Is The Cap And Gown Mightier Than The Sword?

Andrew Sullivan —  May 2 2012 @ 4:01pm

Tom Friedman wants more scholarships and fewer tanks in the Middle East:

[The US] gave Egypt’s military $1.3 billion worth of tanks and fighter jets, and it gave Lebanese public-school students a $13.5 million merit-based college scholarship program that is currently putting 117 Lebanese kids through local American-style colleges that promote tolerance, gender and social equality, and critical thinking. I’ve recently been to Egypt, and I’ve just been to Lebanon, and I can safely report this: The $13.5 million in full scholarships has already bought America so much more friendship and stability than the $1.3 billion in tanks and fighter jets ever will.

Andrew Exum isn't persuaded:

That $1.3 billion in annual military aid? That is the price the United States pays to ensure peace between Israel and Egypt. For three decades, it has been a fantastic bargain. 

Second, I am a proud graduate of the American University of Beirut, but do you know who else counted the AUB as their alma mater? The two most innovative terrorists in modern history, George Habbash and Imad Mughniyeh. U.S. universities and scholarship programs are nice things to do and sometimes forge important ties between peoples and future leaders, but they can also go horribly wrong and do not necessarily serve U.S. interests. There is certainly no guarantee a U.S.-style education leads to greater tolerance or gender and social equality.

Adam Elkus nods:

Friedman is distinctly arguing that exposure to American education will make students more pro-American and have positive political outcomes. Want to know who else came to the US for education? Sayid Qutb. The idea that exposure to American democratic norms and critical thinking would make you more liberal would also come as a surprise to foreign military officers who take American professional military education classes only to come home to either participate in repressive systems, commit human rights abuses, and/or launch military coups. Finally, while going to Harvard made Isoroku Yamamato mindful of America’s military and economic strength, he used such knowledge to plan military operations against the American Pacific fleet. Going to school in America will also not necessarily make many of China’s future leadership class pro-American or willing to help America at the expense of their nation’s interests.