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The Pentagon's Battle for the American Mind

The Pentagon's Battle for the American Mind
Lori Lyn Bogle
College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004
UA23 .B567 2004

The U.S. miltary has historically believed itself to be the institution best suited to develop the character, spiritual values, and patriotism of American youth. In The Pentagon's Battle for the American Mind, Lori Lyn Bogle investigates how the armed forces assigned themselves the role of guardian and interpreter of national values and why they sought to create "ideologically sound Americans capable of defeating communism and assuring the victory of democracy at home and abroad."

Bogle shows that a tendency by some in the armed forces to diffuse their view of America's civil religion among the general population predated tension with the Soviet Union. She traces this trend from the Progressive Era through the early Cold War, when the Truman and Eisenhower administrations took seriously the battle of ideologies of that era and formulated plans that promised not only to meet the armed forces' manpower needs but also to prepare the American public morally and spiritually for confrontation with the evils of communism.

Both Truman's plan for Universal Military Training and Eisenhower's psychological warfare programs promoted an evangelical democracy and sought to inculcate a secular civil-military religion in the general public. During the early 1960s, joint military-civilian anticommunist conferences, organized by the authority of the Department of Defense, were exploited by ultra-conservative civilians advancing their own political and religious agendas.

Bogle's analysis suggests that cooperation among the military, evangelical right-wing groups, and government was considered both necessary and normal. The Boy Scouts pushed a narrow vision of American democracy, and Joe McCarthy's chauvinism was less an aberration than a particularly noxious manifestation of a widespread attitude. To combat communism, America and its armed forces embraced a narrow moral education that attacked everyone and everything not consonant with their view of the world and how it ought to be ordered.

Exposure of this alliance ultimately dissolved it. However, the cult of toughness and the blinkered view of reality that characterized the armed forces and American society during the Cold War are still valued by many and are thus still worthy of consideration.

Quoted from dust jacket.