The Military and America’s Role in the World: Notre Dame Professor Michael Desch

My main area of expertise in political
science is international relations, American foreign policy, and American
national security affairs. One big issue is trying to rethink America’s role in
the world. We can’t do everything, even as the world’s most powerful country
and often our efforts to try to do everything turn out to be
counterproductive both for us and for the unfortunate people that we’re trying
to help. I’m also interested in nuclear weapons and particularly the apparent
disconnect between, on the one hand, how the military and the national security
bureaucracy thought about using nuclear weapons, which wasn’t very different than
how they think about using conventional weapons, and the position of American
civilian leaders and particularly presidents who I think have taken a very
different view of the utility of nuclear weapons, and that’s to restrict them
simply to instruments of deterrence. They think about using nuclear weapons by not
using them. The third issue I’m very interested in is the relationship
between the military and the rest of society. The fact that such a small
fraction of our society serves and they tend to be from a particular area of the
country and a particular socio-economic background, it’s very easy for us to send
people to war we’re not related to or whom we don’t know personally. We’ll pop
up and give a standing ovation to the veterans, but if you ask us, “will you
serve or will you encourage your children to serve?” most of us want to take a powder from that. So that strikes me as a very profound
issue that our country is wrestling with and it’s one that I’ve been interested
in for a lot of my career. Notre Dame is becoming a much more international
university and of course international security is a big part of that. We’ve
established a critical mass here at Notre Dame that rivals any of the top
programs in international security around the country. It’s been a thrill. I
mean, this is what, when I came here in 2008, I hoped we’d be able to do and
we’re doing it.

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