Mark Moyar: Historian of Vietnam, Finds Academe Hostile to a Hawk





Mark Moyar doesn't exactly fit the stereotype of a disappointed job seeker. He is an Eagle Scout who earned a summa cum laude degree from Harvard, graduating first in the history department before earning a doctorate at the University of Cambridge in England. Before he had even begun graduate school, he had published his first book and landed a contract for his second book. Distinguished professors at Harvard and Cambridge wrote stellar letters of recommendation for him.

Yet over five years, this conservative military and diplomatic historian applied for more than 150 tenure-track academic jobs, and most declined him a preliminary interview. During a search at University of Texas at El Paso in 2005, Mr. Moyar did not receive an interview for a job in American diplomatic history, but one scholar who did wrote her dissertation on "The American Film Industry and the Spanish-Speaking Market During the Transition to Sound, 1929-1936." At Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004, Mr. Moyar lost out to a candidate who had given a presentation on "promiscuous bathing" and "attire, hygiene and discourses of civilization in Early American-Japanese Relations."

It's an example, some say, of the difficulties faced by academics who are seen as bucking the liberal ethos on campus and perhaps the reason that history departments at places like Duke had 32 Democrats and zero Republicans, according to statistics published by the Duke Conservative Union around the time Mr. Moyar tried to get an interview there.

Issues relating to hiring and promotion are "a constant complaint from those on the conservative spectrum in academe," the president of the National Association of Scholars, Stephen Balch, said.

Mr. Moyar is used to opposition. A contrarian among most Vietnam scholars, he does not believe it was a mistake for America to have gone into Vietnam. In carefully argued prose using previously unexamined sources, he marshals support for the "domino theory." His scholarship and books have received great reviews and marked him as a rising star.

In saying Vietnam was winnable, Mr. Moyar is "profaning one of the holy of holies," Mr. Balch said. Senator Webb, a Democratic opponent of the Iraq war, and scholar William Stueck, a liberal, have endorsed Mr. Moyar's book, "Triumph Forsaken" (Cambridge), which was the subject of a conference at Williams College. A conference is a signal honor for a young scholar....

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