LETTER: Lieberman is just piling on to the Grand Strategy line

Senator Joseph Lieberman’s “Lessons of the 9/11 Decade” (Sept. 14) tries to offset my dissent of Sept. 9 (“Reflection”) from a decade of myopic and wasteful American national security strategy-making and Yale’s often fatuous involvement in it.

The edition that carried my column featured reflections by Grand Strategy faculty John Gaddis and Charles Hill and by Grand Strategy Associate Director Minh Luong and Ted Bromund, an instructor in Grand Strategy before he left for the Margaret Thatcher Freedom Center at the Heritage Foundation.

Yet apparently my passing criticism of Yale’s hiring of grand-strategists such as John Negroponte ’60 (now a fellow in the Grand Strategy program) and Stanley McChrystal, and an even shorter column by Prof. Bruce Russett, provoked Lieberman to sweep in to defend American grand strategies and “academic freedom” from the terrible scourge of minority opinion.

He’s wrong, on two counts. First, “practitioners” of defense and foreign policy should be welcome at Yale as speakers or on limited fellowships; their ideas should be fully aired and debated. But few who work mainly in politics, policy-making and its apologetics belong in liberal education, which strengthens a nation by challenging elites to re-think “vital national interests.” Second, the decade since 9/11 and our current crises highlight a fateful difference between what truly constitutes national security in the dark, dangerous world Lieberman evokes and what grand strategic warriors like him think constitutes it.

No one warned against such confusion more effectively than the political philosopher Allan Bloom, whose “The Closing of the American Mind” is touted by conservatives because it’s rightly scathing of leftish, politically correct “teaching.” But, as I noted in the New York Times (“Allan Bloom and the Conservative Mind,” September 4, 2005), Bloom mistrusted conservative power players’ well-funded designs on universities.

He disdained professors who, eager to counsel the powerful, forget that “the intellectual, who attempts to influence … ends up in the power of the would-be influenced.” But that’s what national-security zealots like Lieberman want, and it’s why a modest suggestion that the emperor has no clothes prompts his egregious piling-on.

Jim Sleeper

Sept. 14

The writer is a lecturer in the Political Science Department.

Comments

  • River_Tam

    I like that Joe Lieberman’s stance on terrorism (that we should try to stop it with more than the sort of energy we put into catching Avon Barksdale and Marlo Stanfield) makes him a “national-security zealot”. I am a “not getting blown up zealot” myself.

    Also – don’t fool yourself Mr. Sleeper. Joe Lieberman wasn’t responding to you personally, and I doubt he was “provoked” into writing a column by your incoherent hackery – in particular, this paragraph that slides smoothly from a tangentially-relevant topic (the so-called “Arab Spring”) to a irrelevant one (what a PoliSci lecturer thinks about financial markets)

    >It’s too early now to say whether the Arab Spring shows that millions of the aggrieved have learned that hard lesson any better than we’ve learned ours — whether they’ve sidelined terrorism any more than we’ve sidelined the crackpot “realism” of our national-security system and the casino-finance, corporate-welfare, consumer-defrauding tsunami system that drives it.