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"Liberalizing the Military":

The internal culture of the military is something I don't fully understand. I haven't served, and the relationships seem so different from my day to day life that I don't really have an intuitive grasp on how things work. With that disclaimer in mind, from a policy perspective (leaving aside the constitutional issues for a moment) this rationale as expressed by Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine captain and author of a book on his war experiences, called One Bullet Away, has always seemed to make some sense to me:

Mr. Fick majored in classics at Dartmouth, and he speaks about being motivated to join the Marines by a talk given by Tom Ricks, a Washington Post reporter who covers the military. Fick says that Ricks was an advocate for ROTC on campus during his talk, and a professor challenged him, saying if you bring the military onto our campus you'll screw up our peaceful nature and tolerance.

Ricks replied, no, what will happen is that you will liberalize the military. You will influence the military and it will influence you.

I have only begun reading Fick's book, but I have seen him interviewed on tv, and he seems to agree with this claim (which is one of the reasons he starts his book with it, I think). It seems to me that this "liberalizing" effect on the military is even more valuable today, given the extensive civilian responsibilities that modern soldiers undertake. And the impressive performance of the JAG Corps in dealing with the Abu Ghraib fiasco is also suggestive of the influence that good people can have on the military.

As I said, I don't have any personal experience with whether this is an accurate claim, but it seems intuitively plausible to me. I would be interested in hearing from any readers out there who have served in the military as to whether you find the claim "You will influence the military and it will influence you" actually works out that way in practice, especially for those who serve as officers (presumably the relevant category for ROTC and JAG questions). I'm not so much interested in the constitutional questions here (which have been hashed over extensively here and elsewhere this week), but hearing personal experiences about the culture of the military and the opportunities that individuals may have to influence that culture.

Update:

Several of the Commenters raise the good point that it is not exactly clear what the term "liberalize" here means. My understanding is that those using the term (such as in Fick's story) do not intend it to mean politically or ideologically liberal (thus suggesting that the military is somehow reactionary in nature) but rather something more along the lines of what is meant in the term of "liberal education" or "liberal arts education." I think they have in mind someone who is the product of a broad and well-rounded education in the libearl arts & sciences in a predominantly civilian college or university. Tolerance, thoughtfulness, and independent thinking, is my impression of the virtues that are being sought here. At least that is what I have in mind when I think of the term in this context.

As one of the Comments puts it:

P.S. "Liberal" in this context is NOT describing a political viewpoint, but rather a "liberal" education, as one grounded in the liberal arts and sciences that teaches one to think, as opposed to say a vocational education, that teaches one to do a job.

Update:

A couple of interesting examples of the idea, such as Pershing and Caesar, are discussed here.

Dennis Nolan (mail):
My own military experience is pretty ancient (Viet Nam era) but there was certainly some truth to this thesis back then. This was just at the time that elite schools were abandoning ROTC but a lot of their recent graduates were serving as officers. My own ROTC cohort had a disproportionate number of law school, business school, and graduate school students because ROTC was a refuge when Congress abolished graduate school deferments.

"Liberalizing" may not be the precise word but there was at least some cross-fertilization. I have the distinct impression, based on personal observation of higher education and conversations with military personnel as well as media reports, that the armed services and academia are far more distinct cultures now than they were then. That's a loss on both sides.
12.3.2005 10:27am
Cornellian (mail):
I don't know how officer recruiting works, but don't they have to have a post-secondary education? Presumbly colleges campuses would practically be the only way to recruit officers, since the military academies don't generate enough grads to fill all available positions.

It probably would be better, for the military and for society for the military to recruit from the top universities. I do wonder though whether a military JAG would be disproportionately attractive to a law grad than a regular officer position would be to a graduate in some other field. A JAG can offer hands on experience to compensate for paying less money. What can the military offer a business grad who aspires to be a CEO?
12.3.2005 10:33am
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
I served four years in the Marine Corps infantry. I was enlisted, not an officer, but I went in with a college degree.

Based on my experience, I think Ricks' argument is effective at countering idiot college professors, but I shrug at it otherwise.

First of all, I strongly question the assumption here that liberal = good. Are you saying that only liberals would be capable of dealing with an Abu Ghraib properly?

The other problematic assumption is the one that says if you have an ROTC unit at a predominantly liberal campus, it will cause more liberals to join the military. The reasons a given liberal may have for not joining the military are not usually ones of access, are they?

If I had to guess, I would say the military does a better job of conservatizing liberals than liberals do of liberalizing the military. :)
12.3.2005 10:34am
CWO:
I'm an active duty warrant officer (20 years) with two graduate degrees. I also come from a long line of infantry officers. The officer corps studies the art and science of war and therefore most officers are very well read. I would venture to guess that most officers are 'classic' liberals due to their education AND experience. When you 'visit' foreign countries you come away with certain ideas that whether it is Aristide, Fahd, Hussein, Mao, Stalin or others that man's desire to oppress is limitless. Therefore the only answer is limited government and freedom. That is NOT conservative it is liberal.
12.3.2005 10:48am
MacGyver in Paradise (mail):
I attended Virginia Tech and was part of the VT Corps of Cadets, a University organization that was comprised of AROTC, AFROTC, NROTC (with Marine ROTC option), as well as a number of cadets who were Corps Only and had no miliraty ROTC. Cadets came in all shapes and sizes (although some of those sizes were required to slim down by their own military branches), races and creeds. We were in our own world up there with our uniforms, drilling, and 5am Physical Training runs but coexisted with a liberal student body.

I don't understand why this is such a threat to people or why anyone would consider our military intolerant. The military exists to protect this country, not to kill and maim people for sheer pleasure and oppress their beliefs. I don't know whay that has ever been the idea.
12.3.2005 11:13am
Brian G (mail) (www):
The militray isn't a social program.
12.3.2005 11:35am
Abdul (mail):

The militray isn't a social program.


I agree. This is the only liberal arts education the military needs: Less minority studies majors + more snake-eaters = dead terrorists.
12.3.2005 11:47am
flatlander (mail) (www):
I think my experince my be relevant, so I'll describe my situation in the service. I graduated from the University of Illinois Summa Cum Laude with Distinction and entered the Navy through Officer Candidate School right after graduation. Until my senior year I had been on a track to begin a PhD program in psychology.

Although my father had served briefly in the Navy in WWII, there was no tradition of military service in my family, and in fact my parents tried to talk me out of joining.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. While I chose to leave active duty after six years to pursue a career in business, the Navy experience prepared me to open doors I would not have otherwise seen.

While there is no doubt that the Navy influenced me more than I influenced the Navy, there is also no doubt that I had an impact in my little corner of that world. I did bring a different perspective than my peers who had a more traditional military educations. I think we learned from each other. The military is a meritocracy that is concerned first and foremost with the mission. Credibility and influence is earned. First, you have to do your job well (complete the mission). If you do that, you earn influence. If you don't, you don't. And yes, a "liberal" education can be of tremendous value there. There is no career on earth where a young person can be put in a situation where the quality of their leadership and decision-making is more meaningful.

