Mars and Minerva

By Robert Bateman

When my friend Paul recently saw me for the first time in over a decade, he immediately lapsed into late-80s-speak. We had been lieutenants together in a rifle battalion of the 25th Infantry Division.

"Duuuuuude! Yer baaaald!"

My friend Paul has always been an absolute master of the blindingly obvious.

I am, indeed, bald as an egg nowadays, but in my case this Alopecia Totalis condition is entirely by choice -- I shave my head every morning.

I started doing so a few years ago when I was assigned to a position that would require me to work within a quasi-academic environment. I knew that even while wearing civilian clothes, the high-and-tight haircut I had maintained since I was 18 years old would give me away as "the military guy." Fairly extensive experience within academe to that point had taught me that being identified as "the military guy" was not good, at least intellectually. In an academic setting it automatically lowered the assessment of my comments and input by at least two intellectual notches. I wanted people to engage with my ideas, my rhetoric, my logic and my evidence on an equal basis. So I shaved my head.

High-and-tight haircuts are rare within academe. Baldness is not. It worked.

That, friends, is a sad statement on the state and nature of academe. Personally I did not mind losing my hair. Indeed, after a short time I came to enjoy the new look and feel. But the fact that I felt compelled to conceal my identity in order to be treated as an equal...well that is pathetic and it speaks poorly of the Social Science academics with which I interacted. It is a pathetic irony that the fact is that within the academic fields which are supposedly the most open and accepting of social or cultural or biological differences (history, anthropology, political science, etc), a man has to shave his head to conceal his background in order to be accepted as a peer. I was reminded of this irony recently when I learned about a recent counter-initiative coming from within my second home of academe. (Full disclosure: In addition to being a Regular Army officer, I relish my role as an academic. I used to teach at West Point, then in my spare time at George Mason. Currently I teach at Georgetown University.)

A few months ago the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, initiated a fairly direct plea. He asked academia to help the United States, and in particular the military, to understand other nations and cultures.

Whoa! Holy Switcheroo, Batman! The Secretary of Defense reaching out to the Social Sciences to help us understand other cultures? Who saw that one coming? I mean, seriously -- As Secretary Rumsfeld demonstrated, Secretaries of Defense are theoretically immune to outside advice and are congenitally driven to oppose intellectual freedom and dissent. Yet here was Secretary Gates, putting his money where his mouth was and asking for the assistance of the Social Sciences in developing understandings of foreign cultures. Foucault, were he alive, would doubtless be doing cheetah-flips (watch at minute 5:39 in the clip) over the varying implications of this request.

The response? Professor Hugh Gusterson, an Anthropology Professor at George Mason University, lays out the foundation for the almost instant opposition to the SecDef's request in this Foreign Policy essay:

"...many will refuse simply on principle: Anthropology is, by many measures, the academy's most left-leaning discipline, and many people become anthropologists out of a visceral sympathy for the kinds of people who all too often show up as war's collateral damage. Applying for Pentagon funding is as unthinkable for such people as applying for a Planned Parenthood grant would be for someone at Bob Jones University. One thousand anthropologists have already signed a pledge not to accept Pentagon funding for counterinsurgency work in the Middle East."

Frankly, this does not make sense to me. But maybe you are smarter. Read Secretary Gate's proposal and then read this elucidation by those who oppose the idea that the Department of Defense should send money to academics who research and openly publish information. Then try to explain to me how being Left, Right, Centrist, or whatever, has any bearing on the basis and humanitarian utility of the Secretary Gates's offer to fund academic research into topics which affect the Department of Defense.

Interestingly, the group which is central to the opposition to the Minerva Project is also the same team of anthropologists who oppose the US Army efforts to understand the people among whom you civilians have ordered us to operate, the Network of Concerned Anthropologists. Professor Gusterson, a co-founder of that group, in his essay for Foreign Policy cites "One thousand anthropologists" who join him in opposition, not once, but twice, continuing in his reasoning this way:

"Minerva, of course, isn't analogous to McCarthyism. It is, in fact, an attempt to draw from a broader range of knowledge and opinion--an impulse for which we should applaud Secretary Gates. However, given the prevailing academic allergy to defense funding, any attempt to centralize thinking about culture and terrorism under the Pentagon's roof will inevitably produce an intellectually shrunken outcome. Remember the reluctant anthropologists? The Pentagon will have the false comfort of believing that it has harnessed the best and the brightest minds, when in fact it will have only received a very limited slice of what the ivory tower has to offer--academics who have no problem taking Pentagon funds. Social scientists call this "selection bias," and it can lead to dangerous analytical errors."

