Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Calls for General officers to Refuse Orders or Resign

The Military Profession attracts a "law and order" type of person, who is generally more conservative than average. The volunteer military exacerbates this by not drawing from a wider selection of the US, and allowing the military to self select. The Draft no longer "seeds" the military with more diverse viewpoints.
Universities then play their role, with schools that have a clear liberal population preventing recruitment and ROTC on campus. During Vietnam many schools closed their programs, others have made it difficult to enroll, refusing academic credit for courses, etc. Land Grant colleges are still required to allow ROTC, but they do not always make them welcome. Some major state universities with 50,000 students enrolled struggle to commission 10 or 12 army officers per year.
More conservative schools, however, welcome the military. Catholic universities, other religious universities, and of course military run universities have become essentially the primary source of officers.
It seems to me that if we want to have an officer corps that reflects the US, more liberal universities need to step up and try to get their students into the military system. If we are unsatisfied with the Flag officers serving today, lets look at where they were in their formative years as students: probably not Evergreen University.
The push to remove ROTC from a more representative cross section of American universities has, in large part, removed any liberal "vote" in military decision making. In order to get that "vote" back, the liberal community needs to start feeding their students into the officer corps, so 30 years from now they are represented at the highest levels.
In the mean time, advocating that officers get to choose when and where they go to war will just mean that democratic presidents will lose control of the military, and republican ones will still get their wars.


At 12:47 PM, Blogger Doctor Science said...

Have you read The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, by Andrew Bacevich? I have a review of it here.

Bacevich thinks that *all* officers should go to regular public or private colleges, none to service academies. He suggests that the service academies should then train *all* officers for a year or so, and that officers' post-graduation education should take place in civilian universities, not War Colleges.

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read that. The British system with Sandhurst is similar to that (one year finishing school), and Marine ROTC I think(though they can also come from annapolis).

I am actually a product of a service academy, so my view is biased, but I think there is a lot of value in the education provided as a baseline within the services through academies. I just think that the other 70% of officers coming from civilian schools should be from as broad a spectrum of schools as we can find, to even out whatever insularity the academies cause.

But I have been involved with ROTC on several levels and different schools, and had some brilliant students, but I thought their education was not as strong as their peers from the academies (in order to be an officer: if they wanted to be an electrical engineer or english teacher, it was probably better).

The best part of a service academy education is that the mandatory curiculum is "broad liberal." As an ROTC instructor, I would often see students avoid the classes they were not good at (ie, no math/science, or no humanities). That is simply not possible when the core curriculum (when I was a cadet) was 44 courses, and whatever major you had was on top of that.

Currently, at least, the military is unable to mandate a core course at civilian schools that provide that kind of broad exposure. I think that having been forced to take electrical engineering and thermo dynamics makes me a better officer, even though I am not an engineer (my degree was national security). And I used both of those courses as a platoon leader.

But realistically, the main difference is the quality of student going in: the academies can attract kids who would go to top tier schools, but for the most part, other top tier schools do not produce a lot of ROTC graduates. I think the military would lose out on guys like Schwartzkoff or Petraeus without having schools to attract them.

Most officers do go to civilian schools for post graduate study by the time they are LTC's, but also go to the military specific schools. The Army requires a school for each officer promotion other than 1LT. I think requiring post graduate civilian school for senior leaders is smart (and effectively the current situation), but it would be a shame to get rid of the military schools: my most recent school (Command General Staff College) was stellar, and easily equal in rigor to law school classes.


At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was an excellent review, by the way, and I will read the book.

I think I disagree with the recommendation for the Guard/Reserve, though. That is the part of the military that is closest to civilians, and brings skills and ethos not necessarily found in the active duty (and wouldn't be solved any other way). And definitely is the part that puts the war on the home front the most...I am the only person from my neighborhood/circle to go to Iraq, and without hundreds of thousands of people like me, I think a much larger part of American would have no real tangible interests at stake in the war, besides cost.

There were several other areas too where I think I disagree, but will read the book first.


At 3:46 PM, Blogger Doctor Science said...

J --

I can see how the fact that the academies are exceptionally selective and their curriculum is exceptionally broad means that their graduates will be exceptionally well-prepared. But part of Bacevich's point is that this re-inforces the dangerous isolation of the officer class from the civilian world, because the officers most likely to do well are those who are least used to dealing with the rest of society. That's what he really wants to break down, and I agree that his suggested remedy might work -- though I think it extremely unlikely to be tried.

I look forward to reading your reactions to the book.


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