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Thread: Fiasco at the Army War College?

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Fiasco at the Army War College?

    We’ve been tracking two Posts by Tom Ricks at his new blogosphere home (The Best Defense) at Foreign Policy. The first post, Fiasco at the Army War College concerns one of our Council members – Dr. Steven Metz. The second post, an offshoot of the first, Fiasco at the Army War College: The Sequel concerns Mark Perry, an author of several books on defense issues, who wrote to say that a series of experiences two years ago at the college so concerned him that he sent a letter outlining his worries to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen.

    If you feel compelled to comment here or at the SWJ Blog on either post keep it professional and in context of the issues presented by Ricks – personal attacks won’t cut it. Thanks much.
    Last edited by SWJED; 01-08-2009 at 08:19 PM. Reason: Fix broken link.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Bravo Doc !

    Having read this 7 hours ahead of you folks, I had time to reflect on my 23 years in the military and the blunders of free speech (in the service of the USG).

    Steve did a great job explaining the realities of PME and his rather "State of Sierra".

    Don't let the bastards get you down.

    Steve, how's the Beemer running ?

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    We’ve been tracking two Posts by Tom Ricks at his new blogosphere home (The Best Defense) at Foreign Policy. The first post, Fiasco at the Army War College concerns one of our Council members – Dr. Steven Metz. The second post, an offshoot of the first, Fiasco at the Army War College: The Sequel concerns Mark Perry, an author of several books on defense issues, who wrote to say that a series of experiences two years ago at the college so concerned him that he sent a letter outlining his worries to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen.

    If you feel compelled to comment here or at the SWJ Blog on either post keep it professional and in context of the issues presented by Ricks – personal attacks won’t cut it. Thanks much.
    I'm kinda curious why Steve Metz dropped off the board about a year ago and has not returned? He was a really active poster at one time.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Default Fixed broke link ...

    The link for "The second post, an offshoot of the first, Fiasco at the Army War College: The Sequel" is here.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    The link for "The second post, an offshoot of the first, Fiasco at the Army War College: The Sequel" is here.
    Thanks, fixed.

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I'm kinda curious why Steve Metz dropped off the board about a year ago and has not returned? He was a really active poster at one time.
    I figured it had to do with the book his was writing.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    I figured it had to do with the book his was writing.
    I did too - except his book has been complete (and published) for quite awhile.

    Thinking he doesn't like us anymore ...
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    The whole concept of academic freedom is an interesting one, and it's often misunderstood by folks outside of the ivy towers. In short, the vast majority of institutions practice freedom to research, but there can be institutional pressures applied when it comes to what is actually published. And until a professor gets tenure, he or she is often employed at the will of the institution...meaning in short that if you piss someone off, you might not get tenure or have your contract renewed for the coming year. And given the competition for professor positions in most of the liberal arts...losing that job might derail your only real shot at a tenure-track position.

    Pressure can come from administration, or just from your colleagues in your particular academic department. For an interesting (and inflammatory) look at some of these issues you might google Ward Churchill, although his case is certainly extreme. I seem to recall that the authors of "The Bell Curve" also came under fire from the opposite end of the political spectrum. And having reviewed some of the comments regarding Ricks' post, I can only conclude that there is a "warm and fuzzy" understanding of academic freedom out there that doesn't agree with reality on the civilian side. While there is a general agreement (at least from what I've seen) regarding academic freedom to research, if you're going to publish you'd better have your ducks in a row and be prepared to take some hits...especially if any of your conclusions are controversial. It's different once an individual has tenure, but prior to that it's a very careful balancing act. That doesn't make it right, mind, but that is the reality of the situation.
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    I don't understand why this is an academic freedom issue, nor do I understand why Metz thinks that he should have spoken up about the conduct of the war when it was going poorly. I think he got it right when he raised the analogy of a state university professor airing his views versus a faculty member at a national defense institution doing the same.

    The role of the intellectual is to challenge, question, test, research. The intellectual has knowledge, but not all of the information. If you're going to "speak out" then you need a good dose of both. If you have only the latter, then you don't "speak out" because, in spite of your vast knowledge, you lack the timely information to develop a clear picture of what is happening. It is more appropriate, in that case, to challenge and question by drawing historical analogies, finding parallels in similar activities, observing patterns and asking what is causing them.

