John Allen “Jay” Williams spoke to a small audience composed of Northwestern’s College Republicans club and guests on Tuesday night as a part of CR's “Freedom Week." Williams, who retired as a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, is now a political science professor at Loyola University. At the talk, given in the Norris’s Northwestern Room, Williams spoke of his political growth as a young Republican at the historically liberal Grinnell College, his time in the Navy and the military's role in preserving freedom.
He opened his speech by saying that many Americans tend to forget the roles we played in wars.
“We are very ahistorical," Williams said. "Americans have the historical memory of fruit flies."
He said Americans tend to favor wars that are clean and easy to deal with, as opposed to those that are more ambiguous.
"The war on terror will never end," he said. "Just like the war on crime.”
In fact, there are four factors, according to Williams, which add complexity to such conflicts: “Strategic, tactical, cultural and societal” characteristics of military collision.
Williams argued that the wars fought in Iraq and Vietnam were both inaccurately attributed to leadership mistakes, when, in fact, overcommitment and poor strategy are to blame for the failure of such conflicts. However, he said the diplomatic conflict brooding between the United States and Russia is of a whole different genre – one which Americans tend to misconstrue and not fully analyze correctly.
“Americans judge international relations by morality,” Williams said.
This kind of cultural phenomenon is unique to the United States and affects the way in which we make military strategic decisions, he said. In this process, Williams said, we establish a very particular ethos.
“We care about the casualties of the other side. And I think that’s good."
This cultural difference makes us focus on issues such as rape, homosexuality (e.g. the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy within the military), the integration of women and other social topics, Williams said; however, this slows down our military efficiency. Williams says that our primary goal should be implementing strong military offenses, not reforming the military internally.
Williams added that while there is a strong patriotic sentiment and verbal support for American troops, he finds it disappointing that people thank him for his service but do not actually wish to become involved in the military.
“I would like to see all classes of American society [participate in] contributing to the military of the country which has given us so much,” he said.
Williams closed his presentation with a question and answer session, in which he criticized many of President Obama’s policies. However, he applauded the president’s decision to send soldiers into West Africa to stop the spread of the Ebola virus.
“I thought it was a very interesting presentation," said Weinberg junior Domonic Burke, president of College Republicans. "There are a lot of implications, [concerning] the role of the military worldwide – with what is going in Russia, with ISIS, and the Arab spring. It’s meaningful anytime you can have a conversation."