Posted: February 1, 2012
Editor's Note: Professor Harold W. (Bill) Rood was an uncommon teacher, in both style and substance, who lived an uncommon and thoroughly American life. He was born in Seattle, Washington, on August 19, 1922, and grew up at the Mare Island Naval Yard in California. He entered the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in September 1942 (called to active duty in March 1943), and later served as a heavy machine gunner and a radio operator in Patton's Third Army, in the European Theater of Operations. He rose to the rank of private first class, and was proud of it.
After the war he obtained his B.A. in 1948, and then a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1960, from the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation was on American preparations for war from 1918 to 1940. When the Korean War broke out, he became an order of battle specialist and then a strategic intelligence analyst in the Army Reserve. He served, too, on the staff and faculty of the Sixth Army Intelligence School, Fort Ord and Fort MacArthur, California (1958-1964, 1968-1974).
Dr. Rood was appointed to the Government Department faculty of Claremont Men's College in 1962. In due course he was promoted to associate and full professor, and in the early 1980s he was appointed to hold the first W.M. Keck Foundation Chair of International Strategic Studies. Dr. Rood won multiple Outstanding Teacher Awards at CMC, even though his views diverged from the anti-war and anti-military conventions of the times. He established himself as a favorite among the CMC undergrads while attracting a loyal following from then-Claremont Graduate School (now University).
During the 1960s and '70s, he did classified and unclassified research for the Stanford Research Institute, a defense research contractor, in Menlo Park, California, where he lived with his wife, Juanita, and daughters Hilary and Elizabeth. Dr. Rood retired from CMC in 2001 but he continued to lecture for the Claremont Institute. His essay "The Long View: Democracy and Strategy in Iraq" in the CRB's Fall 2003 issue is a classic Roodian exploration of the nature of war and the lessons of history. Dr. Rood did not believe that the end of the Cold War meant the end of history or war. There will be another war, he used to say. A few weeks before his death, he was writing about the strategic significance of the Philippines. Attention, Rood students: start reading the South China Morning Post and take note of what's going on in the western Pacific.
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Harry V. Jaffa
When the war in Vietnam was escalating, and with it domestic political turmoil, the Claremont campuses, like others, were caught up in the maelstrom of conflicting passions. To clarify my own thinking I sat down and wrote out an analysis of what Vietnam represented in the larger field of historic American foreign policy. I believe it ran to some 25 or 30 typed pages. At about this time, someone handed me a copy of Bill Rood's essay, "Distant Rampart" (1967), which had won a silver medal from the Naval Affairs Institute. It was a bolt of lightning! I immediately destroyed my own manuscript, and rushed off to find Rood, to tell him how much I liked his essay, and how important it should be in forming public policy. Lyndon Johnson had justified his policy mainly on its anti-Communism. Rood had justified his on the hard facts of geography. "Rampart" was soon followed by "Why Fight in Vietnam" (1967) and, at a greater distance, his masterpiece, Kingdoms of the Blind: How the Great Democracies Have Resumed the Follies That So Nearly Cost Them Their Life(1980).
Kingdoms was premised upon a partnership of political philosophy and the politics of power, in which the former became the handmaiden of the latter. Bill Rood had been suspicious of political philosophy, so he was surprised and pleased when all my best students became his best students (and vice versa). Thus was formed one of the most fruitful partnerships in any academic institution of our time. Its good effects will, I firmly believe, outlast us both.
Harry V. Jaffa is the Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of Government at Claremont McKenna College and Claremont Graduate University, and author of Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (University of Chicago Press).
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Steven F. Hayward
Professor Rood was one of the legendary teachers of so many of us at Claremont in the 1970s and '80s. While Harry Jaffa taught us how to divine the theoretical depths of classic philosophical texts and recognize their esoteric elements, Rood taught us how to think counter-intuitively about historical and current events, which is also a kind of esoteric skill. For several years after many of us had finished our coursework but were naturally procrastinating before we began our dissertations, we had breakfast with Professor Rood every Tuesday morning at Walter's restaurant on Yale Avenue—"Rood Awakenings," we called them. There we'd simply scan the morning newspaper headlines, and sit back as he would explain why exactly the opposite of the news story was likely the truth of the matter. He was usually right.
On strategic and military matters he knew whereof he spoke, having been in Patton's Third Army as it swept across France and Germany in World War II. Though he knew how to drive a tank, he didn't drive a car. His one book, Kingdoms of the Blind, appeared in that timely year of 1980, close to the nadir of Western strength and resolve, after a decade of Soviet advances and American retreat almost everywhere. It is long out of print, but still worth reading for the methodology alone.
The first sentence of Kingdoms conveys the seriousness of the man and his theme: "This work is a reminder of the dangerous inclination democratic peoples have of discounting the likelihood of war." As Harry Jaffa wrote of Rood's work, "Professor Rood is a painter of the strategic scene. The combination of what at first appears to be insignificant details, the discovery of a harmonious relationship among seemingly discrete events, is accomplished by him in a manner that would have delighted Churchill the painter no less than Churchill the strategist."
Steven F. Hayward is the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.
