Anna Simons (CV here) is a Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Prior to teaching at NPS she was both an assistant and then an associate professor of anthropology at UCLA, as well as chair of the Masters in African Area Studies Program.  She holds a PhD in social anthropology from Harvard University and an A.B. from Harvard College.

She is the author of  Networks of Dissolution: Somalia Undone and The Company They Keep: Life Inside the U.S. Army Special Forces.  Most recently she is the co-author of The Sovereignty Solution: A Commonsense Approach to Global Security.

Simons' focus has been on conflict, intervention, and the military from an anthropological perspective.  Her work examines ties that bind members of groups together as well as divides which drive groups apart.  Articles have appeared in The American Interest, The National Interest, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Annual Review of Anthropology, Parameters, and elsewhere. 

Simons has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.  Before attending graduate school, she worked as a reporter and as a presidential speechwriter, and spent several years traveling and working abroad (primarily in Africa).

As a member of the Defense Analysis Department, Simons teaches courses in the anthropology of conflict, military advising, low intensity conflict in Africa, and political anthropology. 


Academic pedigree
CV [updated January 2012]

Pre-academic life
One of the great ironies of life is that I rarely liked school.  I had a great 5th grade teacher (R. Leroy Hooper), followed by several others in middle and high school.  But I still escaped as soon as I could.  Having figured out how to graduate high school half a year early, my parents shipped me off to Paris as an au pair.  The reward for that misery was getting to hitchhike around the UK at 17.  Then came college.  Same aim: escape.  Thank God for AP tests and advanced placement.  I did my three years and was done – all with an aim to never having to enter a classroom again.  Ha!

Between college and graduate school I worked at The Arizona Daily Star (in Tucson), the White House (where Rick Hertzberg, the President's chief speechwriter at the time, was the world's greatest boss; I went from xeroxing to writing speeches for the President).  When we subsequently all lost our jobs in January 1981 I moved to Phoenix and tried doing the same for Governor Bruce Babbitt.  But I was too impatient a youth – not to mention way too young. 

Plus, all I really wanted to do was travel.  I had saved money from all sorts of jobs before, during, and after high school and college.  And so began three and a half years of walkabout.  My intent was to spend the summer in Europe, the winter on a kibbutz in Israel, head to India, go overland through Asia, and end up in Japan teaching English.  But two South Africans I met on kibbutz derailed me and sent me through Africa instead.  Thanks to them, I spent almost two years traveling overland through Africa: London-Johannesburg and, with a young Tasmanian (both of us in our early 20s), Johannesburg-Jerusalem.

Only when I could find no one who wanted to publish my brilliant account of our travels did another series of serendipitous twists land me in grad school – and back into classrooms.  

Extra-academic life
Contrary to what is often claimed, that "there are more fish in the sea," there are never enough fish.  Nor can one ever fish enough, let alone often enough.



The Sovereignty Solution

Co-written with two U.S. Army Special Forces officers (and NPS graduates), The Sovereignty Solution offers a radical yet commonsensical approach to recalibrating global security. It describes what the United States could actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building.

There are two tracks to the strategy presented: strengthening responsibility abroad and strengthening the social fabric at home. The goal: to provoke a serious debate that addresses the gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived.

Without leaning left or right, this book aims to get Washington to rethink what it sends Servicemen and women abroad to do.


The Com[any They Keep

The Company They Keep offers an anthropologist's take on U.S. Army Special Forces – from field exercises to the inner worlds of team rooms and base camps. Its aim is threefold. First, de-mythologize the Green Berets. Second, humanize the men. Third, examine Special Forces from the perspective of those who comprise its real strength: NCOs.

Based on a year's worth of fieldwork and unprecedented access, this book also explores small group dynamics and the ingeniousness of Special Forces' organizational design: what makes teams tick, what holds them together, what makes some better than others.


Networks of Dissolution

How do people react to a failing yet still repressive government? What do they do when the banks run out of cash? How do they cope with unprecedented uncertainty? These are some of the questions this book poses about Somalia circa 1988-1989, as it was visibly beginning to fall apart.

Networks of Dissolution explores the volatile mix of external interest in Somalia, internal politicking, and enduring social structure, and shows how cross-cultural misunderstanding and regroupment are key to understanding Somalia's breakdown at the national level.

By analyzing a pivotal moment in Somali history from an anthropological perspective, Networks of Dissolution considers the dissolution of a state from multiple angles, shuttling back and forth between micro and macro frames, historical and everyday practices, and expatriate and Somali experiences.