Yet when I called him for an interview this morning, the Professor stated that the 1,000 signatures which his group has collected do not identify any of the signatories as to their level of education, their positions, or even their academic field. It is just 1,000 signatures, no titles, no positions, no academic accreditation, nothing which would allow one to check anything. I am not sure what to make of this. Normally academics are very careful when providing numbers. Normally.

But that is not the case, so I thought I would check how these numbers shake out for myself.

The American Anthropological Association states that there are some 15,000 working anthropologists, by which it appears that they mean "those with PhDs." Given their cited graduation rate for PhDs, this would seem to be consistent. Yet the Network of Concerned Anthropologists explicitly solicits not only the 15,000 "working anthropologists" for signatures, but instead puts it this way in their FAQ:

"3. I don't have a Ph.D. in anthropology, but I'm an anthropology graduate student. (Or: I don't have a Ph.D. in anthropology, but I am a scholar in a closely related field.) Can I still sign the Pledge?

Yes, you can still sign the Pledge! We welcome anthropology graduate students and scholars in related fields (particularly those that use ethnographic methods) to sign the Pledge and join our email list."

Not to put too fine of a point upon it, but this means that instead of 1,000 out of 15,000 possible signatures, the Network of Concerned Anthropologists seems to have collected 1,000 out of a possible, say, 200,000 or 300,000. Since there is no vetting of the signatures collected whatsoever, and they are collecting signatures from overseas as well, the pool is potentially much larger. (If one includes the academic fields of journalism, history, political science, economics, education, geography, sociology, criminology, within the broad call for signatures from "related fields," and do not exclude graduate students, or even undergraduates, from signing, the numbers could potentially be even larger.) Frankly, that is not at all what I would expect from an honest and careful collection of academics. It is downright disappointing. All of which leads me to the following conclusions:

A. Secretary Gate's Minerva Project is an offer to academia which represents a valuable potential contribution to humanity. Along the same lines, the US Army's efforts to gain cultural insights through the use of (the poorly named) Human Terrain Teams , is also a potentially valuable contribution. Both seek to avoid, or mitigate against, the use of force through a better understanding of other cultures.

B. The people who oppose these efforts do so primarily from a collection of poorly constructed (and apparently illogical) assumptions based primarily upon political biases, not evidence. Their assumptions are also apparently unsupported by any evidence and trade mainly upon mythologies about the nature of the military, the nature of the United States Armed Forces, and the history of war. Moreover, in attempting to further their arguments they are willing to cite numbers which their own data collection process cannot substantiate. (You cannot say there are "one thousand anthropologists" who signed your petition when you have no way at all of determining who, if anybody, on your list actually is an anthropologist." That is very sloppy indeed.)

C. These people are the reason I had to shave my head.

These opinions are those of the author and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the Army, or any element thereof.

By |  September 16, 2008; 4:44 PM ET
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Bob, I have in my mitts a petition from 1,000 barbers. They oppose SecDef Gates' Martin de Porres Project to rid the military of bad haircuts on the belief that their coif stylings will be co-opted by War Machine to produce, well, dos like yours.

Fight the power.