    I smell an ulterior motive in this piece by Ricks. It seems like a well-crafted piece of drama that serves to tell an ongoing narrative of pressure upon those in the National Security arena to toe the line on administration policies. Some don't want us to forget - or stop harping on - the real or imagined sins up through 2006. Otherwise, they might need to find a new dead horse to beat. This one should have been sent to the glue factory a couple years ago.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You may well be correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    ...I smell an ulterior motive in this piece by Ricks. It seems like a well-crafted piece of drama that serves to tell an ongoing narrative of pressure upon those in the National Security arena to toe the line on administration policies. Some don't want us to forget - or stop harping on - the real or imagined sins up through 2006. Otherwise, they might need to find a new dead horse to beat. This one should have been sent to the glue factory a couple years ago.
    Both blog articles do not really pass the 'so what' test. The US Army War College has a bias? Who knew? Does this mean that Yale or Stanford have no biases? I note the sheer naivete of some of the commenters at FP.

    I believe I said something earlier about egos and the more of this that surfaces, the more even that doesn't answer the 'why?'

    Perry's dismay at his 'treatment' is nothing short of disingenuous, he has been an adviser to Arafat and a confidant -- dupe? -- to and for Hezbollah and Hamas for years. I'm dismayed that he was even asked to an event at the AWC, not that he was not welcomed there.

    Something doesn't smell right with this. I think the fish are flipping out of the pond...

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default Couldn't be the case that someone has yet another new book

    to sell on a topic that many are 'over' could it? No such thing as bad publicity....

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    When I was at the War College as a student, I was both surprised and disappointed at the general atmosphere in regard to job of the school as being to support the strategy coming out of the Pentagon, as opposed to using their tremendous intellectual horsepower and academic environment to get out in front of the Pentagon to shape strategy.

    I remember my small group instructor talking about one visiting professor who had been publishing some material outside the party lines like he was a pariah to be avoided.

    I've always felt that the service colleges should be shapers of strategy, not followers, perhaps this lifting of the skirt will help promote change in that direction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I did too - except his book has been complete (and published) for quite awhile.

    Thinking he doesn't like us anymore ...
    He has been missed and we would be glad if his SWJ bad habits reappear, but this line of discussion is off topic and sort of unfair. No explanation of absence should be sought or expected, let's just enjoy presence when we are lucky enough to have it.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default That too...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    to sell on a topic that many are 'over' could it? No such thing as bad publicity....
    Never ascribe to a conspiracy what may be simple greed...

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post For what it's worth

    During the time frame that he was supposedly not speaking out I remember reading several of his products which helped reinforce my concerns that something wasn't quite the way it needed to be. So although not screaming foul at the top of his lungs I would submit that Steve was doing what he could
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Got to disagree, Bob's World

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    When I was at the War College as a student, I was both surprised and disappointed at the general atmosphere in regard to job of the school as being to support the strategy coming out of the Pentagon, as opposed to using their tremendous intellectual horsepower and academic environment to get out in front of the Pentagon to shape strategy.
    The system doesn't work that way and it absolutely should not. The boys in the Five Sided Funny Farm, regardless of talent and intellect, are responsible for strategic thought and effort -- in the military arena (the WH and State, rightly or wrongly, are responsible for the total strategy) -- the Colleges are not responsible for that but they do have the task of teaching folks how to think, not what to think and all have serving Officers in their heirarchy and said officers have primary responsibility to their service and to DoD, not to the nation.

    The object is to have elected persons -- or their properly ratified appointees in charge; not a group of faculty members squabbling about tenure and saddled with service parochialisms...

    What you propose is tantamount to saying that Harvard should should have responsibility for some government functions, say economic, fiscal and social policy...

    I'm reminded of William Buckley once saying "I would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty."
    I remember my small group instructor talking about one visiting professor who had been publishing some material outside the party lines like he was a pariah to be avoided.
    I think that might be judged dependent upon who it was an how far outside the party line on what topic. While I agree that exposure to different and even severely contrary views is desirable, there are or should be some limits if for no other reason than some possibles would be more disruptive than helpful...
    I've always felt that the service colleges should be shapers of strategy, not followers, perhaps this lifting of the skirt will help promote change in that direction.
    I'll counter your hope by hoping not -- I'd rather see them concentrate on their job -- educating thinking officers. The Constitution works and I think we ought to use it more, not sidetrack it.

    There are more than enough talking heads and would be strategic geniuses without adding the Colleges to the mix. Though their Professors should contribute to the opinions on strategic direction -- and my belief is that most do so and that all do not follow the party line to any, much less a great, extent. I've read a number of papers from all the senior Colleges over the last few years that take quite contrary positions on things.

