- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

Many American college faculties want to react to the war on terror as a replay of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately for these Blame America Firsters, circumstances are different. This war threatens all 284 million Americans, not just soldiers in Southeast Asia 8,000 miles away. This war angers and unifies Americans; the Vietnam War depressed and divided them. Students overwhelmingly and enthusiastically support the war on terror. During Vietnam, by contrast, students were divided. This war is not ambiguous like Vietnam; it is clear-cut. Ninety-Two percent of the American people support the war on terror. This war transforms even the liberal voters of New York City into gung-ho war hawks.
But most American college professors refuse to join their fellow citizens' support of the war on terror. Some professors come out of the closet and openly admit their hatred for America and President Bush. Noam Chomsky of MIT, who defended both Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot during the Vietnam War, proclaims, "What the U.S. calls counter-terrorism is terrorism by another name." Barbara Foley of Rutgers University knows why the al Qaeda terrorists attacked America: "Whatever its [September 11 terrorist attack] proximate cause, its ultimate cause is the fascism of U.S. foreign policy over the past many decades." University of New Mexico Professor Richard Berthold blithely told his freshman students the day of the attack, "Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote." Haunani-Kay Trask of the University of Hawaii asks, "Why should we support the United States, whose hands are soaked with blood?"
Unlike Mr. Trask, most American professors were too timid to turn openly against their own country when patriotism was popular. Two-thirds of students were donating blood, money or time towards September 11 relief efforts Many were also displaying the Stars and Stripes on their lapels, dorm rooms and cars. So most college faculty adopted a "moral equivalence" position toward the war on terror: The United States is no better, or perhaps a bit worse, than its radical Muslim terrorist enemies. We must "try to understand" the grievances of the al Qaeda terrorists. We must also refrain from enthusiastically supporting the war.
Strobe Talbott, Yale professor and Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of state, urged us to understand the grievances of al Qaeda's terrorists: "It is from the desperate, angry and bereaved that these suicide pilots came." Mr. Talbott, who bore some blame for September 11, completely ignored the desperation, anger and bereavement of Americans who lost family and friends because of the suicide pilots' attacks. Like Mr. Talbott, Princeton's Richard Falk called for understanding the terrorists, not punishing them: "There needs to be an understanding of why this kind of suicidal violence could be undertaken against our country."
"Moral equivalence" professors did not just call for understanding the terrorists. They also demanded Americans eschew the war on terror.
Eric Foner, Columbia University historian, worried about war fever in Washington, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." Kevin Lourie of Brown University decided America must cease being warlike: "[T]his war can end only to the extent that we relinquish our role as world leader, overhaul our lifestyle and achieve political neutrality." Mr. Foner, Miss Lourie and the many faculties agreeing with them deny America's duty to defend itself against terrorist attack. They seem to think the United States must act as a punching bag for the Third World's hatreds and frustrations.
Fortunately, a few college professors do love their country enough to support the war on terror. The National Association of Scholars, NAS and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) are organizations comprised of traditionalist college faculty. They both announced their firm support for the war on terror. Two Princeton professors, liberal Sean Wilentz and conservative Robert P. George, are usually opposed on political issues. Yet they both joined to publicly justify the war on terror. Mr. Wilentz, who had publicly denounced George W. Bush as an illegitimately elected president, eloquently changed his tune after September 11: "This is the kind of event that unites Americans across generations. All our divisions are put aside. I think we all have a common horror at what occurred." Mr. George joined with 60 academics of all political persuasions to sign a public ad, "What We're Fighting For," that ran in The Washington Post and the New York Times.
Another patriotic professor, Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman of San Diego State, understood exactly what the duty of a college teacher is: "As teachers, we urge youth to learn from the country's errors, but offer few lessons from what it has done right … America is more than the sum of its problems. Some of the nation's intellectuals may have been lacking this perspective on September 11, but it's a precious piece of wisdom we can take away from Ground Zero."

David N. Bossie is president of Citizens United Foundation.


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