Posted by: Carl Prine | September 16, 2008 5:53 PM

Sorry about your hair, Bob, if it makes you feel any better, I have a "high and tight" even though I hated it since I was a E-1 in the army (it's cold and...prickly) however people seem to believe I'm more more competent because I look like this and after all, we're are all just actors on the stage.
The thing you have to remember about the Professors of Anthropology and the left in general is they have a different view of the military than you do. If I had to guess, I'd say their thinking is defined by a couple of truths.
Once you give the military information, it's entirely up to them what to do with it. They may tell you they want help delivering aide to impoverished peoples, they might even do that, but if they can come up with a way to kill people more efficiently with the information you've given them, they'll do that with it as well.
Secondly, the military is how our government has chosen to enforce it's political will. I can call that “neo-colonialism” or I can call that “realpolitik” or simply try to excuse it with the Lombardi variant of the golden rule (do unto others before they do unto you). To anthropologists I doubt the label matters since the exercise of military power is usually done to the direct detriment of the people they study, it's not really surprising they don't want to play along.
The last point is the previous Secretary of Defense who worked for this administration was an incompetent, lying, bag of puss who got the job because his politics agreed with the vice presidents. Sec Gates, I think, is a diligent and honorable man, but that certainly isn't a requirement of the position under the current administration. If anthropologists don't trust him, that's not surprising, most people would agree that holding high government office these days is not really a recommendation of your character.

Posted by: dijetlo | September 16, 2008 5:59 PM

Having very recently made the switch from working within the military to being a full-time graduate student I really appreciated reading this.

Also, so that you don't completely give up hope, here is an op-ed piece from a recent issue of Nature (doesn't get much more academic than that) echoing many of your same sentiments:

Posted by: Drew Conway | September 16, 2008 6:38 PM

An interesting and thought provoking post. As you may be aware, I'm involved in a number of efforts to increase the military's ROTC presence in America's urban areas. My knee jerk response to the 1,000 or so signatories is ... so what? Too often the DoD (and especially the Army) turn tail and run at the first sign of dissenting civilian opinion or mild hostility. Hello? We're the damn Army for God's sake! We avoid Manhattan and the 200,000 diverse souls in the CUNY system as potential 2LTs because of the possibility of some loud protestors who represent no discernible constituency and will burn themselves out after a few weeks. I see much the same here. I think DoD shold push this issue but I would suggest a few corallaries.

1. The DoD should make every effort to "grow its own". Getting our officers into rigorous and selective graduate institutions would be good for the military officer corps (talk about a self-selecting population these days) and it would enhance civil-military relations. If one looks at what the "military" did for itself in post-war Europe and Japan, it's amazing how many capabilities we currently lack that we once had - "in house". We cannot look at cultural anthropology and the social sciences as yet another function that can be "outsourced" ala BAH, SAIC or KBR.
Regardless of whether one subscribes to the "Nagl" or "Gentile" schools of thought, the simple fact is that the current level of cultural competency and language ability within the officer corps is embarrassing - especially in the officer cohorts after 1991 when ROTC abandoned much of America to include Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jersey City, metro Detroit. Our "diversity" comes primarily from the microtargeting of Southern, historically black colleges that have self-selecting student bodies not reflective of the African-American college population - let alone the range of American minorities. How would the "Colin Powell" of 2008 attending CUNY even find out about ROTC if we make no effort to let them know the opportunity even exists?

2. This "growing our own" could be accomplished 2 ways. An overaccession of our annual incoming officer cohort to recognize that we need officers in the active component who can devote themselves "full time" to efforts which cannot be accomplished while filling demanding troop-leading and staff assignments. From my vantage, if we wait until after company command to send officers to grad school and build these specialties IT IS TOO LATE. Why? 1) You lose the minds that might be attracted to officership if they were able to focus on being social scientists from day one; and 2) a lot of the raw, natural talent you bring in as 2LTs who would be best suited to these tasks have to survive a brusing 7 year gauntlet of troop assignments, deployments and, well, regular Army life. After all of this, many of the most talented of your initial cohort will self-select out of the military while others - after proving themselves as combat commanders - will not want to leave the Operational career field. What's left in an understrength Army currently at 87% fill on RA MAJs? Not much if the quality of our new PAO and Aquisition Corps cohorts are any indication. This is NOT a task that can be left to the "bottom 20%" that still happen to be in uniform 7 years after commissioning.
Still another option is to recognize that the Social Sciences are a PROFESSION like law, medicine and research science. Why can't we seek civilians and offer them a direct commision as a CPT or 1LT like the aforementioned professions? As a law school graduate, I can attest that a PhD is a tougher "row to hoe" academically. Given the contraction of Social Sciences funding and doctoral support, how about a DoD sponsored full-freight doctoral scholarship/post doc program like we have for the Medical Department? The possibilities are endless.

