[Paleopsych] Academe: The Academic Elite Goes to Washington, and to War

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The Academic Elite Goes to Washington, and to War
Academe, 5.1-2

      Critics of the academy have lambasted faculty doves. History shows
      that academia has roosted a flock of hawks.
      By Lionel Lewis

      It has become part of the conventional wisdom that a decidedly
      left-wing slant influences what students are taught at elite
      colleges and universities in America, chiefly at Ivy League
      institutions. This perception has been common at least since the
      congressional investigations in the late 1940s into Communist Party
      activities in the United States, and surely since the publication
      of William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale in 1951.

      Liberal faculty, abetted by permissive or weak academic
      administrators, are said to indoctrinate impressionable students
      with an un-American ideology passed off as objective inquiry. The
      more prestigious the school, the more clear this bias is thought to
      be. In the 1950 speech that fixed his place as a national political
      force, Senator Joseph McCarthy laid the blame for the threats to
      America's democracy on "the traitorous actions" of those "who have
      all the benefits" of "the finest homes, the finest college
      education, and the finest jobs in government." Buckley's book is a
      catalogue of "teachers and texts" at Yale that "assiduously
      disparage the individual, glorify the government, enshrine
      security, and discourage self-reliance."

      Opinion surveys throughout the 1950s showing that professors were
      less rabidly anticommunist than members of the public fed this
      perception of the radical right. Some extremists still argue that
      students or faculty with conservative or traditional views find the
      climate on many campuses inhospitable. Shortly after the 2001
      attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the
      conservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni prepared a
      report detailing over a hundred examples of "how our universities
      are failing America." The alleged failures ranged "from moral
      equivocation to explicit condemnations of America" on campuses
      across the country. "Indeed," the group asserted, "the message of
      many in academe was clear: blame America first."

      Unscathed by the Ivory Tower
      The facts have never supported such fanciful claims. Many, for
      example, who have taught and been taught at elite universities have
      helped develop America's aggressive and confrontational foreign
      policy (a policy resting on the premise that the nation's strength
      should be felt around the world) while serving as secretary of
      defense or as national security adviser. The secretary of defense
      is the president's principal assistant on defense matters and heads
      the Department of Defense, a cabinet position established in 1949
      to provide the military forces necessary to deter war and protect
      the national security. The national security adviser is the chief
      counsel to the president on national security issues. This position
      was established by the National Security Act of 1947, legislation
      passed to give the president and the country mechanisms to
      coordinate foreign policy and reconcile diplomatic and military
      commitments and requirements to fight the Cold War effectively.

      By 1950, the military was unified and placed under the command of
      the Defense Department. The creation of the National Security
      Council, headed by the national security adviser, kept the White
      House's initiatives at the center of foreign policy. All of this
      centralized authority existed outside of what had been understood
      to be normal constitutional structures of democratic
      accountability. It also further lodged American foreign policy in
      an establishment. Many of those with ties to this establishment
      have passed through or have other connections with a handful of
      elite institutions among the more than three thousand U.S. colleges
      and universities.

      Here are some facts. First, among the fifteen individuals serving
      as secretary of defense under ten presidents--from Dwight D.
      Eisenhower to George W. Bush--eleven had at least one degree from
      an elite university. The current secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, for
      example, received a BA from Princeton University. [28]^1 At one
      point in their careers, former secretaries Robert McNamara, James
      Schlesinger, Harold Brown, and William Perry even spent some time
      on the faculty of a prestigious university.

      Second, two of the six leading members of President George W.
      Bush's foreign policy team who most vigorously promoted the
      invasion of Iraq in 2003 have undergraduate degrees from Ivy League
      institutions, beginning with Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz,
      the deputy secretary of defense, who has a degree from Cornell
      University. Bush himself has a bachelor's degree from Yale
      University and an MBA from Harvard University. Moreover, two
      members of the team have taught and have been academic
      administrators at elite universities: Condoleezza Rice, the
      national security adviser, at Stanford University and Wolfowitz at
      Yale and Johns Hopkins universities. In contrast, the two members
      of the team most reluctant to rush into war--before international
      arms inspectors had completed their task and without support from
      the United Nations--have military backgrounds with no ties to elite
      academic institutions: secretary of state Colin Powell and Richard
      Armitage, his deputy.

      Some believe that the inner circle of the Vulcans--the label often
      applied to passionate backers of the Iraq war in the Bush
      administration--is somewhat larger than this handful, making it
      possible to extend this line of analysis a bit further. In his
      book, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, James
      Mann notes that "[Lewis] Scooter Libby [assistant to the president
      and chief-of-staff to the vice president], deputy national security
      adviser Stephen Hadley, undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith,
      and undersecretary of state Paula Dobriansky . . . all . . .
      qualify as Vulcans." All four have at least one degree from an
      elite academic institution. Libby has a BA from Yale and a JD from
      Columbia University; Hadley has a BA from Cornell and a JD from
      Yale; and Feith has an AB and Dobriansky a PhD from Harvard.

