Politics, Democracy, and the Military: A Proposal for an Integrated Curriculum for Universities and Colleges

35 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2010

Abstract

The past thirty years have seen a steady decline in the availability of coursework in university and college curricula that address questions and issues related to the military, its relationship to politics, and its role in society. This development is troubling for a number of reasons. First, because we live in an uncertain world, the existence of armed forces is a necessary aspect of virtually all societies. Few autonomous states have the luxury of doing without a military force of some type. Second, because of the political situation of the United States as the world’s premier power, or the only genuine super power on some accounts, the armed forces have a particularly important role to play in the formulation of U. S. foreign policy. This is not to say that U. S. foreign policy is particularly militarized. It is simply to recognize that given the global realities of the world, U. S. foreign policy and security depend upon a strong military force. Third, in terms of government expenditures of the federal budget, military spending occupies the single largest expenditure of any single department in the federal budget. As such, it has significant impact on the domestic economy as well as on foreign policy. Fourth, because of the multiplicity of opportunities that if offers, the armed forces are among the most important educational institutions in the United States. These opportunities span various types of educational programs, from vocational and skilled labor, to language proficiency, to financial support for college and post-graduate education. Fifth, at least some range of technological spin off is experienced from the development of weapons and military technologies. These often have significant economic and humane impact, as in the case of the development of radar during World War II, to give one example. Finally, citizens in a democracy need to understand the limits and the possibilities of the use of military force. Even advocates of a strong military argue that the reliance on force at inappropriate times can be self defeating and undermine the use of force in the future. Conversely, the failure to use appropriate force when required can have serious adverse and even disastrous consequences.

Suggested Citation

Gibbons, Michael T, Politics, Democracy, and the Military: A Proposal for an Integrated Curriculum for Universities and Colleges. APSA 2010 Teaching & Learning Conference Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1557143 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1557143

Michael T Gibbons (Contact Author)

University of South Florida ( email )

Tampa, FL 33620
United States

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