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Cold War at Cornell By: Joseph J. Sabia
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 05, 2003

Recently, I penned an article for the Cornell Daily Sun in which I argued that the lack of ideological diversity in our college classrooms has resulted in a deficient education for all students.  As one piece of evidence, I cited the case of Cornell Government Professor Rose McDermott. 


In 1999, McDermott taught GOVT 385: American Foreign Policy, a course that focused primarily on the Cold War.  According to an alumnus who took the class, while McDermott spent months discussing the policies of Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter, she dedicated a grand total of five minutes to President Reagan, the man who won the Cold War.   McDermott’s extensive analysis of Reagan included a dismissive remark about U.S. involvement in Grenada and a claim that Reagan probably had Alzheimer’s Disease during the 1980 campaign. (I wonder whether she is as quick with AIDS jokes?)


My revelation of these facts spawned outrage among liberal professors affiliated with the Cornell Forum for Peace and Justice (CFPJ).  Professor Elizabeth Sanders, an extreme Leftist in the government department, rushed to McDermott’s defense, saying:


“There ain't a dimes' worth of difference (to quote another famous presidential candidate) among the cold war foreign policies of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan... Work by other Gov. Dept. faculty and grad students [showed] it was the international peace/anti-nuclear movement and the US nuclear freeze movement that allowed Gorbachev to introduce the perestroika reforms while reassuring the Soviet hard liners that the US wouldn't seize the opportunity of soviet societal opening and military budget shrinkage to attack the SU (because, Gorbachev argued, the American and other western publics would restrain the bellicosity of our saber-rattling administration...”


This is the standard nonsense offered by tenured professors in the academy.  The U.S. is denounced as an evil “saber-rattling” nation and the Soviet Union is held up as the heroic country that saved America from itself.  And in Sanders’ upside-down fairytale, the nuclear freeze crowd facilitated the whole thing! 


As Mona Charen points out in Useful Idiots, the anti-nuclear movement emboldened the Soviets to engage in far more aggressive foreign policy adventures—including the installation of SS-20 missiles in East Germany—because they counted on American Leftists to force the Reagan administration into a policy of appeasement. 


Second, there is copious evidence that Reagan’s military buildup crippled the Soviet economy and forced them into conciliatory arms control agreements.  Using Moscow’s own numbers, Reagan’s War author Peter Schweizer estimates that Reagan’s economic sanctions and military buildup cost the Soviet economy over $32 billion.  The Communists simply could not keep up with the arms race and their economy collapsed.   In fact, Schweizer made the compelling argument that Reagan’s policies were responsible for the rise of Gorbachev and subsequent Soviet economic reforms. 


Regardless, at the very least, these debates about the end of the Cold War deserve to be hashed out in more than five minutes.


But neither Professor McDermott nor Professor Sanders will allow dissent from their leftwing orthodoxy.  In their classrooms, the nuclear freeze crowd won the Cold War for the Soviets while Reagan was drooling in his cereal.


One brave Cornell student stood up to Professor Sanders and attempted to confront her liberal bias.  Elliott Davis wrote Sanders, saying:


“I've heard that your lectures can be remarkably one-sided, with frequent passing references to, say, the Palestinian "cause" that present a distorted view of the Israeli-Arab conflict to one who knows very little about the conflict itself.  As a friend recounted to me, you attempted to tie the current Palestinian intifada to the civil rights movement in the US.  This, of course, is laughable.  As he noted, Rosa Parks just wanted to sit on the bus, not blow it up. It's not outright bias - it's the unconscious slant of material presented as objective fact.  And this is what is disturbing.”


Perhaps even more disturbing, Davis told me that any Jewish student with the slightest connection to Israel ended up dropping Sanders’ class, except for one, who burst into tears.  How did Sanders respond to Davis’ claims of leftwing bias?  She didn’t.  Instead, English Professor Satya Mohanty scolded Davis:


“I find [your] email, directed against a member of Cornell's faculty, more than disrespectful; I think it is in fact a form of personal harassment... From this point on, the moment I see a message with your name on it, I will delete it without bothering to open it.”

This is a perfect example of the closed-minded mentality of Leftist faculty at Cornell.  Their threat is clear: Agree with their political philosophies, never question them, and shut the hell up.  Cornell’s anti-intellectual atmosphere is poisonous.  Pompous professors like Sanders, McDermott, and Mohanty should be embarrassed to reject open inquiry and to shove their Leftist ideology down students’ throats. But in today’s academy, dominated by a like-minded left, they’re not.

Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.

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