Wednesday, September 05, 2007

There's a Jeff Cooper quote I can't remember... the top of my head, but it goes something like "If you don't understand weapons, you don't understand fighting. If you don't understand fighting, you don't understand warfare. If you don't understand warfare, you don't understand history. And if you don't understand history, you might as well be living with your head in a sack." It lends a certain poignancy to this article.

"The refusal of many history departments to meet the enormous demand for military history is striking — the perverse result of an ossified tenure system, scholarly navel-gazing, and ideological hostility to all things military. Unfortunately, this failure is more consequential than merely neglecting to supply students with the electives they want. “Knowledge of military history is an essential prerequisite for an informed national debate about security and statecraft,” says Michael Desch, a political scientist at the Bush School of Government and Public Service in Texas. Many voters, for instance, don’t know how to contextualize the nearly 23,000 U.S. military casualties in Iraq since 2003. That’s a pretty big number. But it’s also roughly the level of casualties suffered at Antietam in just one day, and a small fraction of the more than 200,000 casualties endured in Vietnam.

Critics of the war also have plenty to gain from a public that has a better understanding of older conflicts. “People might have realized that we have a poor track record of using the military to do nation-building in Third World countries,” says Desch. “The model isn’t Germany or Japan, but Nicaragua and the Philippines.” Finally, the population of Americans who have served in the military is shrinking, and with it their knowledge of what armies and navies do."

Today, more and more Americans seem to be walking about with their head in a sack.


staghounds said...

It's quiet and dark in that sack. No painful and difficult thinking, or disorienting new information.

As long as the experts know best what's happening outside, it's nice in the sack.

Allan said...

VDH covers this well here:

The Duck said...

Just do what the networks tell you,
it's easier that way, Katie Courie know all

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

You got the quote well nigh perfect Tam, off the top of your head.

BobG said...

Hell, half of history is a story of one bunch of people beating up and pwning another bunch of people. Everything in between is just the buildup and recovery from wars.

Jay G said...

"Today, more and more Americans seem to be walking about with their head in a sack."

Which, given the state of most Americans, isn't necessarily a bad thing... {/snark}

Comrade Misfit said...

The Google is your friend.

NotClauswitz said...

Teh sack has from China with 60% more propylene-glycols yummy!

Word verify is: toywkz

trainer said...

As a Marine Zoology major at a big school in the 60s, I couldn't wait until I got a couple of credits time to take Military History. It was great

Anonymous said...

History show us that those who turned their swords into plowshares, usually end up plowing for those who didn't.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows the coolest professors are in military history. You too can learn from Clausewitz.

Ancient civilization professors are pretty good too.

The greatest number of communist/workers-revolution types are in "Modern History" or "20th Century History". Any professor who believes "Pearl Harbor was a setup" shouldn't be a professor. In fact, I question their sanity.

Unknown said...

Define lonely: Being a journalism major, minoring in military history, in a room full of ROTC fastburners.

Anonymous said...

Anon, Pearl Harbor conspiracy theorists aren't usually the communists. In fact, I think it's the communists they blame for it.

35 or so years ago, perhaps, communists had to find a niche. Today, you need a niche to hide from them. They're as likely to be in charge at Accounting, Bus.Adm., or Education as at Ethnics or Womens Studies. That could change.

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of why I would be overjoyed if one of the requirements for qualifying to vote for any national level office (and to run for the office), would be to pass a SERIOUS test on military and economic recorded human history, plus a study of human nature. And designed to fail at least 70% of test takers on a continual basis. Test only given twice per year per applicant, perhaps.
There was a SF book that ended with this general requirement, after a successful revolt in the USA by our military. Even participants didn't automatically qualify to vote. Can't remember the title/author.

Anonymous said...

I sent this email to National Review Online the other day. As regards your post, these veterans WILL have an effect on this country's future.

"Reading Michael Totten's 8/28 report from Iraq ( got me again thinking that today's Iraq veterans will have a large impact on this country's political future.
Michael refers to an army captain who is a graduate of Harvard law school and a onetime investment banker.
Assuming that many of these veterans will enter the political arena in the near future, has anyone seriously delved into this?

I believe the following:
1) Many of these soldiers are extremely bright and well educated.
2) They care where this country is going in the future.
3) They will be easily electable if they so choose to run for public office (due to their military service).
4) The "old guard" is just that, old, and the voters are ready for new blood.
5) If they do inundate the political landscape, their views and experiences as combat veterans will determine their political "bent" so to speak.
6) The future of this country will be affected by their input as much, if not more so, as the outcome of the Middle East war.

Is this or will this be a big issue in the future? I haven't seen any articles or essays regarding this."

Anonymous said...

It's an oldie and a goodie and it's still true, those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent summary. I know I have been reading pretty much every book I can find about the campaigns of North Africa in WWII and it is fascinating to see how the view from the 50's contrasts with the views today.

History is not static, it tends to web and flow with the culture and it is also interesting to see how detail is lost with time.

Tam said...

"You got the quote well nigh perfect Tam, off the top of your head. "

Every now and then the lint trap I have instead of a brain disgorges something I haven't read or heard in almost a decade, such as this Cooper quote or the lyrics to "Love Rhino".


Anonymous said...

I don't think the number is quite 23,000. Misplaced comma?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"I don't think the number is quite 23,000. Misplaced comma?"

Probably not. Please re-read the quote: . . . the nearly 23,000 U.S. military casualties in Iraq since 2003.

Casualties includes those killed AND wounded seriously enough to require medical attention. You might wish to Google the phrase, "Iraq war casualties."

Much depends, of course, on the way the casualties are counted. Do we include straight-up accidents, of the type that might have been experienced on the roads of a military base in the U.S.? Do we count incapicating diseases? How about the small number of self-inflicted wounds, either intentionally or by accident? I'd bet that 25,000 wouldn't miss the mark by much.


Anonymous said...

Damn good quote, that. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Thankfully, my alma mater, Georgia Tech, did indeed have a military history course... in fact, a couple, if I recall. Of course, the one I took was taught by a flaming, Bush-hating liberal, but he did at least try and keep it under control for the most part.

NotClauswitz said...

Comatus, my parents are as close to small-c communists as it gets and they go with the Pearl Harbor conspiracy.
One reason I didn't return to College was because of all the damn Communists and their skewed bullshit.
We didn't have military history either (as close as I got was with the Fighting Banana Slugs playing the DLI in Monterey), but much of my Anthro thesis was so heavily influenced by military action in the region and time under scrutiny - that was entirely foundational and easily appreciated in the whole development cycle.

Anonymous said...


I thought so too, but if you look around at these professors (and various internet fools) you'll see they believe that the U.S. provoked Japan, in order to dominate them. (See crap like this.)

They believe everything was a capitalist conspiracy and don't care about any evidence to the contrary.

Mauser*Girl said...

You would be surprised exactly how little the average person knows about history in general and military history in particular.

People will honestly ask such dumb questions as, "Whom did we fight in World War II?" and "How come none of the monuments on the battlefield have any bullet holes in them if they fought the Civil War here?"

*bangs head against wall*

Then again, those are the same bright people who bring you questions like, "Is that a real fire?" (pointing at camp fire) and "Were you really in the war?" (to American Civil War re-enactor).

Anonymous said...

As much as it wouldn't surprise me to learn that you own a copy already, I think you might enjoy this, speaking of military history and people being afraid of it. Jim.