While the anti-war movement of the 1960s was led by students, today’s campus demonstrations are just as likely to be orchestrated by professors; and the funny thing is, they are the same people.
“The generation that came of age in the 1960s is now approaching retirement in the universities and their children and grandchildren are very different in the way they think about the world,” historian David Hackett Fischer said in an interview with The American Enterprise (TAE) magazine. “The excesses of these movements always build in their own contradictions.”
Some observers who survey the college scene might argue that Dr. Fischer, who teaches at Brandeis, is taking too rosy a view of the overwhelming liberal dominance on campuses today. Nonetheless, other surveys indicate that most academics are on a collision course with reality.
“In September and October 2005, Princeton Survey Research asked various American leadership groups whether they believe the U. S. will succeed or fail in establishing a stable democratic government in Iraq,” TAE’s editor-in-chief Karl Zinsmeister reports. “Most academics agree with Howard Dean: only a quarter say we will ‘succeed.’ Most Journalists agree with Dean: only one third answer ‘succeed.’”
“Among military officers, however, two-thirds say the U. S. will succeed in Iraq.” The latter group is closer to the action and, hence, information about what is actually happening.
The closest most academics get to the battlefield is the vicarious combat of an anti-war rally on campus. Most journalists who do go to Iraq to cover the conflict rarely leave the security of their hotels. Zinsmeister did.
“TV satellite dishes are as ubiquitous as mobile phones, and now sprout from even the rudest abodes in Iraq’s most out-of-the-way corners,” Zinsmeister writes. “Fully 86 percent of Iraqi households reported having satellite TV at the end of 2005.”
“The number of Iraqi commercial TV stations is now 44, and there are 72 commercial radio stations (there were none of either prior to 2003).”
In this conflict, unlike the Vietnam War, opinion elites do not have a full-Nelson headlock on the free flow of information out of the combat zone. The internet dilutes their impact, particularly when soldiers on the battlefield have their own web sites.
Last year, the Harris poll found that:
68 percent of Americans say that “Overall life for Iraqis is getting better.”
61 percent of Americans aver that “Overall infrastructure for Iraqis is getting better.”
51 percent of Americans say that “Security for Iraqi civilians is getting better.”
63 percent of Americans say that “Iraq has made real progress toward establishing a democratic government.”
The word is even starting to permeate Academic circles. “I was down at the annual conference of the Society for Military History in Charleston last year, and their morale has never been higher,” Dr. Fischer says. “They have a sense that history is with them.”
“And the morale amongst the social and cultural historians has never been lower: they think that history is against them.” Please pardon us a little Schadenfreude.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.