"How to Thwart Subversion and 'Death by a Thousand Doubts,'" Ajai Sahni (ed.), The
Fragility of Order: Essays in Honour of K.P.S. Gill, Kautilya, 2019.

"SOF & Diversity: Boon or Bane?" Special Operations Journal, 5:1, 2019.

"Foreword" for Tone Danielsen, Making Warriors in a Global Era: An Ethnographic

Study of the Norwegian Naval Special Operations Commando.  Lexington Books, 2018.

"Yes, Mr. President -- Sovereignty!" The American Interest, October 10, 2017.

"Getting Tribes: A Corrective," The American Interest, May 16, 2018.

"21st Century Challenges of Command: A View from the Field," Strategic Studies Institute, 2017.

"'Scalpel' or 'Easy Button'? Neither -- and Some Further Considerations" in Gitte Hojstrup Christensen (ed), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Special Operations Forces, Conference Proceedings, Royal Danish Defence College, No. 4 (a), 2017. 

"The Sovereignty Solution: Not Radical, But Measured," William Natter and Jason Brooks (eds.), American Strategy and Purpose: Reflections on Foreign Policy and National Security in an Era of Change, New York: Council for Emerging National Security Studies, 2014.

"Non-Western Threats and the Social Sciences," Orbis, Fall 2014.

"The Menace of Menace," The American Interest, June 5, 2014.

"The 'Beware: Poison' Approach to Security," FPRI E-Note, May 2014.

"Rebalancing U.S. Military Power," Parameters, 43(4), Winter 2013-14

"Crooked Lessons from the Indian Wars," Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 36: 685-697, 2013.

"Why Our Syria Policy Is Still a Muddle," The American Interest, September 26, 2013

"Syria: Whose Credibility?" The National Interest, September 6, 2013.

"But What Can You Do For Us? The flaws of America's "new" security assistance policy," The American Interest [website], April 11, 2013.

"21st Century Cultures of War: Advantage Them," The Philadelphia Papers [an FPRI e-book], April 2013.

Soft War = Smart War? Think Again,” FPRI Notes, April 2012.

“How Critical Should Critical Thinking Be? Teaching Soldiers in Wartime,” in Robert Albro, George Marcus, Laura McNamara, & Monica Schoch-Spana (eds), Anthropologists in the Securityscape. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2011.

Asymmetries, Anthropology, and War,” Pointer (Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces), 37 (2), October 2011.

"Anthropology, Culture, and COIN in a Hybrid Warfare World," in Paul Brister, William Natter, and Robert Tomes (eds.), Hybrid Warfare and Transnational Threats: Perspectives for an Era of Persistent Conflict. New York: Council for Emerging National Security Studies, 2011.

"Sovereignty -- The Ultimate States' Rights Argument," The Telegram (FPRI-Temple University Consortium on Grand Strategy), No. 5, July 2011.

"Understanding Culture," "What's Ethnography?" "The Young Male Problem" in Michael Freeman and Hy Rothstein (eds), Gangs & Guerrillas: Ideas from Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism, Naval Postgraduate School Technical Report, 2011.

"'The Culture of War' and 'Sex and War'" (book review essay), Armed Forces & Society, 36(5), October 2010.

"Got Vision? Unity of Vision in Policy and Strategy: What It Is, and Why We Need It," Strategic Studies Institute, July 2010.

with David Tucker, “The Misleading Problem of Failed States: a ‘socio-geography’ of terrorism in the post-9/11 era,” Third World Quarterly, Volume 28, No. 2, 2007.

with Don Redd, Joe McGraw, and Duane Lauchengco, “The Sovereignty Solution,” The American Interest, March/April 2007.

Making Enemies, Part II,” The American Interest, September/October 2006.

Making Enemies: An Anthropology of Islamist Terror, Part I,” The American Interest, Summer 2006.

Seeing the Enemy (or Not)” in Anthony McIvor (ed), Rethinking the Principles of War, Naval Institute Press, 2005.

"The Evolution of the SOF Soldier" in Bernd Horn (ed), Special Operations for Canada (McGill-Queen) 2005.

The Military Advisor as Warrior-King and Other ‘Going Native’ Temptations” in Pamela Frese and Margaret Harrell (eds), Anthropology and the United States Military: Coming of Age in the Twenty-first Century, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

with David Tucker, “SOF and the War on Terrorism,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 14(1), Spring 2003.

The Death of Conquest,” The National Interest, Spring. 2003.

"Intervention in Failed States:  What the U.S. Military Can and Can't Do," National Strategy Forum, Spring 2003.

"The Backbone or the Box?  The Choice between Principled and Prescriptive Leadership,"
in  Don Snider and Gayle Watkins (eds), The Future of Army Professionalism  (McGraw-Hill) 2002.

"The Women in Combat Debate," Parameters, 31 (2), 2001.

"Purity is Danger: An Argument for Divisible Identities," Terrorism and Political Violence, 12 (3-4), 2000.

with Scott E. Brower, "The ACRI Command and Control Challenge," Parameters, 30(4), 2000/01.     

"Women Can Never "Belong" in Combat," Orbis, Summer 2000.

"War: Back to the Future," Annual Review of Anthropology, 1999.

"Making Sense of Ethnic Cleansing," Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 22, 1999.

with P.H. Liotta, "Thicker than Water? Kin, Religion, and Conflict in the Balkans,"             Parameters, 28 (4), 1998/99.

"How Ambiguity Results in Excellence: The Role of Hierarchy and Reputation in U.S. Army Special Forces," Human Organization, 57, 1998.

"Government" in Thomas Barfield (ed), Blackwell Dictionary of Anthropology (Basil Blackwell) 1997.

"Political Anthropology" in Blackwell Dictionary of Anthropology.

"Hardly Innocent: Armed Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia," Bulletin of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, Fall 1997.

"Somalia: The Structure of Dissolution" in Leonardo Villalon and Phillip Huxtable (eds), The African State at a Critical Juncture (Lynne Rienner Publishers) 1997.

"Democratisation and Ethnic Conflict: The Kin Connection," Nations & Nationalism, 3, 1997.

"Somalia: A Regional Security Dilemma" in Edmond Keller and Donald Rothchild (eds), Africa in the New International Order (Lynne Rienner Publishers) 1996.

"The Beginning of the End" in Carolyn Nordstrom and Antonius Robben (eds), Field-
 work under Fire: Contemporary Studies in Violence and Survival.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

"Somalia and the Dissolution of the Nation-State," American Anthropologist, 96(4), 1994.


"Firewalling: Direct vs. Indirect Approach," https://www.stratagem.no/firewalling/, November 4, 2019.

"Yes, Mr. President – Sovereignty!"  The American Interest website, October 10, 2017.

"How Tactics Used in Iraq and Afghanistan Can Make the U.S. More Vulnerable in Future Wars," Task & Purpose website, June 23, 2016.

"Ground Combat Units' New Addition: Women?" The National Interest [website], September 28, 2015.

"Intellectual Capital: A Cautionary Note," Parameters, Summer 2015.

"Women Don't Belong in Combat: Opposing View," USA Today, April 26, 2015.

"Why Integrate Women into Ground Combat Units?" War on the Rocks website, April 22, 2015.

"Women in Ground Combat Units: Where's the Data?" War on the Rocks website, April 15, 2015.

"Here's Why Women in Combat Units Is a Bad Idea," War on the Rocks website, November 18, 2014.

"Building to Strength," USNI blog [website], October 2014.

"The Menace of Menace," The American Interest [website], June 5, 2014.

"Hope as a Moral Hazard," War on the Rocks website, April 22, 2014.

"Rebooting Country Studies," War on the Rocks website, December 31, 2013.

"Why Our Syria Policy Is Still a Muddle," The American Interest [website], September 26, 2013.

"Syria: Whose Credibility?" The National Interest [website], September 6, 2013.

"But What Can You Do For Us? The flaws of America's "new" security assistance policy," The American Interest [website], April 11, 2013.

"The Dynamics of Internal Conflict," International Security, 25 (4), 2001.

"Changing Social Norms," Current Anthropology, 38 (1), 1997.

Robert Maginnis, "Deadly Consequences," Parameters, Fall 2014.

Afyare Abdi Elmi, "Understanding the Somali Conflagration," Northeast African Studies
 12 (12), 2012.

Martin Van Creveld, "The Culture of War" and M. Potts & T. Hayden, "Sex and War," (review essay), Armed Forces & Society, October 2010.

"The Comanches and Us" (review essay), The American Interest, March-April 2009. 

Lorry Fenner and Marie deYoung, 'Women in Combat: Civic Duty or Military Liability?', Parameters, 32 (4), Winter 2002-03.

Bettina Schmidt and Ingo Schroder, 'Anthropology of Violence and Conflict', Ethnos, 2001.

"Front Men and Back Women" (literary review), SAIS Review, 20 (2), 2000.

S.P. Reyna and R.E. Downs, 'Deadly Developments: Capitalism, States and War', American Anthropologist, 2000.

