19 May 2014

Military History Studies?

RealClearPolicy has an interesting look at the lack of academic approaches to studying war.

If the seeds of war are planted in human nature, the study of human nature, the humanities, needs to take account of it. For this reason, American history courses had always -- up until recently -- offered military-history courses. No more: Observers have noted an alarming decline in military-history courses in university history departments nationally. Their concern appears warranted. In 2004, Edward Coffman, an emeritus history professor, surveyed U.S. News and World Report's top 25 history departments. He found that "of over 1,000 professors, only 21 identified war as a specialty."

How did we get here? Several factors have been fingered, including post-Vietnam War pessimism coupled with Cold War exhaustion. Perhaps the most powerful explanation comes from Victor Davis Hanson, who writes that "the sixties had ushered in a utopian view of society antithetical to serious thinking about war." Universities came to believe and teach that "government, the military, business, religion, and the family had conspired ... to warp the naturally peace-loving individual. Conformity and coercion smothered our innately pacifist selves."

Small wonder, then, that while the past several decades have seen the end of war studies, they simultaneously have given rise to university programs in "peace studies" across the country.

The University of Texas-Austin may be reversing this trend. Last year, UT launched the Clements Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft to strengthen the fields of military and diplomatic history and apply their insights to current national-security policy. The center is named after former Texas governor and deputy secretary of defense William Clements, one of the Pentagon's most consequential leaders. His Pentagon legacy includes developing many of the weapons platforms that have composed the backbone of American force projection for the last several decades, including the F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, the M-1 battle tank, and the Tomahawk cruise missile.

No comments: