‘Human Terrain’ is an expose of the U.S. effort to enlist America’s best and the brightest in a global struggle for the hearts and minds of its enemies. After winning the short battle of ’shock and awe’ in Iraq, but losing the long war to bring democracy and peace to the Middle East, the U.S. military began a controversial program to ‘operationalize’ culture as an instrument of irregular warfare. With the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ that produced hi-tech, low-casualty victories in Panama, Bosnia, and Kosovo tarnished by long and costly counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army and Marine Corps enlist anthropologists, political scientists, historians, and other academics in ‘Human Terrain Systems’ for the global war on terror.
Filmmakers James Der Derian, David Udris and Michael Udris track this major shift in U.S. military policy as it ripples through American universities and civil society. Simultaneously a road-trip into the heart of the war machine and a critical investigation of academic collaboration with the military, ‘Human Terrain’ traces a new ‘revolution in military affairs’ after U.S. policies based on virtual technologies and virtuous ideologies fail to create peace, and foot soldiers are left to clean up the mess.