The Uniformed Intellectual and His Place in American Arms, Part II: The Effects of Anti-Intellectualism on the Army Profession Today

By Matthews, Lloyd J. | Army, August 2002 | Go to article overview
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The Uniformed Intellectual and His Place in American Arms, Part II: The Effects of Anti-Intellectualism on the Army Profession Today


Matthews, Lloyd J., Army


The article titled "The Uniformed Intellectual and His Place in American Arms" in the July issue was the first in a twopart series addressing the origins and persistency of anti-intellectualism within the Army. In the present article, which concludes the series, we examine today's muddy-boots syndrome Mind discuss ways it might be moderated in order to arrest the Army profession 's intellectual decline.

We now return to the question broached in Part I concerning whether in the information-worshipping age of today, anti-intellectualism in our military has at last made its grudging exit. The answer, sadly, is no-overt manifestations of anti-intellectualism still come right out and slap us in the face. One of my favorite examples appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph a few years back:

After a recent afternoon in the Pentagon's super-secret chamber called "the tank," Gen. Alfred M. Gray, the ... commandant of the Marine Corps, complained about "too many intellectuals" at the top of the armed services. Naming no names, the 59-year-old Marine general said that what is needed is not intellectuals but "oldfashioned gunslingers" who like a good fight and don't spend their time with politicians.

This sort of reflexive, unmeditated bashing of intellectuals fits perfectly into the traditional pattern of attitudes traced so exhaustively by Richard Hofstadter in his book Anti-intellectualism in American Life, mentioned in Part I. Such bashing is unbecoming, just as it would be to slur any group of citizens on the basis of ignorant stereotyping. I say "ignorant" in reference to the quotation above because the familiar sentiments expressed there again assume that an intellectual soldier can't fight and lead. As we saw at length earlier, nothing could be more wrong.

There are other examples of contemporary anti-intellectualism. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf in his post-Gulf War autobiography It Doesn't Take a Hero (1992) casts in a condescending light the fact that his predecessor in brigade command "was an ex-White House fellow [and] a prolific contributor to military journals." Gen. Schwarzkopf will doubtless march into the history books as one of the ablest senior combat commanders this nation has ever produced-certainly he'll get my vote-and it is thus disappointing to read his assessment of a colleague that gives voice and weight to anti-intellectual considerations.

An irony here is that Gen. Schwarzkopf, despite his public image as the quintessential muddy-boots soldier, is a man of no inconsiderable intellectual, philosophical and cultural accomplishments himself. He is fluent in French and German. His musical tastes run from folk to opera. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He earned a master's degree in guided missile engineering at the University of Southern California and followed it with a teaching tour in the Department of Mechanics at West Point. While earning his degree at Southern Cal, he moonlighted by teaching calculus and basic engineering at Northrop Institute and accounting at South Bay Women's College. Classmates at West Point often referred to him as "Einstein."

To the extent that raw intelligence may facilitate intellectual accomplishment, Gen. Schwarzkopf is prodigiously well equipped. His IQ, as measured on the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale, has been publicly reported in several sources as 170, which puts him well up into the genius category. In fact, as shown in Catherine Morris Cox's pioneering study The Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses (1926), not a single one of history's great military leaders for which data could be adduced possessed an IQ remotely rivaling that of Gen. Schwarzkopf. Consider: Napoleon Bonaparte 135, Robert E. Lee 130, William Tecumseh Sherman 125, George Washington 125, Horatio Nelson 125, David Farragut 120, Herman Cortes 115, Joachim Murat 115, Nicolas-Jean Soult 115, Ulysses S. Grant 110, Philip Sheridan 110 and Gebhard Blucher 110.

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