The New York Times published an oped by Richard Shweder, an anthropology professor at the University of Chicago, on the contribution of anthropologists to American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan (via Abu Muqawama). Professor Shweder frames the current debate between "help US military efforts" on one side and "US government evil and corrupting" on the other side. He concludes:
The real issue is how our profession is going to begin to play a far more significant educational role in the formulation of foreign policy, in the hope that anthropologists won’t have to answer some patriotic call late in a sad day to become an armed angel riding the shoulder of a misguided American warrior.A good point, but how are you going to build the significance of anthropology as a discipline if you don't want anthropologists to work for the branches of government most relevant? It seems to me that a substantial portion of American academics would prefer the purity of irrelevance to dirtying themselves with relevancy to policy:
While often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world, protects US soldiers on the battlefield, or promotes cross-cultural understanding... such work breaches relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world and, directly or indirectly, enables the occupation of one country by another.