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    I want to add a few things to Steve Blair's excellent analysis:

    Academic freedom rights come in two flavors. The first flavor is the classroom. As a tenured university professor I have the intellectual and ideological freedom to express my own opinions about a topic as long as they are not against the university rules and are part of what the class is about. Yes I have to abide by rules so dropping the "F" bomb as punctuation would likely get me talked to. There is no credible reason in my classes to engage in that freedom. However, a colleague who teaches communication often plays the entire George Carlin "7" words you can't say on television for her class. The context is absolutely there.

    I also have freedom to research. My research into cyber warfare as low intensity conflict is decidedly within the scope of information technology and information assurance and security. My research is detested and reviled by several colleagues who hate what I research. They loathe that I even have one friend or colleague within the department of defense. I truly believe everyone of them would stand up for my right to engage in my research agenda and support me. So much do they support me, I don't have to justify it, just do it with respect for their views.

    You can tell that most of the people have been commenting in the open on other websites really don't know what academic freedom is and have not researched it. I find even in academia most people have no real idea what academic freedom is and where the principles of it come from.

    For about 80 years the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has worked to instantiate academic freedom as a corollary requirement to education accreditation. No academic freedom no accreditation of the University. Though a relatively low percentage of professors belong to AAUP from what I've seen AAUP has worked tirelessly to insure academic freedom exists.

    The statement of academic freedom from AAUP

    Academic Freedom

    1. Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
    2. Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.
    3. College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
    Like a lot of situations writers, pundits, and politicians have a tendency to only tell you the part of the case that helps them out. Here is where I say shame on Mr. Ricks. Everything claimed about Dr. Metz violating academic freedom is covered by the responsibility clause of academic freedom. If anything Dr. Metz should be applauded for restraint. For all those people making comments on blogs about academic freedom and their fully informed opinions as professionals I say shame. Their fully informed opinions are bankrupt.

    Mr. Ricks and the taught strung less than informed professors hoisting Dr. Metz up likely have not reflected on the fact they are engaging in pillory of Dr. Metz for his respect to the full intent of academic freedom. He did not just selectively implement the rights without considering the responsibilities. Said another way, their choice, was not his choice, so they censure him. Ironic on many levels.

    I have not seen the "blackball" email but from what Mr. Ricks, and Dr. Metz have said the letter basically was cautioning his fellow faculty, who Dr. Metz might have some responsibility towards, to be careful. From what I've seen the criticism of Dr. Metz has been an attack against the responsibility required by academic freedom. I however do not claim to be fully informed on what I don't know.

    Like all truly important topics this is not an easy or simple topic. A lack of academic freedom got Socrates the hemlock tea. Academic freedom has been discussed extensively by academics, and legislatures. The vilification of the Army War College is an example of the stakes people will engage in to put their stamp on the issue. There is a substantial body of literature covering this topic if anybody is truly interested. I would start with AAUP and work towards the deeper literature.

    If you want an in depth look at the idea of academic freedom and the military education system I strongly suggest you read this article, "Can Academic Freedom Work in Military Academies?" Like always the truth is a lot messier than a simplistic sensationalist headline by a pundit. Of course, research, thinking, consideration, and examination of the basic literature is a hallmark of the academe not the press.
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    AWC has published some extremely controversial pieces lately. In fact, I firmly believe that Dave Huntoon and his successor have pushed the Army to pretty broad limits of academic freedom.

    Nasty bias on my part -- Tom Ricks is a journalist, responsible for selling newspapers; Steve Metz is an academician. They both play vital roles in our system, but we must view their contributions within those contexts. Neither is responsible for the development or execution of policy. Use what they produce positively, whether you agree with it or not.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default Useful last post Selil, Thanks.

    I thought your explanation of Academic Freedom as understood / advocated by the AAUP offerred an appropriate context through which to analyse the claims made by both protagonists.

    I will declare my bias toward's Steve's side. I am a government employee (serving Army officer ) detached to working at a Civilian Think Tank http://www.lowyinstitute.org. I think there definitely is a requirement to maintain a 'balanced' perspective out of due deference and respect to your 'position' , what it represents to observers, and the organisation that pays you. It has been my experience that most people understand that, and that it does not detract from being able to contribute.

    I cannot imagine it being any different at the SSI, my experience of visiting there has been of wide ranging and open debate / discussion, not only with Steve but other Civilian Academics, Visiting Fellows and Military Officers on the faculty / staff. That said, I do not think that SSI and AWC is meant to (nor should they) replicate UCLA Berekley in the late 60s...

    Cheers

    Mark

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    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.

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