Letter to the Editor: The Eikenberry witch hunt

The opinions espoused in this article are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of his colleagues, the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, U.S. government or any other government agency.

I am a U.S. military officer working toward a Ph.D. in political science at Northwestern University. I have felt welcomed by all staff, faculty, peers and students since my first day. This program has provided me great opportunities to engage in healthy debates concerning war and problems of foreign policy. Before you discount my opinion, I want to note that I have criticized Gen. David Petraeus in Foreign Policy for his stance on increasing airstrikes in Afghanistan and argued against the fruitless endeavor of American drone strikes in Small Wars Journal. I am not a pawn of the U.S. military-industrial complex nor a part of a conspiracy to infiltrate prestigious universities. Like so many others in my position, I am not blindly biased in my support of the military, and I regard university life as an antidote to bias in its many other forms.

Unfortunately, I find the recent inquisition against former Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry’s appointment as executive director of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies very troubling. The petition was led by Profs. Jacqueline Stevens and Jorge Coronado. In her personal blog, Stevens develops a bizarre conspiracy involving military infiltration of academia, arms sales, just to name a few. Furthermore, her anti-Eikenberry campaign is speciously framed in terms of Sen. J. William Fulbright’s concerns about the “military-industrial-academic complex” in 1967. Ironically, Stevens ignores the fact that Eikenberry has shown concern about military officers seeking “post-career employment in the defense industry” and other civil-military issues, just as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a retired Army General, worried about the “military-industrial complex” himself. I cannot do Steven’s blog justice in the space allotted, but her accusations and insinuations against Eikenberry smack of McCarthyism to me.

I am more concerned with how shockingly uninformed these professors were about Eikenberry’s military career and their glaring prejudice towards his background. How deep and insular must their biases be that they targeted a man who led and commanded large organizations and served America for decades with distinction? As ambassador to Afghanistan, Eikenberry courageously raised his voice in opposition of the U.S. troop surge (which as he predicted, failed). These professors seemed determined to ignore Eikenberry’s significant record of scholarly publications because they were not “double-blind” peer reviewed. We should all be concerned when people in academia believe your writings are not worthy because you lack a doctorate or never published in a “double-blind” peer reviewed journal. In the spirit of transparency, should we not wonder if any of the petitioners have exhibited ideological bias against students or potential students with military backgrounds?

In the end, Northwestern lost out. We let some professors engage in fear-mongering and misinformation, just because of his military background. The petitioners ignored the experience and leadership Eikenberry brought to the Buffett Institute. We at Northwestern should have embraced Eikenberry as he would have increased the diversity of views and experiences represented on campus. Regrettably, Eikenberry’s non-arrival means that students and faculty at Northwestern University will be deprived of his valuable perspective. I can only hope the petitioners will re-examine their motives, because their actions were perceived as an ill-informed crusade. We should expect better from Northwestern faculty.

—Jahara “Franky” Matisek

If you would like to respond publicly to this letter, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.