Human geography at the NGA: “boots on the ground”

The latest (Sept-Oct 2012) issue of the NGA’s in-house magazine, Pathfinder, is a special issue on “Human Geography” (cover below). Motto:

Right Place, Right Time

Human geography tells “when” and “where” to put boots on the ground.

Now I don’t usually get too bothered about military/intel appropriations of the discipline, but the photo and text above is just so ridden with contradictions and, well, let’s just be frank, propaganda, that it’s impossible to let pass.

Whatever happened to geography as a tradition of care, so well put by Peter Gould in his brilliant piece “Thinking like a Geographer” ? Or the rest of his senses: a sense of communion, of disquiet, of relevance, of justice, of the spatial, of need, of right? Of course these could apply to any discipline, not geography alone.

Is that an apple the child is offering? A ball? Is the infantryman representative of the teacher? But no:

On the cover. The study of human geography allows NGA’s geospatial intelligence analysts to provide decision makers with the information necessary to ensure our military is at the right place at the right time to provide assistance to those in need. U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tom Morton hands an Afghan child a toy during a security patrol in the Garmsir district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Feb. 25. Morton is a team lead assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

So boots on the ground is now primarily = “assistance to those in need”? Ah, that’s what happened to the social safety net and welfare! It turned into one that carries loaded weapons around children.

I shouldn’t think even readers of the magazine predisposed to its message will be convinced by this one, much less those wearing the “boots on the ground.”

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