Since the early 20th century, modern warfare has ceased to rely solely on what happened in battlefields with tanks and guns. Campaigns to win the hearts and minds of the moderate or allied-minded civilians has been a standard component of military strategy never more necessary and complex than in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Previous to HTS, military efforts to be culturally sensitive had run from the ridiculous to the sublimely logical. Hiring nearby residents to work as navigators of local customs seems smart enough. Elaborate SIMs-like training video games wherein soldiers (depicted by crude avatars) have to determine (with all the time in the world to decide) if a given situation calls for a friendly chat or turning someone's house upside down and arresting them seem somewhat less effective. While delivering toys to village children, including a truckload of soccer balls with dead American soldiers' names written on each one seems both futile and tacky considering the rate of civilian casualty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This ancillary footage can feel overwrought and even on
occasionally mildly insulting, but it serves as a good reminder that
while a war of ideas may be raging in the insular worlds of military
strategy and academia, the majority of people directly involved with the
War on Terror are not as comfortable taking the longview
Human Terrain screened as part of the HotDocs 2010 program.