According to a newly released US Department of Defense (DoD) research program, the Pentagon has been funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest in the United States and around the world.
This program has been funded under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar program has been designed for the purposes of developing immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community.” Furthermore, the purpose, as explained by related documents, has been to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
The program was first launched back in 2008. It is suspected that the global banking crisis was the impetus for the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’. The DoD partnered with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”
A Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research aimed to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.”
This will purportedly determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagions by studying “digital traces” such as in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”
The program employs things like Twitter posts and social media conversations, examined “to identify individuals mobilized in a social contagion and when they become mobilized.”
A related project at University of Washington, formed this year, “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.”
This project is being managed by the US Army Research Office, and focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity.” It will cover 58 countries in total.
The DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project last year as well, in order to determine ‘Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?’
This study conflates what seem to simply be peaceful activists with “supporters of political violence”. The study says the following:
“In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence.”
Last year, in 2013, Minerva funded a University of Maryland project that was formed in collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It’s purpose too was to gauge the risk of civil unrest due to climate change. This three-year $1.9 million project was formed to develop models to “anticipate what could happen to societies under a range of potential climate change scenarios.”
According to Professor David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin’s University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, “when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project.”
Price has previously exposed the Pentagon’s Human Terrain Systems (HTS) program which was designed in order to embed social scientists in military field operations to routinely conduct training scenarios set in regions “within the United States” according to Price.
Price reported that HTS training scenarios “adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq” to domestic situations “in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.”