      Third, an examination of the educational backgrounds of U.S.
      national security advisers since World War II shows that most
      earned academic degrees or taught at elite universities. These are
      the architects of the muscular American foreign policy that
      resulted in the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert
      Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      Of the seventeen national security advisers serving ten American
      presidents (half of whom themselves earned degrees from Harvard or
      Yale), four had military backgrounds, four spent most of their
      careers in government service, four came from the private sector,
      and five--McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew
      Brzezinski, and Condoleezza Rice--came from academia (Harvard, the
      Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, and Stanford).
      Eleven of the seventeen earned fourteen degrees from six elite
      institutions: Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and the
      California Institute of Technology.[29]^2

      The five national security advisers from academia proved no less
      unapologetic than the other twelve in championing the vigorous
      pursuit of America's economic, ideological, and political
      interests. Bundy was one of the "wise men" surrounding President
      John Kennedy during the misguided American-led invasion of Cuba;
      early in his tenure, he was a strong proponent of American
      participation in Vietnam. In other government positions before his
      appointment as national security adviser, Rostow consistently
      recommended the use of force in American foreign policy. He was one
      of the first to advocate aerial bombing as a way to quickly end the
      conflict in Vietnam and avoid a major Asian war. Not only did
      Kissinger press for escalating the Vietnam War even further, but he
      also urged controversial bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia.
      (Many have also accused Kissinger of illegally undermining domestic
      policy in other countries, most notably Chile.)

      Immediately after his appointment and before he took office,
      Brzezinski, described as a "hard-nosed cold warrior," wrote in his
      diary of "the need to have somewhat more tough-minded a group in
      security and arms-control-oriented areas." To thwart his bête
      noire, the Soviet Union, Brzezinski successfully urged support for
      the mujaheddin in Afghanistan and helped develop a policy that
      promoted Islamist radicalism. The history of Rice's role in
      Operation Iraqi Freedom has yet to be written, although she has
      publicly defended the policy of waging unilateral preventive war:
      "America's power and purpose must be used to defend freedom," and
      "we are fighting the war in Iraq for our security,as well as for
      the benefit of the Iraqi people."

      In other words, little distinguishes the national security advisers
      with academic backgrounds from those without them, not even the
      possession of an advanced degree, which almost all of the advisers
      earned. Not surprisingly, the ideas of those with academic
      credentials in world affairs, history, and international relations
      were more often published by university or prestigious commercial
      presses than those of advisers without such expertise. Brzezinski
      and Kissinger established solid academic reputations before
      beginning their work in the White House. Both men's work, however,
      was more ideologically driven than is typical of much social
      science. Rostow wrote many of his major publications after his work
      in government. Bundy was an academic administrator with few
      publications, most of them co-authored. Also a career academic
      administrator, Rice did little serious research after publishing
      her dissertation. In short, all had successful academic careers,
      but none could be counted as a towering academic figure.

      Little Discernible Difference
      The putative nonworldliness of academics has long been a subject of
      derision and scorn. When asked who could best serve as chancellor
      of Germany, longtime chancellor Otto von Bismarck reportedly
      replied: "It makes no difference what sort of person becomes
      chancellor, provided it isn't a professor." Yet the vigor with
      which academic and nonacademic U.S. national security advisers have
      advanced America's growing global power suggests that the academics
      are no less attuned than their nonacademic colleagues to

      At the core of liberalism is the belief that government
      intervention can help solve problems. In this sense, the academic
      elite involved in formulating an activist foreign policy might be
      called liberal. They, however, would likely reject the appellation
      as a sophistic joke. In any case, it is doubtful that they acquired
      their ideas about how to further U.S. interests from liberal
      "teachers and texts" at America's leading universities.

      In fact, almost all of those closely identified with crafting the
      post-World War II U.S. policy of containing and confronting
      communism around the globe have Ivy League degrees. Many were
      called "wise men" by their contemporaries, and all were seen as
      part of the "establishment." Graduating from Yale were Dean Acheson
      (secretary of state), Harvey Bundy (assistant secretary of state),
      William Bundy (assistant secretary of state and assistant secretary
      of defense), W. Averell Harriman (ambassador to Russia and
      secretary of commerce), Robert Lovett (undersecretary of state and
      secretary of defense), and Cyrus Vance (secretary of state).
      Studying at Princeton were David Bruce (ambassador to the Federal
      Republic of Germany and to Great Britain), Allen Dulles (director
      of the Central Intelligence Agency), John Foster Dulles (secretary
      of state), James Forrestal (secretary of the navy and secretary of
      defense), and George Kennan (a Kremlinologist). The Harvard
      graduates were Charles Bohlen (ambassador to the Soviet Union), C.
      Douglas Dillon (ambassador to France and secretary of the
      treasury), and Paul Nitze (secretary of the navy and deputy
      secretary of defense).

      The only other foreign policy elites in the decades after World War
      II as important as these fourteen men (aside from several
      individuals who served as secretary of defense or as national
      security adviser) were graduates of institutions only slightly less
      prestigious: John McCloy, who earned an Amherst degree (president
      of the World Bank and high commissioner for Germany), and Dean
      Rusk, a graduate of Davidson College (secretary of state). Of these
      sixteen, none attended a public institution of higher learning as
      an undergraduate. And of the nine with a law degree, four were
      graduates of Harvard Law School.