P.S. "Liberal" in this context is NOT describing a political viewpoint, but rather a "liberal" education, as one grounded in the liberal arts and sciences that teaches one to think, as opposed to say a vocational education, that teaches one to do a job.
12.3.2005 12:11pm
JohnO (mail):
I was a regular (non-lawyer) Marine officer for four years and then was sent to law school for three, finally serving as a JAG for three years. I was NROTC in college. I don't know that having ROTC liberalizes the military. It more likely makes the student body more conservative. As someone said above, regular officers get a college education somewhere, so I don't think that having ROTC on a campus has much of an effect on the "liberalization" of the military, be3cause those kids are going to be on a college campus somewhere anyway. Even though I went to a conservative college in a conservative era (Univ. of Rochester, class of 1988), I found the ROTCs to be a pretty insular group (I'll admit that I was a part of the reason for that), with a large group of us hanging out together, basically a conservative/militaristic drinking society.
12.3.2005 12:12pm
David Hecht (mail):
Mr. Zywicki: you might want to read Thos. Ricks' book (now nearly 15 years old) "Making The Corps" , in which he observes and chronicles the strivings of a group of Marine rookies at boot camp. Much sociological meditation and many profound insights (though I still think his view that the military is becoming isolated from the American mainstream is overblown).
12.3.2005 12:18pm
pbswatcher (www):
I think Mr. Fick is trying to help us avoid the trap noticed by Thucydides, "A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools."
12.3.2005 12:39pm
Don Meaker (mail):
I attended West Point, and after leaving, took ROTC at RPI and Evangel College. I have served as an infantry officer (Carter Administration) and in civil service for Navy and Air Force.

The military culture is approached by a very tight corporate team, say a small team writing a proposal. There is the total commitment, the trust, and the willing submittal of ones decisions to the assessment of one's peers.

"A dead man has no ego." As General G.S. Patton Jr used to say. Care for the men never considers lowering standards to gain temporary self esteem. Such behavior would be criminal for any officer. Correcting mistakes is not harsh, it is the ultimate kindness.

It is a tough job. The brave part is signing up. Everthing else is just following through.
12.3.2005 1:05pm
justanotherguy (mail):
An a recently retired Navy Captain, I would say that the influence of the access to the elite campuses would have no effect on the ethos of the military establishment. On both the enlisted and officer levels, the beginning years in the military are specifically designed to change the outloook, culture and values of the young person (normally male) into that wanted by the specific service and area of duty. This transformation is quite effective as it relies on age old techniques to mold unit loyalty which bring with that group the group's ideals. These ideals also resonate in our current culture, and all highlight ideals such as duty honor, country, commitment, sacrifice, courage etc. The result is that we in the military think of ourselves has meeting a higher set of standards than the community at large; and if you can rise to them, you can be a part of our group. Along with this membership, at least in today's society, comes many enjoyable reinforcements...today's military is looked at with admiration by almost all parts society outside of the elite institutions. (Look at any set of polls)


The ability of a small group of interactions to affect this build in, generations old ethos is quite small. I think what would happen is the military would have a bigger effect on the elite institutions than the institutions would have on the military. The military is very self-regenerative with respect to its ideals. Those who get with the ethos and live it (you can't hide or fake it when living in close proximity in harsh conditions for months on end with others) succeed and those who can't model the ideals leave or are not promoted and forced out. Just like the elite institutions are accused of ideological selection on their faculties, a selection for meeting the ethos of the branch and specific service definitely does occur in the military.

The new officer may bring in society's different values, but by the time that person is a Major or Lieutenant Commander,(10-12 yrs of service, or an E-7 in enlisted ranks) she reflects the values of her specific area of duty. The place where she came may be a large or a small part of her current make-up according to how well it matches that of her specific service (and they are different between services and duties in the service from Marines to helo pilots to jet pilots etc.) But if someone is in the military for 10 years, enlisted or officer, that person will reflect her service not where she came from.

As for the elitism shown from the idea that it takes people from "those special schools" to be good, know what really matters.... as a top graduate from the Naval Academy (which recently announced it had 4 Rhodes Scholars this year), I would compare any academy graduate with any similar graduate from one of the elite institutions and would rather work with the academy graduate. If you compare the stats of the class going in and coming out... while there might be a slight edge to the incoming Harvard freshman, but the crucible of any of the academies turns out a better product than the current PC product from the liberal arts departments at the "better schools" (for a different post... something about working the academy students nearly to death to bring out the best in them... can schools other than MIT say the same in today's take what classes you want environment?)
12.3.2005 1:09pm
WILL FREISMUTH:
I think that the quote cited by pbswatcher does not
come from Thucydides.
It was actually from General Butlers biography of
Charles "Chinese" Gordon, hero of Khartoum, and written
in the 1880's when butler was still a LtCol.
12.3.2005 1:14pm
subpatre (mail):
Certainly racial integration in the US is an example of the role the military plays in (classic) liberalizing our society.


pbswatcher - stop it. Thucydides didn't say that, General Sir William Francis Butler did in his biography of Sir Charles Napier.

The phrase may also be that the nation which "insists on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards."

The biography by Butler isn't online, so I can't verify which quote (if either) is correct. Thucydides is online, and nothing like the quote is found.
12.3.2005 1:19pm
T. Gracchus (mail):
I find it odd that someone who has expressed concern about a perceived lack of poltiical diversity in universities has no corresponding concern about the lack of political diversity in the military.
Yes, I did grow up in a military family - the chang ein political culture of the military over the last 30 years is striking, and should be worrisome.
12.3.2005 1:32pm
Gabriel Rossman (www):
flatlander,
you may well be right about what "liberal" ought to mean in this context, but Ricks meant it in the more colloquial political sense of the term. the last few chapters of Making the Corps (which are basically a non sequitur from the Parris Island chapters) are spent worrying about the extent to which the officer corps has become dominated by political conservatives and (allegedly) how this ultimately threatens the ideal of civilian control of an apolitical military. as indicated in the original post, Ricks preferred solution is not to attack conservative officers, but to recruit more political liberals into the service.
12.3.2005 1:33pm
Phil (mail):
subpatre
I think that you are correct as to the source of the quote. Didn't Admiral Stockdale quote it in his book A Vietnam Experience?
12.3.2005 1:34pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Rick's observation is accurate, and CWO's comments amplify its truth.

I was the quintessential "citizen soldier" for ten years, four of which was served on active duty. I was an ROTC graduate at an elite eastern university in 1961. Had I gone on active duty immediately, as most of my classmates did, I would have been off active duty in 1962 or 1963. Instead, I deferred my active duty to graduate from an Ivy League law school. When I entered active duty as an Armor officer in 1966, I hit the Vietnam era. In its wisdom, the Army allowed me a branch transfer from Armor to JAG just before my deployment to Vietnam in 1967. In Vietnam I tried and defended commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and enlisted men accused of a wide variety of felonies. I also served as legal officer (staff counsel) in a number of board investigations of alleged graft and corruption in the operation of officers clubs and the administration of contracts. It was very challenging work under difficult circumstances.

I was well treated and respected as an officer and as a person throughout my active service. I worked primarily for senior career officers (Colonel and above) almost all of whom were competent and dedicated. Most were fair, but tough and objective oriented.

My impression then was that the criminal justice system in the military services was much more uniformly fair than the civilian system in much of our country. I still believe that impression was accurate.

From my perspective as a reserve officer who served on active duty during wartime, I think Rick and CWO have it about right.
12.3.2005 1:38pm
Bottomfish (mail):
None of the ex-servicepeople who post here appear to have served in combat. At the risk of sounding commonplace, I must point out that the use of force is the only reason for having the military at all. We call out the troops only when things cannot be resolved any other way. Due to the nature of combat, the soldier cannot argue with others as to what to do, or try to fight in his own "creative" way, or dress as he pleases. Most of the distinctive qualities of the military can be traced to the combat function. The individual must be rigidly subordinated to the group, must obey orders without hesitation and act just as he has been trained to act.

All of the above is directly in opposition to academia. As an example, look at A Theory of Justice by John Rawls, widely considered to be a great work of political science on how the state should be organized. Here, there seems to be no place for the military at all and hardly any mention even of a police force. Chapter 38 contains a grudging admission that "a coercive sovereign is presumably always necessary." Perhaps the academic world needs to be militarized a bit.
12.3.2005 2:40pm
Michael B (mail):
Yes, those emphasizing the esprit de corps and general classical liberal motifs have it right, echoing again Rick and CWO, et al. By stark contrast, there's the professor's self-serving silliness in the original post, or this, from American Digest, commenting on the affectations and increasing silliness at the NYT:

"At this stage, it seems obvious that the "Business Plan"of the New York Times is to skew harder and harder towards its evaporating base of West Siders, tweed-chocked college professors, and others sadly debiliated by Bush Derangement Syndrome, that normal centrists and independents when passing a stack of the Times fall victim to a new syndrome, SPV (Spontaneous Projectile Vomiting). No small achievement for an object that more and more resembles mere bleached woodpulp covered with indecipherable ink spatters."

