GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

2.7 Ethical Considerations


Any discipline’s interaction with the military, intelligence, and conflict often undergoes intense scrutiny by its members. This dialogue is important for ensuring the ethical use of the information gained by the fusion of a discipline into the military-intelligence nexus. Due to the “secretive” nature of the military-intelligence nexus, there is often a perception of less-than-virtuous motives; however, that isn’t always the case (Medina, 2016; Pawinski, 2018). Below are some beginning thoughts for and against the inclusion of human geographical, cultural geographical, and anthropological researchers and concepts into the military and intelligence fields. It is by no stretch an all-inclusive list, but a beginning for you to consider as you formulate your arguments for your discussion post.

Table 2.1: Ethical Considerations
For Inclusion Against Inclusion
The inclusion of sociocultural understanding can help reduce kinetic operations and reduce casualties
(Price, 2017).
Historic misuse of the social sciences in conflict zones causing researchers to have ethical concerns that the information may be used to harm individuals
(Pawinski, 2018).
Researcher’s participation can help ensure ethical practices are maintained
(Pawinski, 2018).
Financial support may cause others to question the objectivity of the research
(Pawinski, 2018).
More positive interactions with local populations and leaders
(Bartholf, 2011; Price, 2017).
Classification issues leading to research not developing the discipline in academia
(Pawinski, 2018).


Bartholf, M. C. (2011). The requirement for sociocultural understanding in full spectrum operations. Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, 37(4), 4-10.

Medina, R. M. (2016). From anthropology to human geography: Human terrain and the evolution of operational sociocultural understanding. Intelligence and National Security, 31(2), 137-153.

Pawinski, M. (2018). Going beyond human terrain system: Exploring ethical dilemmas. Journal of Military Ethics, 17(2-3), 122-139.

Price, B. R. (2017). Human terrain at the crossroads. Joint Force Quarterly, 87(4), 69-75.