In Commander of ISAF David Petraeus’ ‘Counterinsurgency Guidance’ for military operations in Afghanistan, the first bullet point “Secure and Serve the Population” emphasizes that ‘the decisive terrain is the human terrain.’ The statement issued to “all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of NATO ISAF and US Forces in Afghanistan,” mandates a US/NATO policy of using ‘soldier diplomats,’ information generated by social scientists, and NGO reconstruction efforts as the basis for winning ‘hearts and minds’ while also ‘securing the population’ in the Afghanistan war effort. In the shadow of the shifting and blurred lines between military, diplomatic and civilian operations, journalists like James Denselow and Linda Polman have been trying to understand the implications of an emerging “military-industrial-academic-media-diplomatic-NGO complex.” Recent Hollywood films like Avatar and The Hurt Locker have also explored the different ‘entanglements’ and ‘estrangements’ in current counterinsurgency warfare between academic researchers and the military; military and civilian defense experts; and indigenous subjects and imperial power.

To learn more read Denselow’s ‘Reclaiming humanitarian space’, Rey Chow’s ‘The Age of the World Target’, as well as James Der Derian’s discussion of Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Human Terrain ‘Now We Are All Avatars’ and Virtuous War exploring the relationships between war, war gaming, humanitarian intervention, and the rise of The MIME-NET in the post cold war period.