A telling contrast indeed. h/t American Future
12.3.2005 3:01pm
Hattio (mail):
Okay, I'm going to jump in the fray, even though I have no military experience.

I have to agree (mostly) with Ofc. Krupke (and others) that the likely effect is to conservatize any liberals who join the military. And I definitely mean in the political sense. One has only to look at the makeup of the military, the military's general politcal trend, and the general political trend of the groups the military is generally drawn from.
The military has a far higher percentage of Hispanic and African-American minorities than the population as a whole, and is largely drawn from the lower economic classes. All of these groups in the civilian world (Hispanics, African-Americans, and the working class/poor) tend to vote Democratic and be liberal. And yet, the military is consistently conservative.
Obviously, a part of this must be selection bias, those most likely to be conservative of the above groups are also the most likely to join the military. But given the young age at which most folks join the military, the fact that at that age most people's political preferences are not set in stone, it's hard to believe that culturization doesn't account for some of the conservative political trend of military personnel generally.
12.3.2005 3:44pm
SG (mail):
Well, I went to Duke, then spent 4 years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer (I'm currently a Major in the reserves), then to Harvard Law School. I would definitely argue that the military benefits from recruiting at so-called "top" colleges, but I would argue even more strongly that graduates from top colleges (and the US as a whole) benefit far, far more from being in the military, even (especially?) if only for a short time. I went to OCS and TBS (the first two stages of any Marine officer's career) with a good dose of the academic snobbery that places like Duke are rife with. That left quickly when I saw the quality of the men (and, as an infantry officer and someone who was in an all male company at TBS, I only ever served with men) around me. In my 250 lieutenant class at TBS, there was on Lt who went to Yale, one who went to Cornell, and me, a Duke grad, to represent the supposedly upper echelon tier of liberal arts institutions. We had two Lts who had been promoted through the enlisted commissioning program, meaning that they did not have college degrees. The Yale guy finished about 16th in the company, the Cornell guy finished 25th and I finished 27th. Not bad. The two ECP Lts finished 5th and 11th. The guy who finished 5th, in particular, (a Marine named Lance Dowd should he ever achieve prominence, which wouldn't surprise me) was one of the most inspirational leaders I have ever met, and later at the Infantry Officer Course, was voted by his fellow Lts as the person we would all most like to be led by in combat. I can't remember the name of that award (the Wheeler award?), but all Marine infantry Lts remember the person who won it for their class, because in an organization like that, to receive acclaim from your peers of that nature is incredibly important. I will fully cop to having been a little bit (a lot?) of an academic snob when I first hit OCS. 4 years later that was totally beaten out of me; the military (well, the Marines at least) places almost no value on what you've done before you got there -- it's all about what you've done once you put on the uniform. And I don't think there's a whole lot of correlation (at least in the USMC -- academy grads may have an advantage in the other services) between fancy school and high achievement in the USMC. Which is a good thing.

As for Cornellian's question about what the military offers a business grad who wants to be a CEO, I'd reply: everything. Nowhere else in America (the world?) do 22 year olds get the kind of leadership experience that is thrust on junior officers every day. As a 22 yr old straight out of IOC, I was handed a 44 Marine platoon that was on its way to Somalia (we never got there) and expected to know what to do with it. Currently, young men of the same age are handed infantry platoons (approx 40 Marines) bound for Iraq or Afghanistan and expected to lead them in combat. You don't get that responsibility, at that age, in any other job. Supposedly Marines are disproportionately highly represented among America's business elite. I have no idea if that's true, but the few business bigwigs that I have known who served in the USMC have all placed enormous emphasis on the lessons they learned there as young men (the late Sherman Lewis, former Vice Chairman of Lehman Brothers, springs most immediately to mind; current head of the FBI Bob Mueller is another example).

Anyway, I would argue that the nation needs its best and brightest to go into the armed services for the sake of the armed services, but even more for the sake of the nation once those folks are done serving.

And for anyone interested, the Ricks book Making the Corps is just terrific. It's the anti-"Jarhead."
12.3.2005 4:08pm
Idealist (mail):
I retired after 20 years in the Army (5 enlisted, 15 as an officer). After retiring, I went to law school and now practice in New York. I think that CWO and justanotherguy are pretty much right. The notion that the educated elites are going to improve the military through their superior liberal education seems a stretch. Of course, the military benefits from having educated, intellligent people, and a Harvard gradute is likely--on average--to be more educated and intelligent that someone from an undistinguished state colloge, such as I attended. However, service academy graduates tend to have academic qualifications that are just as good as any Ivy Leaguer. Further, unlike civilian life, the military makes its officers to continue their education--mostly military, but often civilian as well--after they join. Most senior officers have advanced degrees. During a typical career, an officer probably spends 10-20 percent of his or her time in service schools of one sort or another. Thus, the permise of your post--that being a soldier has nothing to do with being educated--is seriously flawed.
12.3.2005 4:21pm
PersonFromPorlock:
TZ: Unless things have changed in the last thirty years, if you've ever had anything to do with the federal bureaucracy then you've already had experience with military culture. The real culture, not all that shooting stuff.

So the answer to your question is: junior officers from 'better' schools have exactly as much chance of making a better military as junior civil servants from the same schools have of making a better civil service. Not impossible, but not likely either.
12.3.2005 4:44pm
dick thompson (mail):
What I am seeing from reading these comments is that a lot of the people who have never served in the military have no idea of what servicemen are like. I read the one about how the military is predominantly lower class minorities and wondered where he got that idea. In fact the latest figures show that the average soldier comes from a middle income group and the racial makeup of the service is just about the same as the population as a whole.

The other thing I remember from my days in the military (long time ago - Cuba Missile Crisis, Berlin Wall, Gulf of Tonkin, Bay of Pigs era) is that the officers I served under as an enlisted man were very well educated. I basically spent most of my time serving under 3 majors. One was a graduate of West Point, one was a graduate of Dartmouth and the other was an enlisted man who was promoted to officer and was attending University of Maryland to get his degree. All 3 were very easy to work with but also all 3 saw to it that the job got done first. You accomplished your task and then you dealt with other things.

I guess my point is that something in the way the military officer is trained leads to lessons that work very well in the business world. You learn to respect your superiors and do your job. You learn to discuss any agreements with your superiors in private and make your points there, then do the job. You learn that you succeed by taking care of the people who work for you, by seeing that they have what they need and by making sure that your orders are clearly understood. You learn to follow up to see what worked and what did not work. You learn to keep learning, that an education is just the starting point and that there is always more to learn. YOu learn to keep up with the field as to what is going on. You learn that sometimes the lowest has the best idea and should be listened to.

When you look at what a military officer can gain, you know why so many of them succeed in life after the military. They are prepared for what needs to be done and know enough to look for what they need to do to succeed. That is not what much of the academic life teaches. In fact, I would say from what I can see of the commentary on the web that academics would learn a lot from the military, more so than the other way around.
12.3.2005 4:58pm
Will:
I am a former Army officer, and I attended a talk by Mr. Ricks at Fort Bragg, N.C. in the mid-1990s. I don't remember the main topic of the talk, but at least part of Ricks's discussion related to what he saw as a fairly recent trend in the officer corps (post-Vietnam)--a big shift to the political right among officers, where once the officer corps was more bipartisan. As I recall, Ricks was concerned with this apparent political shift because it undermined the apolitical (or at least bipartisan) ideal of the officer corps.

