Donald Alexander Downs, Ilia Murtazashvili. Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. xiii + 441 pp. $99.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-19232-3; $34.99 (paper), ISBN 978-0-521-15670-7.
Reviewed by Heather Salazar (Norwich University)
Published on H-War (September, 2012)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
In Arms and the University, Donald Alexander Downs and Ilia Murtazashvili argue that institutionalized interaction in a university setting between nonmilitary students and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) strengthens civic and liberal education of both groups. The authors contend that current tensions between the two groups stem from three historical phenomena: decreased civilian wartime participation, the American public’s rejection of the military following the Vietnam War, and both the implementation and reversal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. These tensions, while not easily overcome, demonstrate productive friction between the university’s civilian population, the university’s administration, and the military. To overcome these tensions, open lines of communication and interaction are required.
The American public’s retreat from supporting a massive standing military post-World War II and its eventual dismissal of Vietnam weakened Americans’ approval of military and university interaction. The public questioned the presence of the military on university campuses since the teaching and interaction that came in conjunction with a military presence challenged the moral and ethical mind-sets of the university. University officials moved toward removing ROTC programs as some of them believed that the military could not meet their curriculum demands and wanted to prevent further public outcry. Eventually, after many discussions, along with petitions and support from advocacy groups and alumni, university administrators began to gradually reinstate ROTC programs.
A significant source of tension between the military and the university lay in the DADT policy implemented in 1993. Some universities did not reinstate their ROTC programs until after the repeal of DADT. However, Downs and Murtazashvili show that even after the repeal of DADT in 2010, the reinstatement of ROTC on university campuses was not inevitable. The authors use Columbia University as a case study to show that even after its repeal, administrators, students, alumni, and faculty failed to agree on how and when the university should reinstate the program. Struggles to assimilate the military onto campus with diversity, equality, and tolerance along with military conceptions of patriotism, duty, and use of justifiable force continued to plague administrators. The university held meetings to discuss the role of ROTC on campus, the level of interaction between military and nonmilitary students, and the availability of classes to both groups, and to decide how to balance a liberal education with military education and training. These discussions eventually led to the reinstatement of ROTC on campus but not to the level previously known.
Despite these struggles, Downs and Murtazashvili demonstrate how universities and the military benefit from each other. ROTC’s campus presence may break nonmilitary students’ perceptions of equating the military with militarism by confronting nonmilitary students with the institution itself. Having ROTC on campus humanizes the military by showing that that officers too are people. The university curriculum broadens officer candidates’ education experience. Universities are diversely populated and offer a chance for officers to learn to interact with civilian populations. This education reinforces the perspective of civilian control of the military, a key aspect of America’s military. The teaching and learning of military history on university campuses is significant as well as it leads to active discussions on important issues pertaining to the military, national security, and the university. The military challenges thoughts and ideas in history and national security classes that provide nonmilitary students with diverse perspectives on the reasons war is fought and the lessons learned from the past. A well-rounded officer corps emerges from the benefits they receive through interaction between ROTC and nonmilitary students both in and out of the classroom.
Downs and Murtazashvili rely heavily on oral history interviews, student surveys, and memos from Ivy League universities and the University of Wisconsin. Their use of both qualitative and quantitative data provides the reader with a study of the impact of ROTC at some of the country’s most elite universities. While this provides a detailed examination of the emergence of ROTC, its removal, and reemergence at these universities, an additional and more diverse sampling of America’s schools would have given the reader a stronger understanding of this issue.
Arms and the University highlights the importance of discussing civil-military relations. The culture of the military and its interaction with the civilian world significantly changed during the last century, and Downs and Murtazashvili provide a detailed comparison and explanation of the current relationship between universities and the military. This book adds to the literature on civil-military relationships and educational importance. As the authors demonstrate, these two components within our society are critical in establishing a future well-rounded, well-educated officer corps and a generation that understands the military’s role in society.
Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-military Students
to surpass the tensions
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
in order for university administrators
the incorporation of
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-war.
Heather Salazar. Review of Downs, Donald Alexander; Murtazashvili, Ilia, Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students.
H-War, H-Net Reviews.
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