      The advice they dispensed proved to be unwise--for example, that
      the United States should work in 1953 to overthrow the government
      of Iran; that the following year, it should do the same in
      Guatemala; that the Bay of Pigs operation was a good idea; and that
      the development of nuclear weapons for massive retaliation would
      help stabilize international relations. Still, they gave their
      advice in good faith, to enable the United States to pursue what
      they saw as its national security interests or to fulfill its
      national destiny, not because of a left-wing slant imposed by a
      Bolshevistic professoriate.

      Indeed, it has long been known that it hardly matters what
      professors teach students. What matters is what they come away
      with--and that is pretty much what they bring with them when they
      first set foot on campus. The broadest range of ideas can be found
      on all but the most doctrinal campuses, and students can readily
      find a niche without having to change their beliefs. Research
      spanning six decades has shown that the effect of college on the
      attitudes, values, religiosity, and political views of students, on
      elite campuses and elsewhere, is almost nil. In light of this
      research, it hardly makes a difference if the professoriate is
      mostly liberal or conservative, teaching Leo Tolstoy or Leon

      It is doubtful that there is a causal relationship in the fact that
      so many in the highest reaches of government have had ties with so
      few private institutions of higher learning. What it reflects is
      simply that these individuals have long been members of an
      interlocking and interacting social circle. Through their families
      and cliques, they have had lifelong access to each other, ranging
      from informal activities to common institutional experiences. From
      this interaction, sundry opportunities, including career
      opportunities, can be created. A cursory examination of the
      biographies of the sixteen foreign policy elite exemplifies the
      extent of these social ties, all of which existed before their
      involvement in government service.

      There are family relations by birth (the Bundys, father and sons,
      and the Dulles brothers) and by marriage (William Bundy married
      Acheson's daughter). Harriman taught Acheson to excel at crew at
      prep school. In college, many of the sixteen had similar social
      affiliations. Bohlen and Nitze were in the Porcellian Club at
      Harvard; Vance and Acheson were in Scroll and Key at Yale;
      Harriman, Lovett, and the three Bundys were in Skull and Bones at

      Harriman's and Lovett's fathers were close business associates, and
      they themselves became business partners. Nitze and Forrestal also
      had close business ties. Forrestal became president of the
      investment bank Dillon's father put together. The son later became
      its chair. Bruce not only helped manage the interests of his
      father-in-law, Andrew Mellon, but was engaged in business dealings
      with Harriman, serving for a time, along with Lovett, as one of the
      nine outside directors of the Harriman-controlled Union Pacific
      Railroad and as a member of the oversight board of the
      Harriman-controlled Aviation Corp. These are not the only instances
      in which Harriman, Lovett, Bruce, and McCloy served on the same
      corporate boards.

      Some among the sixteen were also neighbors, including Forrestal and
      Lovett, whose wives were friends and whose children were playmates.
      And some spent considerable leisure time together, as did Forrestal
      and McCloy, longtime tennis partners.

      The conclusion seems obvious: although students who attend elite
      institutions need not fear indoctrination by liberal faculty, they
      can look forward to opportunities to maintain or to form
      equal-status relationships with those with wealth and power in

      1. Other defense secretaries who received degrees from elite
      institutions are Neil McElroy (1957-59), BA, Harvard University;
      Thomas Gates (1959-61), BA, University of Pennsylvania; Robert
      McNamara (1961-68), MA, Harvard; Eliot Richardson (1973), BA and
      LLB, Harvard; James Schlesinger (1973-75), BA and PhD, Harvard;
      Harold Brown (1977-81), BA and PhD, Columbia University; Casper
      Weinberger (1981-87), AB and LLB, Harvard; Frank Carlucci
      (1987-89), BA, Princeton University; Leslie Aspin (1993-94), BA,
      Yale University, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and
      William Perry (1994-97), BS, Stanford University. [30]Back to text.

      2. Robert Cutler (1953-55) earned an AB and an LLB from Harvard;
      Dillon Anderson (1955-56) and Gordon Gray (1958-61) received LLBs
      from Yale; McGeorge Bundy (1961-66) earned a BA from Yale; Walt
      Rostow (1966-69) had a PhD from Yale; Henry Kissinger (1969-75)
      earned a BA and a PhD from Harvard; Zbigniew Brzezinski (1977-81)
      received a PhD from Harvard; John Poindexter (1985-86) earned a PhD
      from the California Institute of Technology; Frank Carlucci
      (1986-87) received a BA from Princeton; Brent Scrowcroft (1989-93)
      earned a PhD from Columbia; and Samuel Berger (1997-2001) received
      a BA from Cornell and an LLB from Harvard. [31]Back to text.

      Lionel Lewis is emeritus professor of sociology and adjunct
      professor of higher education at the State University of New York
      at Buffalo.


   28. http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/2005/05jf/05jflewi.htm#1
   29. http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/2005/05jf/05jflewi.htm#2
   30. http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/2005/05jf/05jflewi.htm#b1
   31. http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/2005/05jf/05jflewi.htm#b2

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