Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Complex, indeed.

I've never figured out what the hell my conservative friends are grousing about when they say things like "liberal professors" and "ivory tower liberals." In my collegiate experience (which spans eight and a half years of actual, if spotty, attendance), I've encountered liberal and conservative professors at times, but most of the academics I've known have been, if anything, oblivious to politics.

I found this revealing article by Nick Turse, whose specialty is covering the growing militarization of American society:

The Military-Academic Complex
By Nicholas Turse
The Nation Institute/TomDispatch
27 April 2004
EXCERPT: Since 1961, thanks to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, we've all been cognizant of the "unwarranted influence" of the military-industrial complex in America. Later in that decade, Senator J. William Fulbright spoke out against the militarization of academia, warning that, "in lending itself too much to the purposes of government, a university fails its higher purposes," and called attention to the existence of what he termed the military-industrial-academic complex or what historian Stuart W. Leslie has termed the "golden triangle" of "military agencies, the high technology industry, and research universities."

While we might intuitively accept the existence of a military-academic complex in America, defining and understanding it has never been simple -- both because of its ambiguous nature and its dual character. In actuality, the military-academic complex has two distinct arms. The first is the official, out-and-proud, but oft ignored, melding of the military and academia. Since 1802, when Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy, America has been formally melding higher education and the art of warfare. The second is the militarized civilian university -- since World War II and the emergence of the national security state, civilian educational institutions have increasingly become engaged in the pursuit of enhanced war-making abilities.

In 1958, the Department of Defense spent an already impressive $91 million in support of "academic research." By 1964, the sum had reached $258 million and by 1970, in the midst of the Vietnam War, $266 million. By 2003, however, any of these numbers, or even their $615 million total, was dwarfed by the Pentagon's prime contract awards to just two schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University which, together, raked in a combined total of $842,437,294.


And that's just Turse's introduction. He goes on to give some of the history of military encroachment upon universities. He outlines further DoD funding of our institutions of higher learning and demonstrates that the military's bloated and expanding budget has made it an irresistible force in the academic world. The article is long and, at times, just a bit dry; but it's well worth the read.

Next time you come across a conservative willing to blast those "ivory tower liberals," ask that person if he's aware that the military, itself, has approximately 150 higher learning institutions in the US, and funds others to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars each year -- just so many of those institutions can train people for their post-military careers with "defense" contractors.

How's that Department of Peace coming along, Dennis?

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