Sunday, March 19, 2006

Integrate the Military and the Academy

Sick of Red v. Blue?

Will Marshall of the Progessive Policy Institute argues that a nation divided against itself cannot stand, and calls for putting more Democrats in the miliitary as well as more Republicans in the universities:
Since the draft ended in 1973, the U.S. military has become one of the nation's most conservative and rock-ribbed Republican bastions. Around the same time, New Left activists began storming the ramparts of higher education, moving universities sharply to the left. As a result, these two ostensibly nonpartisan institutions now define opposing poles on the contemporary political spectrum.

Each institution harbors a particular set of mores and beliefs that doesn't mesh easily with the other's. The U.S. military is the repository for the stern martial virtues of honor, valor, nationalism, discipline, and self-sacrifice. The academy is the wellspring of the postmodern values of personal autonomy, self-expression, cultural diversity, and profound skepticism of authority of any kind.

In the barracks, where televisions are usually tuned to Fox News, military personnel are socialized to view liberals as unpatriotic twits. On campuses, anti-war and anti-military attitudes remain de rigeur. More than three decades after the Vietnam War ended, some elite colleges still ban ROTC programs. And a coalition of law schools has gone to court to keep military recruiters off their campuses, as a way of protesting the Pentagon's policies toward gays.

Yet there is nothing natural or inevitable about antagonism between the military and the academy. Before the tumult of the 1960s, many U.S. universities were staid places more likely to be roiled by fraternity pranks than sit-ins. Mass conscription, begun in World War II and continued through the first half of the Cold War, ensured that the military faithfully mirrored U.S. society, with its dominant New Deal coalition and "natural" Democratic majority.