- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2012

America’s top-line military schools are supposed to be cutting-edge centers of strategic education. But say a bad word about Islam there, and it could end your career.

On April 24, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a memo expressing concern that “academic institutions within the Department of Defense may be presenting material … which goes well beyond merely presenting alternative intellectual viewpoints on radicalism to advocating ideas, beliefs and actions that are contrary to our national policy, inconsistent with the values of our profession, and disrespectful of the Islamic religion.” The memo ordered a thorough screening of course curricula and outside speakers with a view toward “cultural sensitivity, respect for religion and intellectual balance.” Disciplinary action could be taken against academics whose courseware is judged somehow to be offensive. Outside speakers could be blacklisted.

The review was ordered after a student complained about the content of an elective - “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” - taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. The class was highly regarded by students, yet one slide in one briefing presented the view that America is at war with Islam - a politically incorrect notion that’s never permitted to be uttered, written or thought. “The course is called ‘Perspectives on Radicalism,’ ” a former senior-level military professor told The Washington Times, “but they only want the official perspective. Graduate school is supposed to be education, not indoctrination.”

The Pentagon review will have a chilling effect on military students. Graduate-level seminars are designed to promote the free exchange of ideas. Now officers may be unwilling to have frank discussions because of the potential that expressing the wrong ideas, even as a means of spurring debate, could be a career-ender. “Can you imagine a midlevel officer with years of service overseas being essentially forced out because he or she wanted to have an open discussion of the things they witnessed and experienced?” the professor said to us. “This memo tells them that if they have any views that contradict the party line, they best keep them to themselves.”

“At the graduate level, no student would expect that simple exposure to an idea constitutes an official endorsement,” a military officer said. “Rather than responding with a radical, top-down, scrub-the-curriculum witch hunt, the person who was offended should have been given counseling on the purposes of education. It just shows how politically correct the military has become.”

The purge strikes at the legitimacy of the service colleges. For years, academic-accreditation agencies viewed military graduate schools as subpar institutions, indoctrination mills for government policies rather than centers of learning. It took decades for the schools to achieve the status that the degrees they offered were legitimate. “Now that legitimacy is being called into question,” the professor warned. “The issue is not respect for Islam or anything of the kind. It is a simple matter of academic freedom that is required for schools to retain their accreditation status.”

“The mission of military schools is to nurture the next generation of strategic thinkers,” our officer source explained. “The takeaway from this event is ‘Shut up and survive.’ ” Lock-step thinking doesn’t instill confidence for future military victory.

The Washington Times