3. I appreciated your comments with respect to not wanting to appear as a stereotypical "Army" guy on campus. I got it and I appreciate it. That said, why is "big Army" going in the opposite direction? I concur about the "high and tight" sending an unwelcome vibe. I agree. Why then are we sending officers into academic environments and national conferences these days dressed in ACUs and desert boots? Why did GEN John Abizaid give a talk at Harvard's Kennedy School in DCUs? I mean, if a haircut gets stares, nothing sends the message of "I'm culturally clueless" than showing up dressed like you are on a FOB in Iraq. Seriously. We are doing no favors in getting the civilians we need on our side, namely those that were already plenty skepitical BEFORE this ACU 24/7 and "warrior" tripe started. Our messaging is so tone deaf as to be off putting. I have seen it at conferences I have attended on the Army's dime (In Class As and Bs of course) where our "leadership" (often w/o combat patch) strolls around in combat uniforms. Army Strong, ACUs and similar "messaging" = self-inflicted gunshot wounds in our effort to influence educated civilians.

In closing, I concur with with your post and believe this is a program we must press forward on at all costs. That said, we need some of these skills "in house" and have a long way to go in thinking about how we present ourselves to that incredibly talented slice of America that doesn't support all of our foreign policy and isn't obsequious to the military. AS we used to say in AMEDD Recruiting, "we need them more than they need us."

Posted by: IRR Soldier ... | September 16, 2008 6:39 PM

In the 1950s and 1960s, the military and some anthropologists cooperated in a number of experiments, including ones where LSD was fed to unwitting American servicemen. Since then, anthropologists have been a bit more skeptical of cooperating. Is that really so wrong?

(Should they be skeptical if the CIA asks them about the most effective interrogation techniques or would that be dumb?)

Posted by: Total | September 16, 2008 7:21 PM

And, of course, there's the Golden Rule of Funding; who gives the gold makes the rules.

Maybe if the SecDef made it clear that there would not be any strings attached to either the research or the conclusions.

Or that academic opinions would not be used to target the investigator, or to RedScare anthropologists and sociologists that contradicted the Official Position on Scary Brown People.

Or maybe, just maybe, the past seven years have made academics a little leery of having their conclusions cherry-picked and OVPed into something they were never meant to say to "bring the facts in line with the policy".

Assuming that uniformed Greeks bearing gifts intend you or someone you have studied and like some unspecified harm may not be very patriotic or helpful. But can anyone say at this point that it's not being realistic?

Posted by: FDChief | September 16, 2008 7:38 PM

"Both seek to avoid, or mitigate against, the use of force through a better understanding of other cultures."

"...our "leadership"...strolls around in combat uniforms. Army Strong, ACUs and similar "messaging""

One of these things is not like the other. As IRR points out, while the one hand holds out the carrot the other has been thrashing away vigorously with the stick in the imperial hustings lately.

While I can see the value in this program, I can see how I'd be suspicious of both the salesman and the intended use of this information...

And, as an aside, has there ever been an armed force that gathered and used information to avoid or mitigate the use of force? Baby Jesus on a pogo stick, that what armed forces are, like, FOR!

Now if this was State, or the office of the Director of Intelligence, or the National Security Advisor, different critter, maybe.

But to run this through me this just reinforces the idea that we've discarded all our foreign policy tools except the armed hammer. And I'd be somewhat sympathetic to any anthropologist that suspect that we were going to treat the subjects of his research as nails.

Posted by: FDChief | September 16, 2008 7:45 PM

When it comes to bias, perhaps Gates should start with a look back at a civil career that was completely based on being a Team B All-Star. Talk about people having preconceived notions and mythologies... That he can get through a speech without Rumsfeldian psychopathy does not an enlightened leader make.

I'm sure an institution that can't operate with gays yet is up to the task of embracing the nuances of cultural soft power.

