Saturday, October 2, 2021

Yale's Grand Strategy: He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules

 By J. Humperdinck Stover
New Haven Correspondent

The news from South of Here has grown alarming; specifically, there's a dustup in New Haven at that beacon of Southern Connecticut erudition, Quinnipiac [Surely, Yale? – Ed.] University.

No, we're not talking about the news that notorious Yale Law Professors Jed “Hello, Ladies” Rubinfeld and his beloved spouse Amy “If You Got It,  Flaunt It” Chua have put their Tudor pile in New Haven on the market, with the intent of moving to New York, the better to avoid their students.

There's even bigger news:  a Yale History Professor has had the effrontery to stand up to the plutocrats who contributed over $250,000,000 for the advancement of knowledge in New Haven.

The news made page one of The New York Times:

Henry's Grand Strategy in action in Cambodia

The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy is one of Yale University’s most celebrated and prestigious programs. Over the course of a year, it allows a select group of about two dozen students to immerse themselves in classic texts of history and statecraft, while also rubbing shoulders with guest instructors drawn from the worlds of government, politics, military affairs and the media.

But now, a program created to train future leaders how to steer through the turbulent waters of history is facing a crisis of its own.

Beverly Gage, a historian of 20th-century politics who has led the program since 2017, has resigned, saying the university failed to stand up for academic freedom amid inappropriate efforts by its donors to influence its curriculum and faculty hiring. 

Before we dig any deeper into this juicy academic scandal, can we ask just one question? 

What the fuck is Grand Strategy?  

The phrase has a musty 19th Century imperial or manifest-destiny quality to it, bringing to mind Bismarck's Grand Strategy to dominate Europe or Polk's Grand Strategy to steal the West from Mexico.

Fortunately there's a distinguished Yale Professor of History to explain it to us proles:

“Grand Strategy” is a capacious but slippery concept, one that has generated continuing debates about its meaning. In his 2018 book “On Grand Strategy,” Professor Gaddis defined it as “the alignment of unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.”

We seem to recall our old friend Tommy Hobbes writing this down 350 years ago, but he didn't have the advantages of a Yale education.

Anyone else have any idea what tf Grand Strategy is as an area of erudition?

In 2006, it was formally endowed with a combined gift of $17.5 million from Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brady. In a 2013 article in The Yale Daily News, Professor Gaddis said Mr. Brady had given a single directive: “Teach common sense.”

Sure, what could go wrong with delving deeply into what a rich white man calls “common sense?” Let's find out!

According to a pretty thorough piece in the Yalie Daily:

But after the 2020 presidential election, a Times op-ed by professor of political science and humanities Bryan Garsten, who previously co-taught Grand Strategy with Gage, prompted Brady to begin pushing for changes to the program. The Times reported that Brady told Gage that she had not been teaching it “the way Henry Kissinger would.” “That’s absolutely right,” she responded. “I am not teaching Grand Strategy the way Henry Kissinger would.” 

You might think that was a good thing, but you aren't writing the checks.  In fact, the white men who were decided that tenured faculty at Yale couldn't be trusted to teach stuff without some guidance:

In the months following the publication of Garsten’s op-ed, ...Yale seized on a previously unused measure in the bylaws of the 2006 gift agreement allowing for an external five-member “board of visitors” to advise on practitioner appointments. Brady and Johnson suggested several members who were ultimately chosen to join the advisory board. These people included Kissinger, who served under former President Richard Nixon, as well as Stephen J. Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush. . .

And if there's anyone who knows what not to do in the pursuit of a Grand Strategy, it would have to be one of the geniuses behind the Iraq War.

But it was that old war criminal Henry Kissinger who tore it.  Can you imagine not wanting to take advice on Grand Strategy from the guy whose previous efforts in that area included advocating nuclear war for fun and profit (hey, he got tenure for it!) and illegally bombing Cambodia to promote Tricky Dick's peace with, um, honor plan for Vietnam.

Whereupon Professor Gage resigned (although she does get to keep her job as a tenured Professor of History).

Like most exercises of Grand Strategy, this one appears to have blown up in the faces of the white men who planned and executed it.  Professor Gaddis himself was not amused:

Yale tells its students: no lunch for you!

History professor John Lewis Gaddis, one of the co-founders of the Grand Strategy program, told the [Yale Daily] News that “the Yale administration could have made it unambiguously clear to the donors that the faculty shape the curriculum. The administration should now, equally unambiguously, commit itself and recommit this institution to this fundamental principle.” 

As with every failure of a white man's Grand Strategy, the debacle was followed by a Grand Parade of Ass-Covering:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate has promised a full investigation, while University President Peter Salovey has publicly pledged Yale’s commitment to ideological diversity.

“The Senate is highly concerned regarding the news that Professor Gage has resigned as Grand Strategy Director due to pressure from donors to control the curriculum of the program,” a Friday morning statement from FAS Senate Chair Valerie Horsley reads. “The Senate will investigate this situation and will issue a plan for further action in the coming weeks.”

Don't hold your breath. In fact, the Yale Daily News has reported yet another case of the University sacrificing core principles to attract bucks from donors. In this case, the core principle is not starving the undergraduates:

What are hungry undergrads to do, especially those who don't have a lot of spare cash to eat in local greasy-spoons, while the dining hall is being appropriately outfitted to delight the palates of wealthy potential donors?  

We're beginning to think that maybe Yale's commitment to diversity, intellectual and otherwise, hasn't changed all that much since 1912, when your correspondent had the following exchange:

"Here's three new scalps," continued McCarthy, producing some cushions. "Had to vow eternal love, and keep the dear girls separated—a blonde and two brunettes—but I got the pillows, my boy, I got 'em. And now sit back and hold on."

He made a third trip to the trunk, unaware of Stover's distracted mood, and came back chuckling, his arms heaped with photographs to his chin.

"One thousand and one Caucasian beauties, the pride of every State, the only girls who ever loved me. Look at 'em!"

The good news: a century later, thanks to rich white men and cowardly money-hungry functionaries, Yale is still celebrating Caucasian beauties.  Like Henry Kissinger.

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