About a month ago we showed photos of the Chinese police engaged in a drill designed to crush a “working class insurrection”, in which the police did precisely what would be required to end a middle class rebellion. It made us wonder: what does China know that the US doesn’t. As it turns out, nothing.
Because long before China was practicing counter-riot ops using rubber bullets, all the way back in 2008 the US Department of Defense was conducting studies on the dynamics of civil unrest, and how the US military might best respond. The name of the project: “Minerva Research Initiative” and its role is to ” “improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.”
The Guardian which first revealed the details, reports that, “The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
The premise behind Minerva is simple: study how violent political overthrow, aka mass civil breakdown, happens in the day and age of social networks, and be prepared to counteract it – by “targeting peaceful activities and protest movements” – when it finally reaches US shores.
From the Minerva Initiative website (http://minerva.dtic.mil/):
Just as our military forces could not effectively operate without understanding the physical terrain and environment, detection of radical actors and regime disruptions is limited by our understanding of the cultural and political environments where those threats develop. The Minerva Research Initiative, initiated by former Secretary Gates in 2008, seeks to build deeper understanding of the social, cultural, and political dynamics that shape regions of strategic interest around the world.
Deeper understanding of global populations and their variance as provided by Minerva-funded research will yield more effective strategic and operational policy decisions. Minerva scholars have already briefed valuable, warfighter-relevant insights to senior officials such as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, decision makers in the defense policy community, and on the ground to our combatant commands.
As the nascent program continues to grow, university-driven Minerva research will further enable critical social and cultural understanding to help decision makers effectively address today’s known and tomorrow’s unknown challenges.