Letter: Protesting for the wrong reasons

Re: “The ‘Runaway’ Professor?” (Aug. 27): As I walked back past Woolsey Hall on the way back home on Wednesday, I came across a protest against U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal’s recent appointment as a senior fellow at Yale. I stopped briefly among the protesters to mention that I thought the objections to McChrystal were misplaced. The general didn’t start the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. He was simply obeying the orders of his civilian superiors in the Bush and Obama administrations.

McChrystal doesn’t deserve to teach at Yale, but not because of his involvement in these wars. Instead, he shouldn’t be here because he is the poster boy for disdain for civilian control over the military.

Yale seems to be fond of hiring bad role models for youth as faculty members in international relations. With the exception of five undergraduates who staged a quiet sit-in, no one really complained when John Negroponte was taken on as a research fellow last year despite his involvement in gross human rights abuses in Central America in the 1980s. In fact, this year, a record number of Yale students scrambled to get into the “Studies in Grand Strategies” seminar Negroponte is teaching with other Yale faculty.

I have no objection to providing a variety of political perspectives in classrooms at Yale, but neither McChrystal nor Negroponte are men of good character. There are other military men and women, other conservative politicians and officials who don’t elevate insubordination and arrogance and the appeasement of brutal dictatorships as civic virtues. Yale may think these appointments burnish the University’s reputation in some way, but it really just sends the message that for administrators, faculty and students here in New Haven, the ultimate academic aphrodisiac is power and rank no matter how they are wielded.

Gregg Gonsalves


  • JackJ

    Did you bother to check McChrystal’s CV before you made your comments? He’s a product of the Kennedy School and the Council on Foreign Affairs neither of which can be counted in the “Conservative” camp. He chose his civilian political advisors from organizations like The Brookings Institute. You also accuse him without elaboration of “appeasement of brutal dictatorships.” My college taught not to make assertions without offering supporting documentation. What did your college teach?

    My other concern is that you have chosen yourself as the arbiter of what constitutes men of “good character.” Perhaps your comment should have been preceded by “in my opinion” or “based upon my long and distinguished career as a ….” Thus the reader would have the opportunity to place your comments in the appropriate context of reliability.

    You may have gained more ground in your argument if you had pointed out that Gen McChrystal has never actually been under fire in combat. Check out his awards. He wears the Expert Infantry Badge vice a Combat Infantry Badge and his Bronze Star carries no “V” device indicating it was awarded for combat support vice combat. Thus you might be more correct to question how he can represent the ethos of the American solider when he himself has never actually engaged a hostile entity.

  • gregggonsalves

    My college (Yale) taught me well.
    Perhaps you’d like to re-read my letter.
    I believe McChrystal’s insubordination–well documented in the Rolling Stone article that came out in June–showed disdain for civilian control of the military, and showed him to be of questionable character. The President fired the General for his behavior; Yale hired him in spite of it.
    As for appeasing brutal dictatorships: Ambassador Negroponte is the person I was referring to in this regard. His involvement in human rights abuses in Central America is also a matter of public record and came up in his Senate confirmation hearings when he was appointed Ambassador to Iraq by President Bush.
    The evidence is clear.
    So, Yale has made a decision here: a general who talks trash about this superiors and a conservative diplomat who has blood on his hands are the kinds of people Yale wants teaching its students.
    By the way, before I came to Yale, I worked in health and human rights for 20 years.

  • stevestearns

    Gregg, McChrystal’s role in the coverup of Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire shows that he is capable of adept dishonesty and willing to use a family’s tragedy to deflect blame from a criminally inept military. Bar-Levi’s documentary on the Pat Tillman story contains a fascinating and disgusting sequence in which the Tillman family, having persuaded Henry Waxman to conduct a congressional hearing into the coverup, is confronted by the spectacle of harmless questions and total evasion from Donald Rumsfeld and McChrystal’s superiors in the military chain of command, who get off scott-free. McChrystal was not alone in the coverup. It extended to the highest levels. But ever since the Nuremberg trials, we have not accepted the excuse of “only obeying orders” where crimes are involved. If a citizenry cannot trust the integrity of its leaders, it has no reason to follow them, and when leaders lie, they provide a role model that suggest to youth that dishonesty is a skill that leads to advancement. That is not the sort of leadership that I want anyone to emulate. You are perfectly right in deploring McChrystal’s disparagement of civilian command, but to my mind that is not the only, or even the chief reason, why he should not be teaching at Yale. Steve

  • theantiyale

    ***Benign neglect and intransigent equivocation. These are the bureaucrat’s primarily tools for obfuscating the truth, whether the bureaucracy is military or civilian.***

    Even though McChrytal “talks trash about his superiors” in the *Rolling Stone* interview, and even though that trash-talk may be one colossal freudian slip of self-abusive behavior ( Outting yourself? Sophoclean tragic flaw, anyone? ), IT IS REFRESHING to find a bureaucrat who talks turkey instead of pusillanimous, pussyfooting prose.

    I think McChrystal may surprise Yale. Maybe he will come out of the bureaucratic closet.

    [link text][1]


    [1]: http://thantiyale.blogspot.com “The Anti-Yale”