I agree with every syllable of Secretary Gates’s recent lecture at Duke University and with Glenn Reynolds’s New York Post op-ed. The increased separation between our military and our elite institutions of higher education hurts our country. We should be clear about one thing, however. Harvard needs the military more than the military needs Harvard.
Simply put, the ideological groupthink at our elite universities implants bad — and even dangerous — ideas in its graduates. Our universities would be better off if more veterans and active members of the military (such as ROTC faculty) were on campus to present alternative — and more realistic — viewpoints. Some examples of typical elite university nonsense include:
Fantasy-world concepts of Islam. A typical student at an elite college or university will be taught the best aspects of the Islamic faith, as well as the notion that “extremism” is both exceedingly rare and at odds with the essentials of the faith. They will be taught similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, but not the quite substantial differences. The highly westernized Muslim students they interact with on campus will be utterly unlike the Muslims they would meet in the tribal areas of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq.
Fantasy-world cultural relativism. Our students are increasingly taught the charms of other cultures and the flaws of our own. For example, Arabs are exceedingly hospitable (generally true), while we are often rude (also true). Yet are students taught that the hospitality of the Middle East can be fundamentally deceptive? I’ve had chai with men who later tried to kill our soldiers. Do our students understand the brutal violence of the honor/shame cycle in the Middle East? Ivy League grads often leave with an Epcot World Showcase view of other cultures while loathing western civilization. As one friend remarked upon meeting even a Christian student group at Yale: “I could tell they loved Jesus. But they also hated America. I couldn’t tell which impulse was stronger.”
Fantasy-world views of human nature. “Diversity” as practiced in our universities draws people of many different colors and every conceivable sexual practice into one place where they are taught to think alike. Students can live their entire lives on campus without meeting a single person who seriously challenges their secular-progressive view of the world and its people. This understandably leads to such silly thinking as “deep down, we all want the same things” or to the notion that actions that would persuade us also persuade others. Our elite universities cannot comprehend fundamental differences because they do not experience actual diversity. Professors cannot even understand Alabama, much less Diyala.
The success of counterinsurgency strategies in Iraq rested a great deal on truly understanding your area of operations and the people who lived there. That meant seeing them as they were, not as you wanted them to be. That meant understanding the weaknesses of a culture, as well as its strengths. That meant adjusting expectations away from utopianism and towards the basics — security, food, and fuel. And it meant encountering and reacting to the counterintuitive. How do you respond when a Muslim man hands you a can (yes, a can) of whiskey to celebrate killing a terrorist? Or when a sheik begs you to bomb a mosque? Or kill an imam? How do you respond when the academic knowledge regarding the alleged irreconcilable differences between Sunni and Shi’ite terrorists collides with the reality of their cooperation, then the reality of their conflict?
But I suppose Harvard feels it is better off without this perspective and experience because the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits homosexual conduct — punishing even students who may disagree with “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by not only keeping ROTC off campus but also denying them college credit for the ROTC courses they take elsewhere.
Harvard is hurting America, yes, but it’s hurting itself most of all.