Mr. Admiral Chancellor: With
All Due Respect, National Defense Is No Longer Your Field
I do not disagree with Chancellor McRaven’s opinions about
ISIS and the role of the United States in leading the ineluctable war against
these religious zealots (see above). I do, however, believe that his comments
in public fora as reported by the Chronicle
Saturday on matters of national security are a bad idea. For the man who now
heads UT has a markedly different job than the one he had before he got to
The Chancellor is reported to have spoken for a large U.S.
military role in fighting ISIS even if that role is our forces alone. It is not
that his message is wrong. It is that he is no longer in the business of
national defense. When he headed the SEALs, he had all kinds of information
that would lend his opinion extra weight. He no longer has access to that
intelligence and expressing his opinion on ISIS thrusts the university into an
international conversation that would best be left to the current faculty and
students, not the administration and be kept on an academic rather than on a
political level. Like it or not, he is the face of the University and to some
extent its voice. The luxury of a separate private and public persona may no
longer be his.
Admiral McRaven’s primary role now is to represent the
educational, research, clinical and administrative interests of UT and to support its faculty and students. In this capacity he seeks guidance from and reports to the Board of Regents. Commenting on international
affairs, albeit that his unique perspective may be of interest, reminds me of
the scene from Godfather 3 when Al
Pacino complains that “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”
except McRaven is insinuating himself back in and with it the prestige of the
university he leads into political matters that are no longer within the
Chancellor’s sphere of influence.
course, like every American, the Chancellor is entitled to an opinion. But,
because his opinion holds higher weight as the former head of the SEALs and his
major focus should be on UT, he should refrain from expressing his proposed
strategies on matters related to his previous work until he is running for
political office, which I believe is likely. Don’t be surprised to see our good
Chancellor in a Cabinet post in the future and on the ballot shortly thereafter.
He would make a formidable candidate.
for now, let’s stick to the problems on which he both has an opinion and can
affect a solution, shall we? They are vast enough.