We must understand the village to destroy it.

That a few outliers get it, well, congrats. I know an anthropologist who does Clausewitz. That many in academia do not embrace the "utilitarian" nature that the White Mans Burden is, and the institutions created to maintain it, is indeed cowardly. And shame on them for any non-Euclidean drama demonstrating that obstinance.

But why we should come together, when the Warrior Caste so craves to be apart, as IRR Soldier ceaselessly documents, I do not know.

Posted by: srv | September 16, 2008 8:20 PM

Actually, reading FDChief, I've figured out what this program really is.

This is a cover for building up the DoD Humint and foreign analyst program. With that other agency being so dependingly liberal and thinking and all that - why Mr. Gates knows all about how biased THEY were.

Posted by: srv | September 16, 2008 8:32 PM

I think the previous comments have pretty effectively refuted your thesis, Colonel Bateman. As a graduate of the Army's long-term course, meaning the check gets deposited every month, I've now spent a number of years associating primarily with that dreaded class—the civilians of America.

I think you need to get out more, Colonel. Being IN the academy does not necessarily equate to being OF the academy. They know you for what you are, or, perhaps unfairly, what they believe you are. The same goes for Gates and the DoD. These folks are in the position of the recovering heroin addict whose old pusher keeps trying to peddle the good stuff. They know that once they're hooked, the pusher owns them.

They don't want you owning them. And why would they think otherwise? As has been pointed out, the Army in particular has taken great pains to separate itself from large segments of the society it purports to serve. Do you realize how ridiculous Army officers look running around in serious intellectual gatherings wearing field uniforms? As a retired officer, it pains me every time I see this, especially in view of the fact that the other services refuse to do it. And it diminishes my respect for your superiors, who've come up with this stupid policy. Further, I cringe when one of your contemporaries starts up with the "hooah" nonsense.

IMO, this all contributes to a situation where serious academics in many fields may wish to have as little to do with the military as possible. You know, Colonel, there is a sizable contingent of educated folks in this country who view the U.S. military as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.

Posted by: Publius | September 16, 2008 9:23 PM

Perhaps Gates can start with an anthropoligical study of the Army itself, for civilian reading. Kidding ;)

Forgive the pile on, particularly since this is the one of the few corners of the semi-milblog world where the intellectualism of the regulars was always a bit freakish. If you can keep them amused, it'll work out OK.

Just don't trash Walker Texas Ranger...

Posted by: srv | September 17, 2008 2:34 AM


Point taken about the "once bitten twice shy" aspect of reluctance. But we're still talking about just 1,000 signatures, apparently completely unverified (who is actually an anthropologist, who is from elsewhere in the social sciences, who is a PhD, or an MA, or an undergrad, etc) out of a very large body of people.

On a different note, I must confess that I greatly prefer to wear my ACUs. Not because they help with the "warrior mentality" (a term and a concept which I detest) but because they are damned comfortable, require no ironing or shining of boots, and are generally completely low-maintainence. In short, because I am lazy. (I hate wearing full suits as much as I hate wearing Class A's as well. And in truth, since we went to the ACUs I don't even wear my Abn and AASLT badges anymore because it's a pain in the a@@ to pin them on and take them off, and I haven't anything to prove to anyone.) I don't wear them to academic conferences though, and really haven't seen anyone who does. (I too was at Hah-vahd Yahd this past summer, and was there w/ Abazaid as well. Unless he was there twice, when I saw him he was in civiies. As was Deptula, Dunlap, and everyone else.)(Oh, wait, looking at the comment from IRR, that appears to have been an earlier event.) Anyway, I agree, no need for us to wear the uniform outside among civilians. Hmmm...or is there? (I am thinking now of Eisenhower, MacA and the rest who wore civiies to the War Dept/Army HQs back in '30-'35 lest they offend somebody with the presence of their uniform.) Hmmmm. Something to mull.

