VISION & VALUES CONCISE: Do You Miss the Smell of Tear Gas in the Morning?

Aging boomers nostalgic for those long ago days of anti-war demonstrations and that whiff of tear gas floating across the quad, take heart. On October 14, four Princeton Theological Seminary professors and Assyrian Catholic Church of Iraq peace activist, Sister Olga Yaqob, will revive that long-lost sixties academic theater art form, the teach-in. According to organizer Professor George Hunsinger, the situation in Iraq “is sliding into chaos and civil war” and the Bush administration plans to re-instate the draft to support invasions of Iran and Syria. None of that’s true, but what’s “truth” to post-modern relativist theologians like George Hunsinger?

On March 24, 1965, forty-four professors at the University of Michigan organized the first teach-in. Operation Rolling Thunder, the on-again-off-again bombing of North Vietnam that rumbled throughout the remainder of the Johnson administration, had begun three weeks before. The Michigan teach-in, and subsequent similar events on campuses across the nation, focused primarily on the bombing and the draft. The post-modern anti-war movement won’t get much traction on either issue today.

Precision-guided weapons make today’s bombing so precise it’s difficult to argue that a cruel technology has been unleashed on a peace-loving people. (Actually, one has—it’s called “car bombing”—but Iraqi insurgents and Islamic terrorists slaughtering innocent Iraqis present an inconvenient dilemma for our anti-war professors.) And without a draft, it’s going to be hard to energize students, especially seminarians who would have garnered “IV-D” exemptions (“D” for “divinity) under the Vietnam-era draft. No problem: simply make up stuff to protest…something like participating “in atrocities reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”

What stuff are they making up? Well, Hunsinger contends that “Iraq is sliding into chaos and civil war and the insurgents control the countryside and many cities.” Oh? Certainly the violence has increased since mid-summer when Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists and remnants of the Saddam Fedayeen and Republican Guard stepped up their attacks. The Teheran mullahs pulling the strings on the insurgency in Iraq, understanding that Americans are hyper about casualty figures, aim to fill as many body bags as possible prior to the November election in hopes that “help is on the way.” Driven to political apoplexy by visions of a democratic Iraq, these clerical despots also are determined to scotch Iraq’s scheduled elections.

Truth is the Iraqi Interim Government and coalition forces control fifteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. This past week elements of the newly trained Iraqi army, backed by US forces, killed more than a hundred terrorists holed up in Samara. The next step will be to eliminate them from Fallujah. After that, Iraqi and coalition forces will take control of Baghdad’s Sadr City.

Hunsinger’s next untruth is that “the current U.S. military strategy is hopeless.” War is like a deadly wrestling match of moves and counter-moves. Iraqi insurgents and their Islamic terrorist comrades turned to car bombing, assassinations, kidnappings and video-beheadings because they cannot defeat American, Iraqi and coalition forces. Their only hope is to adopt an asymmetric strategy like the one used by the Vietnamese communists, a bloody strategy of attrition aimed at depleting and breaking American resolve and will.

The biggest lie pushed at the October 14 teach-in will be that the Bush administration plans to re-instate the draft so it can “widen the war into Iran and Syria in the second Bush term.” Rubbish. The only people talking about a draft are Democrats: New York Representative Charlie Rangel, South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings, former Georgia Senator Max Cleland and Vermont governor, Howard “Mad Dog” Dean.

Assertions by Hunsinger and his colleagues reveal their ignorance of today’s military. Conscription was a feature of large, Industrial Age armies structured for attritional warfare. Today’s Army, one-fourth the size of its Vietnam-era predecessor, is a high-tech force that wins through maneuver and devastating firepower. It needs highly-qualified, technically-savvy soldiers. The Army has neither the facilities nor the personnel to train hundreds of thousands of new recruits and the fiscal burden of paying the relatively high salaries and benefits needed to attract qualified young people to the all-volunteer force would be prohibitive. Since most Americans oppose re-instating the draft, any attempt to do so would wreak political havoc and weaken the War on Terror. Furthermore, Congress does not want to wrangle with issues like drafting women and gays.

Perhaps Hunsinger and his colleagues are nostalgic for the ring of “Hell no, we won’t go” reverberating down the halls of academe. Maybe they miss that whiff of tear gas floating across campus on a crisp autumn morning. Higher education, even in post-modern seminaries like Princeton, should be about truth and not about false assertions devised to support political agendas. As for the October 14, Princeton Seminary teach-in…hell no, I won’t go.

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism. Email: [email protected]

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