Catherine Besteman, 'Somalia Unraveled', American Ethnologist, 2000.

James Bradford, 'The Military and Conflict between Cultures', Armed Forces & Society, 2000.

David Turton, 'War and Ethnicity', Armed Forces & Society, 1999.

Thomas Ricks, 'Making the Corps', Christian Science Monitor, December 15, 1997.

Linda Bird Francke, 'Ground Zero: The Gender Wars in the Military', Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1997.

Mark Pedelty, 'War Stories: The Culture of Foreign Correspondents',  American Anthropologist, 1997.

"Two Perspectives on War" (review essay), Current Anthropologist, 38, 1997.

Jonathan Stevenson, 'Losing Mogadishu: Testing U.S. Policy in Somalia', Armed Forces & Society, 1996.

Opinion pieces
Op-ed on embassy bombings, The Washington Post (8/29/98)
Op-ed on women in combat, The New York Times (4/23/97)
Op-ed on intervention, The Washington Post (11/17/96)
Sunday Focus piece on Rwanda, The Boston Globe (7/24/94)
Sunday Focus piece on South Africa, The Boston Globe (10/1/94)
Op-ed on Somalia, The Washington Post (8/15/93)
Analysis on Somalia, African News (12/21/92)
Op-ed on Somalia, The Washington Post (12/5/92)
Sunday Focus piece on Somalia, The Boston Globe (11/29/92)
Op-ed on Somalia, The Washington Post (5/15/91)


Anthropology may well be the most politically correct of the social sciences.  Up until a few years ago, it remained the only social science with no branch devoted to the study of warfare or the military.  Military history, military sociology, even military psychology have long existed. Economists have been able to study things military with no problem.  Political science has an entire subfield called security studies.

But anthropology?  Before 9/11 you could count on, maybe, two hands the number of anthropologists worldwide who were studying anything associated with modern warfare apart from its effects on civilians.

Consequently, it has never been easy to be an anthropologist who consorts with, never mind studies the military.  Take my tenure case at UCLA (which I did receive, despite the best efforts of some).  One tenure committee report used  'green beret' (uncapitalized) to describe my book about U.S. Army Special Forces, while whoever wrote the report concluded that I clearly didn't intend for the book to be taken seriously since I hadn't used footnotes.  Of course, this same report also consistently misspelled my last name.  Ah, academe and scholarship.

I stopped writing for such audiences a long time ago.  Consequently, I can't pretend to have kept up with all that has been written about the uses and misuses made of anthropology by and for the military since 9/11, never mind all the charges that have been leveled since the advent of the Human Terrain System (HTS) and human terrain teams (HTTs).  Several of my publications (most recently, "Anthropology, Culture and COIN" and "How Critical Should Critical Thinking Be") make clear where I've long stood.

However, mischaracterizations persist.

For instance, recently, in a book published by Duke University Press, the claim is made that David Tucker (my colleague and co-author of a report on human intelligence) and I would like to see the U.S. make use of indigenous networks in war.  Indigenous networks, as we describe them, include all sorts of things from clans to secret societies.  What is imputed to us (by someone who should have done his homework better) is that the U.S. military should use ethnographic intelligence and these networks to advantage when waging foreign wars.  We say no such thing.  Others might.  But our argument (repeated in several of our publications) is that the U.S. needs to be aware of how such indigenous means of association can be used against us.

Perhaps one reason our argument is misrepresented is because if you look at what colleagues of ours have written, they may have a different point of view.  Do we all think the same?  Of course not.  Who does, in any academic department?! 

So, anthropologists especially, beware.  You loudly and often correctly decry others for essentializing.  Don't then essentalize away whenever it comes to 'the' military – and those who associate with it.



"Ground Combat Units' New Addition: Women?" The National Interest, September 28, 2015.

"Women Don't Belong in Combat: Opposing View," USA Today, August 25, 2015.

"Why Integrate Women Into Ground Combat Units?" War on the Rocks [online], April 22, 2015.

"Women in Ground Combat Units: Where's the Data?," War on the Rocks [online], April 15, 2015.

"Here's Why Women in Combat Units is a Bad Idea," War on the Rocks [online], November 18, 2014.

Book review: DEADLY CONSEQUENCES by Robert Maginnis, Parameters, Summer 2014.

"Women in Combat Units: It's Still a Bad Idea," Parameters, Summer 2001.

"Women Can Never 'Belong' in Combat," Orbis, Summer 2000.

"In War, Let Men Be Men," The New York Times, April 23, 1997.

Book review: GROUND ZERO by Linda Bird Francke, The Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1997.