 2014 Ebola crisis, Hoffman shows the connections between the actions of the two forces. In particular, he examines how the focus on training Liberian forces to counter violent extremism by the Americans shaped how the Liberian military, with tragic consequences, approached its role in containing the Ebola epidemic. This essay is cross-posted on Kujenga Amani, the digital forum of the African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council.
Lilian Bobea, 2012 Drugs, Security and Democracy Fellowship recipient, analyzes President Trump's decision to appoint military personnel to top positions. By appointing generals to top political posts and hiking defense spending, Trump is imperiling a cherished tenet of the US constitution: civilian control of the military.