The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The military: an arm of the Republican Party?

I've previously written, in other forums, about the conservatization of the military since the Vietnam War. If you haven't seen the studies of previous years, among them ones carried out by Duke U. and the Army Times, approximately 60% of military officers consider themselves conservative, while only 5% report as Democrats. That, while partially explainable by the changes wrought by the transition from a conscripted force to an all-volunteer force (Republicans in general see the military as a more justifiable and noble tool for policy), is still a discrepancy on par with the massive reporting differences between Dems and Repubs in journalism and academia.

Just like those two fields, it is hyperbolic to assume that such numbers mean that Democrats or Republicans exert THAT much more influence proportionally--instead, you tend to see the dominance of the field by the moderates of one party or the other. But, just as conservatives seek to increase their numbers in journalism and academia (and I don't mean by legal measures), it would serve liberals--and the military--well if Ivy League schools and others who have banned ROTC reconsider their policies, hopefully sooner rather than later. For as Lucian Truscott, an author who has extensively written on the military ethos, argues, his contacts in the military are convinced from their own personal experiences that many of the 35% independents in the officer corps are conservative in belief. Unlike the media or academia, liberals in this case cannot start their own military corps or endowed chair to draw attention to their position a la Fox News. Thus, the only way to moderate the influences WITHIN the military is to enter its service.

I myself considered Navy ROTC for a few years, and in the end decided against it not because of any dislike of the military, but because I was a) too blind to fly an airplane and b) I realized that I hated being told what to do. Not the best personality for the military. Wake up before reveille? Go shove it in your arse lieutenant.

I don't fear or distrust the military. But I fear the potential for one-sided decision-making in a military dominated by officers with similar mindsets who are often, according to Truscott, operate under the mindset that, "If you're not a member of the Party in the Armerican military today, you will not be promoted, and in some cases, will be dismissed as unworthy of service."

He adds, "If you have any doubts about whether or not these highly-politicized senior "leaders" of our military are political hacks occupying empty uniforms, please try to recall how much dissent against the criminal bumbling of the CPA among the senior military -- generals in Iraq and stateside both -- you read about in 2003-2004. How much dissent did have register against Rumsfeld's "war on the cheap" planning in the run-up to the war? What happened to the single senior general (Shinseki) who dared to deviate from the Approved Script for war on the cheap? How many have dissented since the war began, especially with respect to the obvious lack of a sufficient number of troops for a proper occupation of Iraq?"

All good questions, which there should always be dissenters within an organization to ask. Maybe there are, and we aren't hearing about it. But at this point, the best policy prescription I can see is to continue to push for ROTC at the prominently liberal schools. (though I realize there are the additional issues of Bush, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, etc, which keep liberals away. But who is going to address them from positions of power if the whole military is an echo chamber?)

Truscott's comments, reprinted by Mark Kleimann


  • At 10:58 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    We could have used you 5 months ago, Brian ... well, assuming you would have been willing to get down into the activist trenches and sustain the fight against the guard dogs of the status quo. Proof is, too few of the good guys have what it takes. Oh well. What's done is done. You should parlay with Mark, Dennis, Sean and Bob to see what you all can do as seniors to set up the infrastructure for the next stage. As you have astutedly framed your scope of vision, the ROTC debate was and is less about the nation of today than the nation of 1, 2, 3 decades from now, when it just so happens your generation will own this country - literally. I'm a believer in path dependency. Your America will grow from the decisions and actions our nation's, and our university's, owners make today. As a stakeholder, even if you are just a college senior, you're not powerless. You just have to do the best you can with what you have to effect your country's future.


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