The Military-Intelligentsia Complex: How Higher Education Enables US Militarism – T.J. Coles 3/23/23


Throughout history, most academics have been the witting or unwitting servants of power. Socrates was accused of failing to honor the gods of Athens and corrupting the youth with his ideas. He was canceled in the ultimate way: sentenced to die. Aristotle, by contrast, tutored the young Alexander the Great, future King of Macedonia, which at the time was occupying Athens. During the rebellion, Aristotle fled to save his skin.

Today, some academics refusing to toe the line are also threatened with death. Chicago University’s John Mearsheimer was placed on the US-funded Ukrainian Center for Countering Disinformation’s blacklist, where he and others, including myself, were accused of committing “informational terrorism” by expressing fact-based opinions about the war with Russia. At the same time that Ukrainian fascists were placing me on their list, a cabal of liberal staff at my military-funded institution, the University of Plymouth (UK), terminated my position without warning or right of reply.

If we look at the US imperial apparatus, we see that higher education plays a major role.


The American university has been significantly influenced by the military since at least 1862, with the passing of the Morrill Land-Grant College Act. The Civil War-era legislation awarded government grants to create agricultural and engineering colleges.

Britain has the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), funded by big oil, weapons companies, and banks. The US has its Chatham House offshoot, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), founded in 1921 and funded by the usual suspects: banks, big oil, etc. A history of the CFR and its close ties to academics, who continue to help shape the ideologies that justify and influence capitalist imperialism, has been authored by Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter: the classic, Imperial Brain Trust.

By the Second World War, the university’s “very importance for the achievement of public priorities, most conspicuously for national defense,” writes historian Richard M. Abrams, “led the university to accept inducements and constraints that pulled it notably away from its briefly assumed mission as a protected refuge for the dispassionate and critical study of science and society.” Those “constraints” came in the form of military funding.

Historian Robin Winks wrote Cloak and Gown: a major history of the CIA’s forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services, and its successful efforts to recruit academics to work for US intelligence during the Second World War. The majority of scholars were teaching at Yale. In 1943 alone, there were 42 recruits. Most the recruits were bookworms who would aid analyses and assist in foreign languages. Other operations included using universities as covers to buy hundreds of books that were intended for OSS-CIA station chiefs.

The Wise Men, written by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, traces the history of six members of the post-War foreign policy establishment who shaped the Marshall Plan, NATO, and other instruments of US imperialism. The men were graduates of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

Institutions like NATO would have still been created without intellectuals, but academics acted as ideological shepherds, rounding policy staff into pens of groupthink that enabled intellectual justifications for the insanity on which they were encouraging politicians to embark.


During the War, campuses of the University of Washington (Seattle) were commandeered by the government as the University pioneered military medicine. Political enemies were not welcome. Professors at the University of Washington – Joseph Butter, Ralph Gundlach, and Herbert Phillips – were fired, postwar, for being commies, never to teach again. Their surviving colleagues were forced to sign loyalty pledges. At the time, the men were driven out by political right-wingers.

Today, the tables have turned. So-called liberals are leading cancel culture, as we shall see from my experience….

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