The upshot of this is that I would not at all be surprised if Ricks really DID mean "liberal" in the political sense. Do the members of the military, particularly officers, tend to be more conservative on average than civilian Americans? I believe so. But it's because fewer liberals than conservatives choose to become military officers, particularly in the post-Vietnam volunteer Army, and this trend obviously has continued to this day (and given the marked political divide over support for the war on terror, it looks to continue well into the future).
12.3.2005 5:42pm
Paul McKaskle (mail):
I was a pilot in the Navy in the mid and late 1950s having been on an NROTC scholarship during college. At the time, a large number, probably a majority, of the younger officers came out of the NROTC programs which were mostly, if not entirely, at large elite universities, Ivy League quality or close thereto (e.g.,Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern) or the top state university in larger states (e.g., U. Washington, U. California Berkeley, U. Michigan). There was little anti-military sentiment in those days (we were old enough during World War II to realize its horrors--most had relatives who had served in that war). Getting into the NROTC was extremely competitive (since it was a full scholarship including a stipend for room and board) and I think most of my fellow officers, both in flight training and in my subsequent duty in the fleet were quite remarkable intellectually. I think it was to the Navy's advantage to have this group of officers. Not many, however, stayed in the Navy for a career, and so this advantage was less pronounced in the more senior ranks.

Even though many of the NROTC graduates (including me) did leave the Navy, I think it was still useful for the military since threre was a cadre of civilians (who often became leaders of society) who actually did know something about the military. Further, most cared about an effective military. Thus having this group of citizens was to the advantage of both society and the military.

Alas, most in the category I described as my compatriots are past or at least near retirement age. Most of the intellectual elite today reached maturity at the time of Vietnam or after, when a clear anti-military culture became much more prominent. While a few of this group did serve (willingly or otherwise) during Vietnam or thereafter, there is much less knowledge in this group about the military. (At my law school, only three faculty members have ever been in the military and all are over 65 years old.) I don't think this can be good for our nation.

Mind you, my hope for the long run is that something approaching a permanent world-wide peace can be obtained so that the role of the military everywhere in the world can be made much smaller. But we are a long way from that, and an intelligent interaction between civilian leaders and the military is still a necessity.
12.3.2005 5:45pm
T. Gracchus (mail):
dick thompson and will have it right. The relevant demongraphics of the officer corps make a call for liberal education a little odd. The offficer corps is already and for most of the twentieth century was welll educated in that sense. There has been a dramatic change in the political affiliation of the officer corps in particular over the last 30 years which places it very far from the national distibutions.
12.3.2005 5:54pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Background:
College UC 2 years
Draft Motivated volunteer 69
3 years Army including 1 year 101st Vietnam
BA UC and ROTC
Distinguished Mil Grad and Regular Army Commission
Armor Officer / Operations research analyst

Point 1: The Military molds people, people don't change the military

Point 2: a short tour as an officer is the BEST training somebody who wanted to be a CEO could have. The applied leadership lab that is platoon level command.

Point 3: Prior to the 60's, the military officer Corps was very unpolitical. Officers did not vote. If they voted they registered as independent. The left politicized the Vietnam war and in the process politicized the Officer Corps. Officers began registering to vote, and to a much greater extent than in earlier years expressing their positions. That is unfortunate IMHO but understandable given the abuse they received.
12.3.2005 6:45pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Responding to Hattio:

Your statements reflect a misconception. In actuality, military recruits are:

1. better educated than their cohort. 98% have HS degrees versus 75% of the general population
2. the number of white recruits just about matches the cohort, blacks are a bit higher, hispanics a bit lower, asians much lower, pacific islanders and native americans much higher.
3. recruits are more rural and more souther/western than the average
4. recruits have less criminal records
5. recruits come from census tracks that are more middle class and upper class than the average.
12.3.2005 6:51pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Not on point--but a memory worth retaining.

My late uncle served in the Coast Guard before and during WWII (and wound up escorting convoys in the North Atlantic).

When he enlisted, he was posted to Norfolk. And found many restaurants in that segregated town had up signs "Negroes and Sailors Not Allowed." The military were (even in a port town dependent upon them) treated as barely human, if that.

At the end of the war he was demobilized on the east coast and had to get back home to the west. In his entire journal not once did he buy his own meal. He'd ask for the tab and the restaurant owner would jokingly reply, "Your money's not good here, sailor." Or a civilian would pick up the tab and say it was his privilege to pay it. Literally, he could not buy his own meals, not once. Between 1940 and 1945 a guy in uniform went from being almost subhuman to being heroic.

My late father replied that he'd had a similar experience. He got demobilized clear across the country and hitchhiked back. A guy picked him up and said they could make Tucson in some incredibly short time if they just drove 24 hours a day, so they could trade off ... one slept in the back while the other drove. Here's a guy letting a hitchhiker drive the car while he dozes, a perfect stranger ... but he was in uniform, so he was obviously trustworthy.
12.3.2005 6:53pm
Senor Chumbawumba (mail):
Drill Sgt, do your statistics count "recruits" as those who are accepted into the military, or all those who try to get in?
12.3.2005 7:30pm
Johns Hopkins Graduate:
The individual must be rigidly subordinated to the group, must obey orders without hesitation and act just as he has been trained to act.

Spoken by someone who clearly has never been in the military, and almost certainly knows no military officers. Today's military understands very well that combat - as well as non-combat, which is the norm for most officers most of the time - is most successful with intelligent officers (and NCOs and enlisted) who can take the initiative, and adjust their tactics to suit the circumstances.

I'm a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its ROTC program; I entered active duty in the fall of 1974. I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, which required completing the Army's Command and General Staff Officers Course (as a Major), so I think I know something about what the Army wants in its officer corps.

While Army officers are generally conservative, there is a culture of meritocracy and openness to any well-reasoned arguments; politics is off-limits except as personal conversations (and continually bring politics into discussions with others is probably among the quickest ways to get a poor annual performance evaluation, which is the equivalent of being informed that one's options are now limited to quitting or being eventually discharged).

I was definitely more liberal in my political persuasions than most of my peers (and am still politically left of center), but that was (as mentioned) hardly a problem - politics wasn't my life. And I always felt that having at least a good minority of liberals in the military was one way to make sure that there never was a Seven Days in May in the United States.
12.3.2005 8:29pm
Hattio (mail):
In response to Drill Sgt

1) I never said that military recruits were less educated.
2) AND 5) You are the second guy to say this, so I will assume I was wrong. But, this goes against what I've always heard. Do you have a link?
12.3.2005 8:36pm
Hattio (mail):
To Drill Sgt

PS, I didn't comment on 3) and 4) in either of my posts, but this corresponds to what I've always heard.
12.3.2005 8:37pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Hattio,

I only see 1 post from you and no 3 or 4. If you mean

3. Obviously, a part of this must be selection bias,

4., it's hard to believe that culturization doesn't account for some of the conservative political trend of military personnel generally.


I'd say yes and yes. Hispanics are in addition a fairly conservative ethnic group, all those teaching Nuns :). Same things with the balck recruits that have passed both the HS degree and the no big criminal record filters. I'd jump to a conclusion that they would tend more religious than average.


as for a recruit demographic study, try this one.

USA Today article


Study
12.3.2005 9:12pm
subpatre (mail):
On politics, Ricks' thesis is backwards. The military isn't so much political as reality based (I'm compelled to add 'real-life reality' to distinguish from MoveOn.org's version) dealing with life-losses in situations that demand the utmost of any person. Political bias of the military doesn't exist, rather the political parties changed while military opinion and political realism stayed constant. It's a political party walking away from it's constituency.

In WWII there were service corruption charges, supply problems and investigations of all sorts; but both Democratic and Republican Parties were unabashedly pro-American. There was no question from either political side that we should win; win by crushing the enemy decisively, win with the absolute minimum American casualties possible.