As for Publius's suggestion that I "get out more" I really can't imagine what more I could do. I haven't lived on a military post in seven years (barring Iraq), currently live on Capitol Hill, am married to an academically inclined State Department type (she worked on the Hill when we started dating), most of our friends are NGO types, I hold an adjunct position at one university (Georgetown) after having held another one at a different school (George Mason), regularly attend the theater (or perform in's a hobby), go to opera now and then, and then on top of that do my writing both here, at Media Matters for America, at the Committee for Concerned Journalists, and for some other newspapers (Chicago Trib) and magazines. Good lord man, how much more "out there" among civilians can I get? Heck, do you know any other infantry officers who were invited to be media ethicists by an academic journalism education program? I'm at a loss as to what more I could do to "get out there," but I am willing to take suggestions. Ballet classes perhaps? ;-)

We certainly concur on the "hoah" silliness though. Particularly around civilians.

Posted by: Bob Bateman | September 17, 2008 8:08 AM

LTC Batemen,

Thanks for the thoughful response to our previous posts. If I recall, the Abizaid "incident" I described took place sometime in 2005 - but there have been many similar cases since where leadership has worn field uniforms to decidedly academic or quasi-academic events in civilian settings . You certainly know these are not isolated examples. A few more which I either personally attended or have first hand knowledge of:

- GEN Casey's 12/07 speech at Brookings on the State of the Army. He, his entourage and 40+ officers from the USAWC essentially "invaded" the building in ACUs.

- GEN Cody's talk to CNAS.

- The American Public Health Assn. Annual Meeting.

- The American Bar Assn. National Security Law Conference

The list is really endless. These are just things I saw with my own eyes in the past year.

These examples are really all besides the point, but they underscore the real and purposeful wedge the Army leadership is driving between the organization and the majority of Americans who don't have "support the troops" magnets on their car or find the Army Strong ad campaign "inspirational." Some of this messaging - especially the new "strength of the nation" pitch I find corrosive. Our leaders pretend that a martyr-like, all-volunteer Army is the one pillar safeguarding the country from collapse. The only problem is that they never made a sustained or culturally-in-synch "ask" for these citizen's service. What hooey!

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the military seriously attempting to "grow its own" social scientists as a counterpart/component/analog to the "Minerva Project." We simply have to have some of these capabilities in house and if we start with post-company command CPTs it's too damn late. The future "strength" of these efforts (aka. the human talent) disproportionately resides in areas often dismissed by the Army as "anti-military" or "unpatriotic" - both patently untrue accusations. I have recruited at Columbia, NYU and The New School and found that it's all about 1) how the message is presented and 2) who the messenger is.

How can we bridge the gap and articulate this need when the messaging, posturing and actions of senior Army leaders converge to work against these very aims?

Posted by: IRR Soldier... | September 17, 2008 9:20 AM

LTC Bateman

I would really like to know your thoughts on the Army's "Warrior Culture". You have alluded to this in other posts, as well. I started out in the Army as a draftee in the Fall of 1971, and through a series of events didn't leave the Ohio National Guard until 2007. Maybe because I was a draftee and never lost that draftee mindset, I never saw myself as a "warrior" but rather as a "soldier", a citizen who was selected (by friends and neighbors in my home county, according to the letter), and trained to defend the country, first as a conscript and then as a free citizen. We had warriors, those guys that scared the bejeezus out of the rest of us in training, but most of us always kept that skeptical, civilian attitude. The result was that we were not a cloistered society that viewed the world from a "us versus them" perspective, but we were part of that society that we defended. I would really like to know your thoughts on this topic.

Posted by: Bill Cooper | September 17, 2008 10:23 AM

In terms of the message/messenger for the Minerva project, if they are so concerned about DoD, why isn't State fronting the project?

I mean, in a political-military environment like Iraq right now, State should be front and center down to the maneuver BN level. Similarly, they should be spearheading the Minerva project.

Unless, all the FSOs think they're so much smarter than the professors that they cannot stand to give them money... :)

Posted by: Jimmy | September 17, 2008 10:41 AM

LTC Bateman,

Your piece touches upon a divide that is due, in part, to a basic misunderstanding of what the military actually is. You've mentioned your basic CV in academia-- could you dedicate another article (either here or somewhere else) on the modern American officer and the popular misconceptions associated with the uniform?

