Blown out of Proportion

There is no shortage of war-related courses in Harvard’s curriculum

There is no course at Harvard that will teach you how to win a war. But if your career ambition is to become the next Eisenhower then you’ve probably come to the wrong place.

War as a subject of academic inquiry is pervasive in Harvard’s curriculum. A simple search for the keyword “war” on Harvard’s online course catalog returns 131 results. Some of them won’t be what you’re after, such as Freshman Seminar 37p, “Reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace.” But there is Government 1730, “War and Politics.” Continue browsing and you’ll find Government 90sp, “The Future of War”; Historical Study A-12, “Conflict and Cooperation in the Modern World”; Government 1732, “The Origins of Modern Wars”; Government 2782, “State Failure and Civil War”; Historical Study B-53, “World War and Global Transformation in the 20th Century”; History 1964, “International History: War, Peace, and International Organizations”; and Government 2791, “Comparative Foreign and Security Policy.” War is everywhere, with everyone from anthropology (Anthropology 1980, “War and the US”) to social studies (Social Studies 98hq “Civil War and Peace”) joining in the fray.

We suggest that The Crimson Staff fill the allegedly gaping hole in Harvard’s course offerings with some of the classes that already exist. War is studied at Harvard from so many different angles that the real challenge is deciding which to pursue, not finding courses in the first place.

The one true missing piece appears to be a class that literally focuses on how to win a war. But a single missing course does not a crisis make. No university can claim to have courses that address every conceivable topic of importance from every possible angle—Harvard is no exception.

All this aside, a course on the tactics of military victory does not have a place in Harvard’s curriculum any more than a course on corporate accounting or marketing. Courses that arm students for a particular profession, be it managing portfolios or planning sorties, don’t conform to Harvard’s liberal arts philosophy.

If you intend to study war as a social, political, and cultural phenomenon, Harvard can ably meet your needs. But if you’re still curious about how best to crush the infidels, then take the T to MIT, or better yet, the train to West Point.

Daniel E. Hertz-Roiphe ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Adams House. Adam Goldenberg ’08, a Crimson editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Winthrop House.

Dissenting Opinions:

Occasionally, The Crimson Staff is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting staff members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.