An interesting pre-election survey shows that the regular service, Guard and Reserves vote heavily (~4:1) Republican.

Yes Drill SGT, the obvious turn was the VietNam conflict, but anti-national feeling is even more prevalent today than ever. The largest blog on the left is run by a person who only barely contains his anti-Americanism toward contractors working with the military.

Though probably out of the mainstream, both NYC and San Francisco have regular demonstrations of anti-Americanism, demonstrations by people who are (at least vote) politically liberal. The "Bush=Hitler" crap dishonors those who fought the Atlantic War against a despot who murdered millions in cold blood, it insults all those defending America today, and it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of reality.

Death is not a given for service members, yet on this blog there's those who'll argue --who are arguing-- that we can afford more service deaths if it reduces some other undesireable (civilian deaths) effect. It may be fine and dandy to take an internationalist approach, until your own life becomes a casual figment for some academic to dismiss on the grounds that "all lives are equally sacred".

Is it any wonder that those serving distrust the Democratic Party?
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Pres. Bush is handling Iraq? Approve-7 Disapprove-3 Other-1
Which party do you think best understands the needs of the military? Rep-9 : Dem-1

The left, ie. political liberalism, has deserted the military.
12.3.2005 9:17pm
CWO:
While I don't want to argue the historical accuracy of some statements, I would like to point to some 1950's military history. The John Birch Society was big in the officer corps of the 1950s and "The Revolt of the Admirals" occurred at that time. I still don't believe that the officer corps of today is that conservative. While they may vote overwhelmingly Republican, it is because they can never vote leftist or socialist (not that there's anything wrong with that). Finally, after hurricane Katrina and Rita, take a look at this article The Origins of the Military Coup 2012 Pay special attention to the legislative actions in the article. I want the military fighting our nation's wars and killing the enemy.
12.3.2005 10:08pm
Michael Stevens (www):
I am a former Army JAGC, and non-ROTC non-military school graduate. I have not read the comments above in order to give an untainted perspective.

The military academies do not provide a liberal arts education. The graduates are disciplined and well-trained. ROTC graduates are still displined but more open minded. I was an officer from 1978 through 1990, from post-Vietnam draw down to pre-Gulf start up, and the military culture changed during that time, and it changed me. The JAG Corps started out as a lawyer who happened to be in the military to a soldier who happened to be a lawyer. Fick is right insofar as both are changed, but I agree that the military needs the liberal arts educated officer more than the colleges need the military off the campus. Reminds me of the old saw, if you don't vote, don't complain who gets elected.

No soldier wants war. They train to fight and fight as they are trained, but war is not their goal - peace is. A strong military is the best defense and preserver of the peace. [With that said, do not assume I support current policy in Iraq!]

I know I ramble, but in the words of Brandeis - "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." All walks, and all talks are needed, else the military command will become stilted and without divergent view or questioning of policies.

The significant difference between our NCO corps vs. that of the Soviets was our NCO's could think on their own and have independence of thought. A liberal arts education grounded in military doctrine is an outstanding mix for a citizen soldier. A mix of academy grads and ROTC grads and 90-day wonders (OCS - officer candidate school) provide a mix to stir up the pot.

Where do you draw the line in ROTC, Academy, constitution, discipline, independent thinking, etc. is a good question, but inclusion of a liberal arts trained officer corps is a must.
12.3.2005 10:46pm
W.J.Hopwood (mail):
Presumably I'm the only WWII veteran to check in here so far, so please forgive the observation that to me this whole subject seems to be from outer space.

The idea that universities can kick military recruiters off campus and otherwise be openly contemptuous of the country's military and its objectives, particularly in time of war or national emergency, is, to me,nothing short of outrageous and subversive to boot.

It certainly wasn't always thus. When I was going to college in the 1930s (at Penn State--a land-grant college) ROTC was required of the freshmen and sophomores. At the end of that training we were given a certificate indicating that we were qualified to serve as NCOs in the Army. Advanced ROTC was elective and those who completed the full four years of ROTC (I did not) were commissioned as 2nd Lts in the Army reserve. The idea that ROTC might be opposed was unthinkable and would have been laughed off campus.

After graduation in 1940, world conditions didn't look so good, the draft was in effect, the Army didn't appeal to me, so I enlisted in the Naval Reserve. I was called to active duty prior to Pearl Harbor, was subsequently commissioned, served in various ranks throughout WWII and following that through the Korean period, then for many years in the active reserve until retiring 28 years ago.

Just for what it's worth, and in the full realization that such a thought is heresy to the current PC crowd, it is my view that any academic institution refusing to allow ROTC or any other military institution full cooperation and access should be barred from any and all government funding and held in public contempt. Not to denigrate the superb record of the all volunteer service, but for the good of the nation as a whole and to encourage the mature development of the country's youth not so engaged, it is my view that Selective Service or something similar should be revived. It seems not too much to ask that, say, two years in the life of each young male citizen, between high school and college age, be devoted to training in the military service of the country then assigned to reserve status in case of future need.
12.3.2005 10:51pm
Lt. Carman (mail):
As a Marine Officer (and lawyer, btw), I believe Fick's point to be a good one, especially in the context of our current global conflict. In regard to ways the military needs to improve, much is being written and said about culture, culture, culture, and I can't help but think the right sort of influence from elite university students in the officer ranks might help the military, at least a little, get up to speed culturally in dealing with Islamofascism on strategic, operational, and certainly tactical levels of warfare.
My rackmate (i.e., bunkmate) at Officer Candiate School went to Harvard. I don't intend to compliment Harvard, exactly, but rather to say that this officer is quite adept, culturally speaking, and is an asset to the Corps and its warfighting capabilities. The military needs the best individuals as thinking leaders, and this means some of them need to be versed in history, rhetoric, languages, etc. These are things that universities are good at teaching (or at least used to be!).
12.3.2005 11:11pm
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
These are things that universities are good at teaching (or at least used to be!).

Perhaps that's the larger point here: not whether a liberal education (as Zywicki defines it) is helpful to the military, but whether the elite universities are capable of producing that liberal education.
12.3.2005 11:38pm
Lowflight:
My father was a 10th grade dropout, who enlisted, eventually was a Drill Sergeant, and became an officer, spending 30 years in uniform. If you asked Dad, he will tell you that he is a conservative, and for that reason, he votes Republican.

In his words, I was never smart enough to be an NCO, he had never been able to teach me to keep my mouth shut. Three months after he retired, I enlisted with a contract to go through Warrant Officer Flight Training. Fifteen years later, I resigned, rather than serve under this administration.

If you ask Dad his position an any given issue, he is a bleeding heart liberal. I am his son. It doesn't take an Ivy League degree for a soldier to learn to think. And it doesn't take an officer with a classical liberal arts education to train good citizen soldiers.

But I worry for a society where the Ivory Towers and the Guard Towers have to much distance between them.
12.3.2005 11:38pm
subpatre (mail):
Lowflight - Your Dad votes R because the Democrats aren't trusted anymore (by the military) with the military.

I'd also worry about our society, including your story. In 1941 the entire male freshman class at MIT enlisted en masse, the enlistment to take effect at graduation. By the end of '43 they were all in uniform; most in Europe.

IIRC a quarter of them didn't return; young kids with crammed classes, assigned to lead by virtue of a diploma. The casualty rate was --and is-- high for green combat officers.

Despite the fact that the government, in collusion with the university, told a premeditated lie to get the enlistments; none of these men bailed out. I'll add that none have forgotten the duplicity either, but don't regret serving as required, and overall they excuse the blatant deception as probably needed.

That period was a low point for Constitutional law; the attempt to pack the Court, the questionable legality of the WPA, the use of the Commerce Clause to bring agriculture to heel, and a Court too weak to oppose internments. Most servicemen weren't following all of this, but were aware that American justice was stretched too thin.

They didn't choose 'not to serve' for any of dozens of very legitimate reasons. Only a few were so comfortable with it that they stayed in the service.
12.4.2005 3:05am
CWO:
Lowflight your point about the distance between guard towers and ivory towers is right on and was the thesis for the War College article I linked to earlier. Just as your Dad is a 'bleeding heart liberal', my father (24 years, Infantry Officer) and Grandfather (33 years, Infantry Officer) and me (20 years, MI CWO), we are liberal but we are not 'progressive' or leftist. The Democrats would win hands down if they could find someone military friendly like JFK, LBJ or who? The military is now less than 1% (2 million, Active, Guard, Reserve: Ar, N, AF, M) and so has less of an impact across America and so can be more easily disparaged.
12.4.2005 8:59am
The Drill SGT (mail):
Supporting CWO,

Could we envision any Democrat other than Lieberman giving a speach about Iraq that used words like JFK did in 1961? Until one does, I think the Dem's are destined sit on the sidelines. Appealing to the Moveon.org and KOS wing of the party won't get the needed middle of the US electorate and won;t win a single military vote.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

JFK
12.4.2005 12:24pm
fred (mail):
What is disturbing here is not the increasing conservatism of the military - it is the odd isolation indicated by Zywicki's original question. It assumes the military - already a pretty intellectual bunch - needs to be "liberalized".

The military is tightly focused on successfully doing things. Universities are sloppily focused on vague generalities - and have almost zero measurable and accountable goals to achieve. They are hopelessly unbalanced ideologically, and the professors generally like it that way. It's the universities that need change, not the military. ( Read Russ Douthat's book on how he got through Harvard by repeating BS back to his teachers - and how he learned almost nothing.)

Thomas Rick's fear that the military is becoming too conservative is misplaced. What else could the military do? Democrats used to be as favorable toward the military as Republicans. But after Vietnam, Democrats became implacably opposed to the military and everything they stand for. It is the radicalization of the Democrats that is the problem, not the inclinations of the military.

I agree that Ricks meant "liberal" in the sense of political liberals, i.e. Democrats.
12.4.2005 4:34pm
Hattio (mail):
Okay,
I just have to disagree with the notion that Democrats can't find any qualified military or ex-military men to run on their platform, and if they would just recruit a few, they would have no problems getting elected. The problem is that Americans as a whole are not willing to call BS when Republicans attack the patriotism of anybody (especially military or ex-military) who runs on the Democratic ticket. Anybody remember Max Cleland? John Kerry? The Swift Boat Veterans? The fact that military folks as a whole didn't stand up to comparisons of Max Cleland (who lost three limbs fighting for his country) to Osama Bin Laden shows that this is not only a case of the the Democrats moving away from the military, it's also a case of the military moving away from the Democrats, precisely because they are Democrats.
12.4.2005 6:54pm
pbswatcher (www):
I found the quote attributed to Thucydides at The Quotations Page. It may well have been submitted there in error. I stand by the point regardless of the source. Do my commentors wish to argue from non-authority?
12.4.2005 7:02pm
dk35 (mail):
What's very telling here is that all the liberal-bashers fail to point out the dispositive fact regarding the difference between today's military and the military during previous wars.

In today's war, an all-volunteer army is doing the fighting. In Vietnam and WWII, there was a draft.

I am a proud liberal, Moveon.org supporter and so on. I say we bring back the draft. I would think that the conservative veterans who commented above would agree with me. Then we can see how long the Republican base continues to support this war. We'd be out of there in no time.

At least the liberals who are being bashed on this sight are consistent in their opposition to the war. The Republicans whom you veterans have cast your lot with only profess their allegiance to you so long as they, and their children, can avoid actually having to fight.
12.4.2005 7:08pm
Fred (mail):
Speaking as a enlisted sailor who spent 8 years active and is on his 14th year as a reservist I would agree that the mix of political leaning is overwhemingly conservative. But what side of the political line is supportive of the military and the ideal of military service? It's not the liberal who "despises the military" and characterises members of the military as "baby killers". No, it's not as bad as it was during the Vietnam era but institutions have a long memory. Many members of the military have a family history of service and learn early on at daddy's knee about bad experiences they had.

Speaking of the other liberal as in liberal arts I would argue that the military is sadly underrated. Many of the men and women I work with have a well rounded understanding of the world, current events, history and come from a wide variety of cultures. It's really arrogance to assume that we're all benighted individuals who need a little enlightenment...
12.4.2005 7:32pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
If FAIR wins this case, it won't be a total loss. I'm sure the next college athlete affected by his sport being eliminated will sue on the basis that Title IX is unconstitutional given the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional. Any consistent judge will be forced to conslude as such. Of course, with the state of our imperial Court, who act as a 9-headed Caesar giving thumbs up and thumbs down to whatever strikes their collective fancy, you can never really tell.
12.4.2005 8:44pm
Lowflight:
CWO and Drill Sergeant, It's not the words or the speech that I am worried about, from any party. And this goes to a point made inadvertantly by subpatre. There is a deeply held belief among many that Democrats are not to be trusted by or with the military, and that somehow, the Republicans are more trustworthy. I would argue that the perception is nowhere near the reality. But, in deference to Professor Volokh, I think that is probably a different topic for a different forum. Hattio does make goo points here, though, in my opinion. :-)

Bottomfish asserted that the sole purpose of the military is the use of force, but I would rather the purpose of the military be viewed in the much more flexible role as providing the threat of capable force.

I've got a lot more patience for those on the left who say they despise the military than I do for those on the right who treat the military with disdain and contempt while questioning the patriotism of anyone who's first answer isn't to agree with them in committing troops. At least the ones on the left are honest about it, and they aren't nearly as common.

I flew Al Gore to some of those floods in Texas. He treated me and my crew with dignity and respect. He made a point of eating with us at the aircraft. When alone with us, he asked open ended questions, and paid attention to our answers. That was in contrast to my experience providing support to Cheney when he was SecDef. By the end of the first day, that SOB could have fallen out of the aircraft, and I wouldn't have wasted the fuel to recover the body.

So back around to the question. The military has three millenia of expertise in shaping people. But it's foolish to think that the military is no more than the regulations and guidelines that make practice of that expertise.

In a good year, I got 300 hours of flight time. Even when stationed CONUS, after any additional duties are done, and usually while doing them, there is a lot of time to fill.

I was a vegetarian in the Cav, assigned to work with the DEA, while current on my ACLU membership, getting the wildest array of political magazines sent in boxes from the States. It occasionally came up in conversation. And some of those conversation affected people's beliefs and attitudes. And those beliefs and attitudes are the ingredients that make up the culture of an army.

The Army taught me that learning is a change of behavior based on experience. The broader the experience base, the greater the opportunity for learning. So exposing cadets to hippie chicks, and vice versa, can't be anything but good in my opinion. It's hard to think of someone as a babykiller or a traitor when you get to know them as an individual.
12.4.2005 8:46pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I would be interested in what makes certain colleges and universities "elite". If somebody could come up with a reason that isn't circular.

The divergence between the military and the civilian parts of our society is pretty broad and it does not--I say again, does not--stop with those in uniform. Some years ago, I went to a fraternity reunion of the classes of, roughly, 63-70. I was surprised at how many were still married to their first wives--about 90%, how well they'd done and how many had served.
One said that it takes about fourteen seconds at a party to figure out who's a vet and who not to bother with. None of us had been in uniform in about twenty years, by that point.
The divide doesn't go away.

My particular concern is the attitude of civilians. When the non-uniformed parts of the government step on their crank on a weekly basis and the military has to bail them out--Katrina for the most recent example--the attitude of civilians may get, for my taste, too likely to accept a military in a superior role.
If the blankety-blank sillyvilians could figure out how to walk through a door without knocking the building down, it would be different.