Meaning-- who are these bald men? Are they dedicated solely to war, or is the military making the anticipated shift to operations other than war? Or has the military been there for some time and it has taken a war to make us understand what type of asset we actually have in our modern volunteer military?



Posted by: RWL | September 17, 2008 1:26 PM

RWL, not a bad idea. Unfortunately, I am not qualified academically (nor do I have the resources) for an intellectually honest latitudinal assessment. Sorry.

Posted by: Bob Bateman | September 17, 2008 8:23 PM


This month's AFJ carries perhaps a more nuanced retort from academia (well, Cora Sol Goldstein) on this issue.

Go to

While there's some cluelessness ("It is not obvious that, in the present political environment, the military and intelligence communities will be willing to accept critical points of view and guarantee the independence of academic research"), there's also a buried lede that's worth discussing elsewhere:

"There may be a better approach for involving the social sciences in the war on terrorism. What is really needed is a massive expansion of language programs, area studies programs, comparative cultural studies and policy-driven political science. At the same time, it is imperative to pierce the walls that separate military personnel and the academy. An equivalent program to the post-World War II G.I. Bill could ensure that young military officers and military personnel with real combat experience in anti-terrorism could attend first- and second-tier American universities to complete advanced degrees in sociology, history, political science, anthropology or cultural studies. In an academic setting, they would be exposed to a mixture of conflicting ideas and critical opinions. This would create a new kind of military and intelligence personnel capable of understanding the complexities of political and social challenges in an international context.

For this plan to succeed, American social science departments must also be willing to change. They must deal with contemporary issues of strategic importance and encourage students to pursue research projects that could illuminate the tough political and social questions that we are facing in our war against secular and religious fundamentalist movements. At the same time, this proposal would allow social scientists working in strategic areas to maintain an independent and critical stance. "

Perhaps you could bring your insight to that effort in lieu of more advice on the best hair care when dwelling in tweed-clad cultures.

Posted by: Carl Prine | September 18, 2008 2:39 PM

Publius, I really don't know how I could "get out more" than I already do. I've lived off-post for all but three of the past 13 years, not counting Iraq, (I now live on Capitol Hill), I'm married to a woman who had never been on a military post until two years ago (and didn't even know anyone in the military before me), most of our friends and/or neighbors work in NGOs or related area like non-profit homeless assistance foundations or eco-groups, I attend the theater (when I am not acting in it) and the occasional opera, I regularly attend academic conferences, and I've held positions at two different universities (George Mason and Georgetown) as an academic, not a ROTC instructor. Dude, short of singing show-tunes on Broadway, how much more can I do?

Your suggestions are welcome.

Posted by: Bob Bateman | September 19, 2008 12:27 PM

Colonel Bateman, my comment about "getting out more" was intended to be metaphorical, meaning that despite your immersion in civilian land, you are still ultimately a denizen of soldier land. And it's my experience, especially after having been retired for some time, that the mere fact of our active duty status inevitably colors our perceptions more than we realize.

I agree that you're world wise to an extent that few, if any of your contemporaries can match. That's why I find most of your work compelling. But, as noted, my intent was to remind you that we're all kind of hostage to where we happen to sit at a given time. I suspect you'll appreciate this more once you're retired.

WRT to the immediate issue, I'm not so sure spending taxpayer dollars on studies that will end up gathering dust on a shelf is the best way to go. No disagreement that infusion of the social sciences into military operations is needed; it's the way in which it's approached that's at issue. I like what Carl Prine has posted and I think this is the way to go. I think soldiers should be the ones who actually learn and then hopefully pollinate the force. Not so long ago, back before they were "warriors," significant numbers of Army officers and NCOs were exposed to these "softer" areas; I think the Army benefitted from this. Surely, the United States can afford an Army whose arsenal contains more than just kinetic capabilities.

Incidentally, although I may disagree with you on occasion, you'll not see me disparaging you. I've been reading your work for some time now and have always found you to be a level-headed and honest observer. We can't ask for much more than that. I'm very pleased that Phil Carter was able to get you on board.

Posted by: Publius | September 19, 2008 2:44 PM

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