Universities nationwide and the State Department, seemingly unrelated institutions, have more in common than one might think, Professor George Zilbergeld and author Joel Mowbray agreed at Accuracy in Academia’s July 16th Conservative University conference. Namely, the two speakers maintained, they share an ardent dedication to liberalism, often bordering on anti-Americanism.
“The people who dominate the conversation and the policies on…campuses are people who are hostile to the values of western civilization in general, and the United States in particular…values the military protects,” claimed Dr. Zilbergeld, who primarily addressed antagonism towards the U.S. military on college campuses. “Bush wants to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world…The State Department’s view of the world is diametrically opposed to that of the president’s,” Mowbray added.
“There’s one group we never, never honor on our campus, and that is the American military. In fact it’s rare throughout the United States to find a campus where the military are honored in any way,” lamented Zilbergeld, chairman of the political science department at Montclair State University and a veteran of the Vietnam War. In the late 60s and early 70s, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia and Brown all banned ROTC to protest America’s involvement in Vietnam.
Since then, a new reason for the ban has replaced the antiquated anti-Vietnam one: the military’s refusal to enlist homosexuals. ROTC students must travel to neighboring colleges—in Harvard’s case, to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—in order to receive training. Harvard, however, does not fund the cross-registration arrangement, so Harvard students must rely on various anonymous donors in order to participate in MIT’s ROTC program.
Pressure from the government to revoke the ban has been steadily mounting in recent years. In 2002, the Pentagon, citing the Solomon Amendment, threatened to withhold hundred of millions of dollars in funding from Harvard for its unwillingness to comply with this demand.
Under the Solomon Amendment of 1996, funding from the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education could be suspended from “institutions of higher education that prevent ROTC access of military recruiting on campus.” Former Harvard Law School dean Robert C. Clark eventually buckled and allowed ROTC recruiters on campus without forcing them to sign the nondiscrimination policy required of all campus groups.
The March 2004 passage of House bill 3966, entitled “Legislation to Revitalize ROTC on Campus,” only intensified pressure on Harvard and other schools. Bill cosponsor Christopher Cox (R-CA) denounced the ROTC ban, accusing Harvard—his alma mater—and other schools of “banishing ROTC and military recruiters from campus, while cashing Uncle Sam’s checks for billions of taxpayer dollars each year from the Department of Defense and other federal agencies fighting the global war on terrorism.” Because the bill passed by an overwhelming majority—343 in favor, 81 opposed—it is expected to pass the Senate as well. The bill adds the Department of Homeland Security to the list of agencies able to withhold funds, and demands that ROTC be given access “equal in quality and scope” to that of other campus groups.
As a result of such legislation, Zilbergeld was pleased to report, things are looking up for ROTC and looking down for leftists.
Most professors, according to Zilbergeld, are not actually ultra-liberal, but “the left tends to be the most focused, the most energetic, and certainly the loudest group,” thus drowning out the moderate or conservative views of the majority. The key to beating the left, he confided, is simply to be louder than they. “It is a minority of leftist professors against the military,” said Zilbergeld. “After 9/11 so many students were waving so many American flags I thought the leftist professors would have a collective heart attack!”
Zilbergeld encouraged his audience of conservative college students to write opinion pieces for their school papers, stage rallies, and collect “goodies” and letters to send to soldiers. “Eventually, when the public gets roused, I believe we can bring things to a greater balance,” he said optimistically.
Joel Mowbray, author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security, was not nearly as optimistic. He painted the State Department as incurably leftist and constantly undermining President Bush’s authority. After Bush’s “axis of evil” State of the Union address in 2002, “you had State Department people who were in Europe who fanned out across the cities where their consulates and embassies were” in a desperate attempt to convince the press and public that “the president didn’t mean ‘axis’ and didn’t mean ‘evil’.”
The State Department, Mowbray chuckled, was aghast at the president’s departure from political correctness. “You can’t use the word ‘evil’!” he paraphrased the Department’s reaction jokingly. “No one is evil, they’re just misunderstood!”
Although Mowbray may have been exaggerating, the State Department did indeed feel the need to smooth over the president’s frank remarks. “It does not mean that we are ready to invade anyone or that we are not willing to engage in dialogue,” Secretary of State Colin Powell assured alarmed U.S. allies. “Quite the contrary.”
Mowbray credited the disparities between the political leanings of the White House and the State Department to their differing priorities. While Bush is deeply invested in promoting freedom and democracy in third-world countries, particularly in the Middle East, the State Department is more interested in preserving stability, attested Mowbray, assuring his audience that this was nothing new.
The State Department’s dedication to its “stability” mantra was evident in the 80s, even when word was breaking of genocide in Iraq. The Department, Mowbray said, had to be “dragged kicking and screaming through the streets” to agree to a U.S. condemnation of Saddam Hussein’s August 1988 campaign of terror, during which time as many as 100,000 Iraqi Kurds were reportedly killed. Five months later, said Mowbray, the Department sent a memo to incoming President George H. W. Bush suggesting the U.S. develop closer relations with Hussein, whom they called “a bastion of stability.”
Interestingly, the State Department used the same glowing terms for the Taliban in 1996, though according to Mowbray, it was widely known even then that Afghanistan’s new rulers were “a bunch of ruthless thugs who committed war crimes against their own people in taking over the country.” While the U.S. officially took a neutral stance on the matter, only Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia were pro-Taliban; the rest of the world continued to recognize the previous Afghan regime.
Changing the makeup of the State Department would be a daunting, if not impossible, task, Mowbray conceded. All personnel decisions are made by a panel of foreign service officers who aren’t particularly interested in reshaping the Department’s worldview. Not even the Secretary of State can fire an employee. All this “makes reform inordinately difficult,” Mowbray told the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview. “How do you reform a place, how do you change a culture, when the people within that culture are entrenched permanently?”
Michele Nagar, a rising freshman at the University of Maryland at College Park, is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.