Thursday, January 26, 2006

Intellectual Activism: A Military for the Mind

I sent this letter to the Daily Northwestern in response to the article on "less intelligent" service members. (And yes, I crib a little from a piece I wrote three years ago. My goodness, I've now become self-referential!)

TO THE EDITOR:

According to college opinion writer Henry M. Bowles, III ("Military has no place at universities," January 24, 2006) the military should not seek to fill its ranks with men and women of intelligence and ability because "less intelligent people are better equipped for most military positions, and have far less to lose." By his essay, Bowles has revealed what many leftists think, but choose to keep close to their chests: those in the forces that defend our country and our way of life are cretins, not heroes.

The irony of this position is that the left has consistently relied upon appeals to mindless obedience as part of its ideology. Consider for example the 19th century socialist ideal espoused by Elbert Hubbard in his famous pamphlet "A Message to Garcia." There, Hubbard cast the perfect man as one who acts without any question toward the goals he has been given by his superiors.

Yet have such individuals ever thrived in our nation's military? Is an effective solider mostly muscle and little mind? Not if the history of the fighting men and women Bowles smears in his essay is examined.

Consider for example the difference between the US Marine Corps and the Japanese Army during WWII. The men of Japanese Army were literal serfs, duty bound to sacrifice their lives for their racial collective and God-man emperor, where the ranks of the Marines were composed of free men acting in defense of their own liberty. The ultimate reason the Marine fought was his own self-interest. The ultimate reason a Japanese fought was the renunciation of his self-interest. This distinction guided every aspect of how the war was fought and who prevailed.

The American fighting man, then and now, is not just someone who unquestionably does what he is told ala the "Message to Garcia" ideal. Instead, he understands the larger threats to his well-being, appreciates the need to work in concert with other men to defend his values, follows the lawful orders of the team he voluntarily joins, and acts independently when the situation demands. The American military man is at his best when he understands first and then acts appropriately. This model, when adhered to, has allowed the US military to endure every hardship, overcome every obstacle and prevail over every enemy.

So far from the mindless drones Bowles seeks to caricature, an armed force that wins victories is comprised of people of both intelligence and independence. That Bowles does not find these men and women when he looks at the ranks of America's military can only speak to his intelligence--or lack thereof.

Nicholas Provenzo
South Riding, Virginia

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