January 9, 2009 | Posted by Abu Muqawama - 9:34pm | 26 Comments
I've had a busy week of work and am now home on a Friday night responding to all the emails I have ignored over the course of the past five days. There are a few items I want to highlight, though, as we go into the weekend.
1) My buddy Steve McInerney -- an old friend from both Beirut and Cairo -- is now at the Project on Middle East Democracy and has edited a new volume, available free of charge via teh internets: Speaking Clearly: What Should Obama Say to the Middle East?
Steve is wicked smart and has assembled some valuable contributions from regional experts.
2) Man, this "fiasco" at the U.S. Army War College that Tom Ricks has been writing about has really heated up. Tom has a new post featuring testimony from Mark Perry
, who writes that at a conference held at the War College, his unorthodox views weren't given a fair hearing. If this is the same conference I remember, Mark was recruited to speak on Hizballah along with one other scholar -- me. And my recollections of both the tenor of the discussion and the way Mark's views were received were ... well, different than those of Mark. But I have a lot of respect for Mark, and maybe he encountered some stuff in the small groups to which I was not a witness. Meanwhile, our own Charlie weighs in:
Not to turn this into an Army vs USMC thing, but both the Marine Command & Staff College and Marine War College (affectionately known as McWar) have gone out of their way to have provocative speakers in the two years I've been at CSC. Nir Rosen, Ralph Peters, Bob Woodward, Dave Kilcullen, Les Grau, Sir Rupert Smith. We've also done screenings of No End in Sight and The Battle of Algiers each year.
The point isn't that the Marines are mavericky iconoclasts, rather not all of PME is quite as pigheaded (and shortsighted) as the AWC appears in this instance. I know LTG Caldwell has been trying to improve both curriculum and morale at C&GSC in Leavenworth, as well.
Perhaps the climate was different 3 and 4 years ago. But there is a deliberate and concerted effort to expose our students to reasoned and serious dissent now.
Oh, but it doesn't end there. Oh no. Steve Metz, who also sent me a private email regarding the matter, posted this comment on Small Wars Journal
. He says he's been set up:
Let me try and put this to rest. I believe two points are important.
First, the email that I sent to my colleagues in 2005 (which, I believe, was dredged up and sent to Tom Ricks by a disgruntled employee seeking to embarrass me) was NOT about academic freedom at the Army War College. It was about journalistic methods. Several of us had experiences with Tom where what we said was portrayed as more critical of the administration than we intended, or things written by individual War College authors were portrayed as official positions. I was attempting to draw that to the attention of my colleagues.
Was that a purely time and context specific problem? I noticed that Tom's Foreign Policy blog entry of 31 December is headlined, "The U.S. Army Speaks Up For Hamas." It was summarizing a recent publication by an Army War College professor that includes the following disclaimer on p. ii: "The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government" so everyone can decide on their own.
In Tom's blog, I see that his major source for the fact that there is an academic freedom problem at the Army War College is someone who was a guest speaker for a few days a couple of year ago. This fellow drew his conclusion from the comments of some unidentified people who came up to him during lunch.
I've been in the Professional Military Education system for nearly 23 years. I've been on the faculty at the Army War College for nearly 18 of those. In my opinion, academic freedom in PME is, by necessity, different than in a secular, civilian university, but it is robust and rigorous. I think that DoD and senior military leaders deserve great credit for allowing, even encouraging their employees to second guess and critique their decisions. I doubt few industries or even civilian universities would be equally open to that kind of free discourse.
So when it comes to academic freedom in PME, my personal opinion is that there's nothing to see here folks--let's move along and discuss issues that really need it.
I kinda agree. Mountains and molehills come to mind.
3) Guess who else is home on a Friday night with nothing to do? The nerds at Small Wars Journal
, that's who. They're now blogging on foreignpolicy.com every week
. And I would totally make fun of them for not being able to find a date for the weekend if I weren't myself sitting here in my boxers with a bag of Cheetos and a copy of this book.
Which isn't stopping my West Coast-living girlfriend from calling to tell me about the party she is attending tonight.