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Stephen A. Cambone
My first encounter with Dr. Rood was as a second-year graduate student. In walked an unprepossessing, middle-aged, thin, graying, slightly hunched man. His voice, soft to the point of a whisper, did not command the attention of the class. Then, he turned around, grabbed a Lee Enfield rifle, with bayonet attached, let out a guttural yell and assumed the en garde position! He proceeded to define international relations as having its origins at the point of the bayonet.
Through it all, Dr. Rood was the model of a gentleman from an era now lost—even in that shocking first moment. He meant to enforce the lesson that gentlemen must at times fight to preserve, protect, and defend their own against a world in which the less gentle would take what they could from those unable or unwilling to defend themselves.
I hope he took pleasure in knowing that some of his students took his lessons with them into government and, to the best of their abilities, gave life to those lessons. And through them and those who will follow them, Dr. Rood will continue to contribute to the defense of the nation he loved so deeply.
Stephen A. Cambone served in the George W. Bush administration as special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Director of Program Analysis and Evaluation, and the first Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.
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Larry P. Arnn
I remember a classroom argument provoked by an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Professor Rood would of course often bring clippings from the press to read out in class. He would comment about each one, often to bring up some historical circumstance that was similar, often to draw out the principle, often to argue with it. He spent quite a little time on this particular article.
A young woman had been raped. As her assailant was escaping her room by crawling out the window, she produced a pistol and shot him in the butt. The Times editorialized against this act of violence, as (it argued) the damage had already been done, and further violence would not remove it. Violence, you know, begets violence. That part sounds quaint to me now, as the best liberal thought is today very ready to use violence.
A young woman in the class was agitated that Professor Rood would condone the use of force. The argument became heated. Four or five students joined her side. Rood would walk across the front of the class and up and down the aisles, mostly sauntering along, then from time to time turning quickly to flash off some cut or irony. Then as quickly he would shrug his shoulders with a "What do I know?" and resume his ambling pace.
For a long time the students did much of the talking. The argument went back and forth for most of an hour, and as it went the statements by Professor Rood became longer and more insistent. Nations were named who had used power to save the world. Statesmen were named who had failed to gather strength or failed to use it at the moment of need. Whole countries had fallen. Whole populations had been demeaned or destroyed. The evils unleashed by a failure to fight grew in size and darkness, and as they grew, the voice that described them grew softer until all were silent to make sure of hearing.
He ended the longest and the last of these soliloquies by sauntering toward the girl who had led the opposition. It happened that the chair directly in front of her was empty. He put his right foot up on the chair, his right elbow on his right knee. His hand was up, his fingers coming together with his thumb to form a point, all just a few inches from the face of the girl who had led the argument against him. His hand, his arm, his whole body swayed back and forth slightly to the beat of his speech. His body was a metronome, marking the time of his argument. The girl stared at his hand and his face a few inches further on. He spoke hardly above a whisper, and everyone else was still. He said:
"And so there comes a time...little girl...when you have to look at a man and say, ‘You have violated me, and I am going to shoot your ass off.'"
Still the room was silent. His elbow came off his knee, his foot off the chair. He turned and walked slowly toward the front. He reached his desk with his back to the class. We could not see it, but he picked up his papers. Then he turned to us and said brightly, "Well then, next time." Out he walked. We sat, hushed and still.
Larry P. Arnn, a founder and former president of the Claremont Institute, is president of Hillsdale College.
* * *
Patrick J. Garrity
In the Fall of 1981, if I recall the date correctly, I had some extra time on my hands on campus and decided to sit in on one of Professor Rood's lecture classes. Graduate students often dropped in to a Rood class even if they had already taken the course before. A tale twice told by the good Doctor was still good stuff. And there was always the prospect that something in the Los Angeles Times would set off some sparkling new reflections. Or perhaps an obstreperous student would provoke an argument that would become legend. We didn't want to miss the show.
On this particular day, the Professor was exceptional, even for him. He discoursed for an hour, without notes, on imperial strategy, comparing those of Rome, Britain, Spain, Austria, and Russia. It was full of facts and analogies that flowed seamlessly together. I'm not sure why he picked this subject because it didn't fit ordinarily into that class's structure. I had never heard him develop this particular line of argument before (and I never heard him repeat the lecture, at least in that form). It was simply stunning. The students, even the obstreperous ones, could sense they were hearing something special and remained silent. I kicked myself mentally for being so caught up that I forgot to take notes.
When class finished, he was surrounded as usual by a gaggle of students. I waited until he freed himself and began to walk alone back to his office. The occasion simply could not go unremarked. That was wonderful, Professor, I said, hoping that I did not sound fawning.
I expected to get his familiar small smile, or a wave of the arm, or a diverting remark. Instead, he stopped and thought for a moment. To be a great teacher, he said, you have to have a distinct, compelling, non-conventional teaching. It should be non-conventional because conventional wisdom generally was wrong and because the better students instinctively understood that to be the case. But it should not be different merely to be different. Rebellion without a cause was an academic affectation. The teaching had to be worked out seriously. One had to do one's homework. Second, a great teacher had to be a bit eccentric and cultivate something of a personal mystique. That quality naturally drew in those students who liked to be entertained as well as intellectually challenged. And the students who came at first primarily to be entertained sometimes became the most serious students of all.
