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"A Random Sidebar"

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I don’t normally read Red State but I found myself mentioned in this brief item which linked to a larger post by Blackfive, a former Army officer, supposedly taking me to school on counterinsurgency theory. It goes off on a little tangent that’s really a classic of the politics of ressentiment:

I realize that Mr. Yglesias is hampered by a Harvard education; that is a disadvantage for anyone. Harvard was once a great institution for learning, the greatest in America; but that time has long gone. It no longer educates the complete man, and yet its reputation is such that its alumni believe themselves to be educated to the highest degree. They do not grasp that their institution has failed them.

Sure, sure. And, look, I wouldn’t want to pass myself off as some kind of expert on military affairs; I’d say I’m better-informed than your average political pundit, but it’s not a super-high bar. Nevertheless, if one really does want to delve into the details of my undergraduate education, it’s actually true that my intense skepticism about the ability of the United States to wage a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq does owe something to a college course I took on military strategy. The professor was Steven Peter Rosen, and he served in the Defense Department (in the Net Assessment office) and on the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.

He runs the Olin Institute along with Samuel Huntington. Make of that what you will. I have no idea whether or not Rosen would agree with my contemporary political opinions. The point, however, is that this picture of elite educational institutions as little islands of ignorance and lefty cocooning are substantially off-base. Introductory economics, for example, was taught by a Reagan administration official until a Bush administration official took over teaching responsibilities.

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