One reason, IMO, progressives and leftists and liberals are so often found in liberal arts and humanities is that in both those, bullshit talks. In hard science, they don't care how you parse the words, or how much grass you smoked to come up with the insight, the bridge fell down. You can't bullshit your way out of that.

Civil engineers have an organization, the Order of The Iron Ring, to remind them of what happens when they screw up and to make sure they don't do it again.
Some of them use Kipling's "Sons of Martha" as a secular prayer or something.
Think there's a similar worry on the soft-subject side? "Jeez. I got an interpretation of Austen wrong and twenty-three people died."

And, of course, some of the conservativism in the military may be defensiveness against the quite open hostility from the left.
Just for fun, do you think the NYT's hit job on Cpl. Starr's last letter made them any friends in the military?
Just for fun, do you think the NYT will pretend to be uncomprehending about why military folks dislike them?
12.4.2005 11:42pm
Perseus:
Pbswatcher: If you didn't see it, the point about Thucydides has already been discussed here. As I mentioned, the closest passage in Thucydides to that quote can be found in the Funeral Oration of Pericles (bk. 2, par. 40).


As for the topic of the post, given the sorry state of most liberal arts colleges (which have hollowed out their core curriculum), I don't see much benefit to "liberalizing" the military. And given the all too common academic mindset of not just questioning but defying authority (unlike Socrates, who served in the military and accepted his punishment), I think that whatever the extent of the influence on the military, it's not likely to be good.
12.5.2005 12:30am
markm (mail):
"There is a deeply held belief among many that Democrats are not to be trusted by or with the military..." I wonder why?

The final blow to any military trust of the Democrats came with the nomination of Kerry. This is a man who grabbed as many medals as he possibly could in Vietnam and then came home and slandered his fellow servicemen in front of Congress for political advantage. How could servicemen fight for a President who just migh prosecute ordinary combat tactics as war crimes afterwards, if he thought it would give him a political boost?

The last three Democrats to get elected racked up a pretty poor record, too:

Clinton: "Don't ask, don't tell." Somalia, where we allowed the UN to set ridiculous rules of engagement, then ran like chickens from a ganglord. Kosovo, where dropping bombs from 20.000 feet had remarkably little effect on the genocide going on at ground level. Overall, Clinton greatly shrunk our forces (which certainly contributed to our problems in Iraq), and gave bad guys all over the world the impression that we were unwilling and unable to fight when things got a little sticky.

Carter: The only military action he called for was the botched Iranian hostage rescue.

Johnson: Could neither come up with a winning strategy for Vietnam, nor cut our losses and get out. So bad at military affairs that he made Nixon look pretty good.

Truman and FDR weren't so bad, but they weren't much like Dean, Kerry, and Gore, either. Bush is closer to them in philosophy than the modern Democrats are.
12.5.2005 12:03pm
corngrower:
Banning ROTC on College campuses. To what good is banning the largest employer in the US on campus? Would allowing ROTC to recruit on campus change the tone of the recruits in the Military? Of course I have not seen a single issue that says otherwise.

To several posters much earlier. The purpose of the military is to KILL people and break things. With that in mind, and following the logic of above posts, the military should recruit at engineering schools and prisons. (as in the movie 'The Dirty Dozen'). We lost the war in Vietnam because the military was diverted from their mission of killing people and breaking things by people in congress that seem to forget that their only opinion that counts is voting up or down on spending $'s to continue the deployment of the military. Seems getting out of Bosnia is not a high priority, since they continue to vote for funding for the continued action. (I remember Clinton saying we would be out of there by Cristmas, he did not say which Christmas) So much for setting a time table, maybe Murtha should look at the old news, before attacking the current issue.

Recruiting on campus. Could the college ban the NAACP from recruting on campus because of their racial bias? How about banning the The ACLU from recruiting lawyers on campus? ACLU is a radical liberal organization with only one point of veiw. Can Any campus ban recruiting on campus because they disagree with the philosophy of the company or organization? Wal- Mart? Nike? Haliburton? any Petroleum Company? How far do we take this? And where does the Govt draw the line on Academic freedom?

If you can ban the Govt from recruiting on campus then any campus can ban any one they wish with impunity

For Institutes of higher learning that teach diversity, to ban the Govt of the United States from recruting employees violates their own stated purpose
12.5.2005 1:57pm
Mikeyes (mail):
I am a graduate of the Command and General Staff School too but as a long time reservist. I did manage to see combat in two wars but spent the majority of my time as a civilian physician. As a result, I have experienced both sides of the fence and remain a social liberal and a fiscal conservative politically.

One aspect of this dialogue that has not been emphasized is the reason I stayed in the service, public service. I had no choice but to join out of medical school as physicians were placed in a separate board for the selective service (100% of my class was either recruited or drafted for the mandatory two years plus six years of inactive reserve duty) but I stayed in after once I realized that by doing so I could continue to help others. I had no other motivation and never regretted it.

We were taught in the C&GS school that one of the strengths of the US military was the diversity of views brought into the officer corps especially on the side of the reservists who tend to have a broader view of life, different priorities, and different leadership experiences. Since the Viet Nam war, a mobilization of troops cannot be completed without the Reserves and Guard, a situation designed by Congress (including Barry Goldwater, a reservist himself) to make sure that any decision to go to war was one that involved a significant number of citizens including the Reserve/Guard and their families. My guess is that 40% of all the officers in Iraq and Afganistan are in that category if not more.

The result is an enrichment of leadership styles, an infusion of new ideas, and at times a worsening of the mix if you consider that some of the prisoner abuse situations were perpetrated by Reserve/Guard units. Overall, the history of the military has been positive when it came to the contributions of civilian soldiers.

My personal experience was that my life is enriched immensely by serving in the Reserves. Yes, I am more of an advocate for the military, but that is due to my appreciation of how I was affected by my time on active duty and the feeling of satisfaction that I had from meeting and exceeding all the expectations. I never heard or felt that there was a political flavor to the service and in fact was taught that political thought is a luxury only civilians can have because the military's duty was to protect all citizens. While one could disagree with that statement, my experience was that most of the people I met in the military were just like those I knew at home, only their job was a little different.

Those schools who ban ROTC should consider that they are depriving their students of an opportunity to render the most public of services, the opportunity to defend your country and perhaps die for your fellow citizens. I know that it sounds hokey, but that is the prevailing thought in the service. In addition, it is the largest public service organization in the nation by a factor of thousands and the model for a number of others such as the Red Cross. To deny others the opportunity to join because you have a difference of opinion with the political leaders (i.e. the civilian leadership) is, well, appalling and short sighted.

As in any organization there are rules, goals, and ideals but the military is very open to ideas. There is no compelling reason to join the military unless you are willing to make it a better place and agree with the premises, but the contribution you can make will be welcomed if you decide to do so. Leaving the leadership decisions to a narrowly focused group of people is never a good policy but the US military is an open merit based organization that works with all sorts of ideas.
12.5.2005 3:01pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
nice post Mikeyes. I suspect that you are a Colonel. Please let us know your rank, then I'll share an observation :)
12.5.2005 3:46pm
Mikeyes (mail):
I guess I am living proof that there is nothing monolithic about the officer corps. I managed to make Colonel in spite of my Amnesty International membership and my support for the ACLU. In fact, my Reserve unit was full of such characters not to mention a large number of "no-tells". When war came, we needed everyone, it seems. (I might add that the PT reqirements were suspended too )

I didn't have pass any political or personal litmus test and was selected for O-6 on merit (14% selected that year) alone. I think that goes a long way to show the attitude of the service towards your politics and the desire to have the best people serving.

