America’s Unthinking Military

Servants of the Imperium

It was in the autumn of 1960, after our Plebe Summer and the test of “Beast Barracks,” that I first heard about the revisions that the West Point academic curriculum had recently undergone, which would be experimentally applied to our incoming class of some 800 men.  Colonel Lincoln’s Social Science Department, as it was presented to us, was to be much more influential, and more deeply formative than before, upon the education of officers; and there were to be several more classes in military psychology, sociology, and leadership and fewer classes in strategic military history and concrete military biography.  The long-standing and ongoing process of replacing the humanities with the academic and applied social sciences would continue and, as we were told, increase.

I was 17 and had little idea of the implications of these curricular revisions—the underlying “logic of scientific discovery,” the growing “soft tyranny” of the social sciences and their subtly relativizing “sociology of knowledge” (in the words of German sociologist Karl Mannheim).  I do remember reading two mandatory books, however: Samuel Huntington’s The Soldier and the State and Morris Janowitz’s The Professional Soldier.  Both were to help form, we were told, the proper kind of officer that was needed in “modern democratic society.”


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