- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Negative perceptions of the U.S. military, formed in the aftermath of an ignominious retreat from Vietnam a generation ago, have been finished off by the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Those who control much of the media and academia, however, seem to still be lagging behind the public's pro-military views.
Heroes are zeroes at Harvard University, says Peter Gibbon, research associate at the Harvard graduate school of education. "I've never met a [college] kid who knew Audie Murphy and Sgt. York, or even Nathan Hale."
The U.S. military "has consistently rated as the 'most trustworthy' of public and private institutions, more trustworthy than churches, universities, hospitals, the U.S. Supreme Court and any other part of the government," David C. King and Zachary Karabell point out in their book "The Generation of Trust: Public Confidence in the U.S. Military Since Vietnam."
But Mackubin T. Owens, professor of strategy and force planning at the U.S. Naval War College and a Vietnam veteran, remembers the Vietnam-created image of "the guy who spends his time shooting wildly into the jungle" and comes back home "a drug-addicted mess."
Mr. Owens says this image was perpetuated by movies such as "Apocalypse Now." But in the 1980s, with Hollywood hits such as "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Top Gun" and the success of the first Persian Gulf war in 1991 the public's perception of the military turned.
"It would take a military debacle or some real nastiness in the military profession to get back on the bad side of the American people," Mr. Owens said. "How can you not admire a 19-year-old acting so professionally on the battlefield, especially when many of these guys act like Beavis and Butt-Head back home?"
But academia still promotes a negative image of the military, said Mr. Gibbon.
Harvard, he said, "is too hard on soldiers and soldierly virtues" and doesn't even make an effort to understand them.
America's universities have instituted a "very strong peace curriculum" since the Vietnam War era, Mr. Gibbon said, "but it has gone too far."
Students today, he said, have no idea who some of this country's war heroes are, or why they fought.
"Even though kids aren't going to necessarily serve in the military, they should appreciate and venerate those who gave up their lives for their country," said Mr. Gibbon, author of "A Call to Heroism: Renewing America's Vision of Greatness."
The recent war highlighted the schism between the views of elite academia and the public at large.
A Gallup poll taken April 9, the day the statue of Saddam fell in Baghdad's Paradise Square, showed 76 percent of Americans approved of the war in Iraq.
The same day that poll was conducted, the Yale University Coalition for Peace held a protest march and "teach-in" on campus. There, a student march leader railed, "The U.S. just invaded a country and killed over 1,000 civilians. I believe that every single citizen is partially responsible for America's foreign policy by not holding Bush accountable."
H. Bruce Franklin, professor of American studies at the Newark, N.J. campus of Rutgers University, teaches a class called "Vietnam and America" and has written several books on the Vietnam War including "Vietnam and Other American Fantasies."
In his view, the most profound change in America's idea of the military is not its ability to wage a "moral war" with precise weapons and relatively little loss of civilian life, but that growing pre-eminence of U.S. military might has made the world view us as more of a threat than ever.
"I don't think anyone ever doubted the devastating power of the military, even in the Vietnam War," Mr. Franklin said. "Globally, the U.S. is now seen as the major threat to peace. Inside the U.S., people are very divided on their views of the military."
Academia's negative views of the military are mirrored in the press, which in the wake of the liberation of Baghdad, made looting in the Iraqi capital a main topic of Pentagon briefings.
In an editorial on National Public Radio, Daniel Schorr talked about the U.S. military's responsibility for thefts from the National Museum of Iraq, which the Boston Globe called a "crime against history."
"When you take over a country, you have a certain responsibility for protecting its heritage," Mr. Schorr said.
To Mr. Owens, the fact that such issues are the biggest worries of the day is a good sign.
"If you're complaining about that, you're conducting the war pretty well," Mr. Owens said.

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