I should point out that I was motivated to do well by my experiences in the Reserves, that I (along with the majority of General Officers apparently) opposed the present war, and that I fully support our troops the best I can. None of these latter attitudes are due to political bent (including the opposition to the war and the way it is carried out afterwards, just stupid in my opinion) but to common sense, a sense of duty to others, being very well read and a lot of education provided by the military and my universities.
12.5.2005 4:34pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Mikeyes,

I guess perhaps the comment will fall flat with you but here goes.

I've always teased my wife, who would have normally stated that she was a JAG, that she became an officer somewhere between Major and LTC.

My argument. Doctors, Lawyers and Nurses start out their military careers as Professionals wearing a uniform (sometimes poorly) rather than as Officers (large O).

My proof would be the TV show Mash. I ask folks about how many "Officers" were part of the principal cast. It's easy for folks to recognize that COL Potter was an officer and a Doctor. I point out that the rest of the Docs are civilians in uniform and really anti-officers. The second officer is Major Houlihan. She tries to run an efficient operation and is clearly in command of her nurses.

My Premise:
- Nurses are officers by the time that are Captains. By then they are charge nurses commanding wards of sick and injured with soldiers (corpsmen) under their command.
- Doctors become officers at about Colonel, if ever. Proof, Colonel Potter. Doctor Colonels command hospitals and are administrators/leaders of professionals.
- Lawyers are in the middle. as I said, I think my wife became an officer somewhere after Major but before LTC. I don't have a good rule for them, it's on a case by case basis. You just know. All I know is that as a Major, she still needed help getting her ribbons and brass on properly for Photos and award ceremonies. Oh well, and I know a lot more about the UCMJ than she does. I was a commander, she is an acquisition / contracts type. We met at CECOM. And not a gender based observation BTW. Remember I named Houlihan as an officer/leader.

I have a lot of experience with lawyers and little with Docs, but I think i'm not far off. Please take to comments with a smile as it was intended.

That's why I thought after your good post that you were an O-6
12.5.2005 5:58pm
Joseph Eros:
As a recent military veteran and Ivy League graduate (Harvard '94, Army 2001-04, invaded Iraq with the 3ID) I have a few comments.

Clinton gets bashed a lot for "don't ask, don't tell." However, when I was in the service (including the course for promotion to SGT), I was told that this policy is still in effect, even if the name is no longer used. I can't give FM citations, but that's what I was told on several occasions, by both officers and NCOs.

One thing I wonder about in connection with the Marines is whether there is any analogue to the mild tension between West Pointers and ROTCs. From what I heard from junior officers, it seems to be fairly widely believed that there is a bit of a West Point clique in the Army, and that ex-ROTCs are at a slight disadvantage in getting the first few promotions. I have no idea if any real evidence supports this. However, it occurs to me that the percentage of Marine officers who went to the Naval Academy could be significantly different than the percentage of Army officers who went to West Point. I don't recall Fick's mentioning this in his book.

What I found noteworthy about the political attitudes of senior enlisted personnel was their overall support for vigorous and effective government, and public order in general. When I asked sergeants who'd been in 10 years or more which of the countries they'd been posted to they liked best, the most popular answer by far was Germany, and they all had good things to say about Switzerland (which they'd all visited) as well.

My own service situation was kind of unusual in that I worked directly for a MSG (master sergeant) and Major, and I was never actually under the command of a lieutenant after I got out of basic (and you only see the LT maybe twice during basic anyway--being officer in charge of a basic training company is pretty much a paper job, done while you're in some sort of career transition). So I can't really say that much about how junior officer might serve to "liberalize" the Army, whatever that might mean.

The LTs I dealt with impressed me overall, and I only recall a couple who left me wondering how they'd passed OCS. I don't have any information on officer demographics, but my impression from the engineer unit I served in (11th Engineers, now part of the 1-3 Brigade Troops Battalion) was that the officers were not quite as predominantly Southern and from small towns as the enlisted personnel.
12.5.2005 9:05pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
To Joseph,

I was both enlisted and officer so I've seen both sides as they say. Sound like you were in my old unit, First Bde, 3ID. Though we were in Germany, not Georgia. Also sound like you were in the BN S-3 shop.

1. Don't ask, don't tell is a law passed by Congress, rather than a DoD or Army Policy. I can't tell you where it exists, the Defense Authorization Act of 93 perhaps.

2. WRT: "that ex-ROTCs are at a slight disadvantage in getting the first few promotions". Promotions to 1LT and CPT are automatic unless someone takes an action to NOT promote you. e.g. unless you screw up. Major is at year 11 so that's a way down the line. What your rumor mill might have perceived and torqued around is a feeling that West Point (e.g. Regular Army Officers) might have a slightly better shot at good assignments early on. Or at Least not bad assignments. By good, I mean command of platoons instead of assistant supply officer, etc. Also, in my day WP gards got more slots in airborne and ranger school than ROTC grads, because they could go during the academic summer. Note that some ROTC grads are also commissioned. Regular Army so there are effectively 4 cohorts, WP RA, ROTC RA, ROTC USAR, OCS USAR. If a WP LT screws up, what is called the West Point Protective Association (e.g. the old boys network) occassionally stepped in and either saw redemptive value in the LT and found a way to reassign him with the possibility of making good, OR figured out a way to get the embarassment to the Corps hidden under a rock until he could resign.

3. WRT: "political attitudes of senior enlisted personnel" NCO's are big "Law and Order" fans. Much of their upbringing revolves around maintaining what the Army calls "good order and discipline"

Overall, my OCS LT's and WP LT's were better early than the ROTC grads. The OCS LT's sometimes faded in the stretch and the ROTC LT's begin to catch up. By Captain, it's hard to tell the difference unless you pay attention.
12.5.2005 10:33pm
SabreRedleg:
Kinda late to the party here, but a couple of comments...

I'm pretty sure there are no RA commissions anymore. ROTC at least was 100% USAR when I was commissioned in '97. I think West Point was headed the same way, if not already there. I remember attending a seminar at USNA in high school where the midshipmen were very upset about that upcoming change. But maybe things have changed again in the last few years.

I never experienced any commissioning source cliques. It didn't seem like a big deal. It should be noted that ROTC produces far more lieutenants than the academies each year (at least for the army). In my first unit, there were 2 lieutenants who never made captain - both were West Point grads.

Anyway, on the original point, if "liberalize" means classically liberal, as Todd suggested, then two points: 1) the reason (or one of the principle reasons) that officers are required to obtain a college degree is to ensure that they have a broad based background that extends beyond professionl military education. 2) a service academy degree seems like a pretty classically liberal education to me; more so, perhaps, than what you get at ivy leauge institutions these days.

If "liberalize" means shift the military left politically... it's extremely unlikely that the influence of a few ivy league recruits will have much effect in that regard. The military is hardly a monolithic political entity. Although there are certainly some policy areas where opinion tends to be much more consistent than an average cross section of society, this is likely true of any professional field.

Finally, while a lone liberal's views might not have any effect on the institution, given the apparent absolute moral authority of (left-leaning) veterans, a young liberal with political ambitions certainly ought to consider military service. That might provide the opportunity for "liberalizing" the military in the long run.
12.7.2005 12:50pm
Joseph Eros:
The Drill SGT is of course correct that the first few officer promotions are pretty much automatic; I was referring to the perception that West Pointers are more likely to get exciting/desirable/career-enhancing postings as LT and CPT (or at least to avoid the really disliked dead-end jobs).

I probably should have noted that I didn't notice any difference between the ROTC LTs and the West Pointers--as SabreRedleg says, West Point provides a classic liberal-arts education.

One final note: anyone who reads Fick's book _One Bullet Away_ might also enjoy Evan Wright's _Generation Kill_. Wright accompanied Fick's platoon as an embedded journalist in Iraq, and it's interesting to get both perspectives on their service. Wright's book, IMO, is also quite evenhanded and not nearly as sensationalistic as the title might suggest.
12.7.2005 6:23pm