This assessment of a great teacher was as impressive in its own way as the hour-long and apparently impromptu lecture. But it was incomplete in one important respect. The great teacher never exhibited his own superiority through a demonstration of a student's inferiority (unless the student insisted upon it). He did not demand perfect conformity of views, as long as those views were well considered. He not only aided his students' careers when asked but he went out of his way to do so.
Professor Rood probably would have treated this addition with a small smile, or a wave of the arm, or a diverting remark. And then back to his office, with papers all over the floor, cigarette ashes in the ashtray, and a cot tucked away in the corner.
Patrick J. Garrity is a Research Faculty Affiliate with the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.
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Ronald F. Lehman II
He had a very incisive way of reminding us that human excellence coexists with human failings, with all the good and bad that come from both, and that happenings far away impact every one of us.
The fascinating way he probed the human condition inspired his many students to take his courses, but it is often forgotten that he expected us to learn most not by listening to him, but by working hard. Good grades required major research papers. To prepare us, he would ask for a one-pager. That paper would come back with red ink all over it, challenging our logic and correcting our grammar. Our long papers at the end of the course might have few comments, but when discussed in the privacy of his office, he would verbally slice and dice them, making clear how much better each could have been no matter what the grade.
He demanded that we spend long hours in the library researching obscure terms or mastering details of geography. When he was asked "Who cares about the Scheldt River?" in Belgium, he replied, "I do," and explained its economic and military importance in European history, noting after that as a young G.I. in World War II manning a machine gun on a jeep he had crossed this river. Many times since then, I have found myself crossing rivers or mountains whose existence and significance I learned from Bill Rood's map quizzes.
By the time I took a post-doc in Palo Alto, Bill had become more than a mentor, he was a friend. One day he invited me to have lunch with him and with a Chinese linguist he worked with at the Stanford Research Institute. He told me her name was "Yung Su-Tsan." This was the quintessential Bill. Her name was actually Susan Young, and she became my wife. Throughout our life, when Susan and I would discuss the world, she would ask: "I wonder what Uncle Bill would say?"
Ronald F. Lehman II is the director of the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
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Daniel C. Palm
His office, with papers and books stacked all about, model battleships and odd pieces of metal here and there, was itself something of an inspiration. All the books and the objets du guerre taught appreciation for scholarship, and for the thought and planning that lay behind human artifacts, large or small. Same with his classroom teaching, in which it was not uncommon for him to work through a stack of newspaper clippings, raising questions along the way that "tell us something about the nature of international relations."
Perhaps it was in part his several references in passing in class to the "Short Magazine Lee-Enfield" that led me to take up marksmanship at a local range as a break from quals or dissertation research, and he made a point to ask me how I'd done at the latest match, or what particular calibers and old rifles I was tinkering with at the moment. "That .30-06 we used in Europe," he said on several occasions, "that was a real stopper."
Field trips with Dr. Rood and his mostly CMC students were always a great pleasure, from the dramatic Miramar Naval Station, a U.S. Navy LST ship, and the USS Ranger, each of which he liked to describe as "the sharp edges" of international relations, to the seemingly mundane, like Etiwanda Power Plants Nos. 3 and 4 along the 10 Freeway, to whose staff he accorded the same respect as he did the officers of an aircraft carrier. I think his students got the message that one really ought to accord respect to those regular working class folks who were providing you with something that comes in rather handy, like electricity.
Daniel C. Palm is professor of political science at Azusa Pacific University.
* * *
As a student at the Claremont McKenna College I took every class Bill Rood offered. I remember vividly the infamous final exam in P-178, Introduction to International Relations, in which he gave each student a different list of 20 unidentifiable terms to identify and place in the context of American foreign policy. My list included "Kosmos 43 and 47 messages," "Escadrille 124," and "Climb Mount Nitaka." We had to provide two or more citations exclusive of general reference works, primary sources preferred. All this in the pre-internet (and pre-computer) world of books, maps, and library research. I loved every moment, and we all loved him.
I later returned to Claremont for my Ph.D. studies, and Dr. Rood eventually advised my dissertation on Washington's Farewell Address. In the summer of 1989, the summer before the Berlin Wall fell, I participated in the security studies program at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, West Germany. Dr. Rood left a message at the hotel one day—he was in town to observe the German Baltic fleet—and asked me to meet him at his favorite local schnitzel restaurant, and I invited another like-minded American on the program to join us for dinner. She was taken by him, and so began another friendship. The next day we all went out to inspect the U-995 submarine at the Laboe Naval Memorial.
After we were married, Elizabeth became a regular part of Dr. Rood's circle, and he advised on her dissertation at the University of Virginia on the Truman Doctrine. They loved to talk about classic novels of strategy, politics, and history. Dr. Rood liked Helen MacInnes (and Dick Francis) almost as much as Elizabeth does, and he first told her to read Nelson DeMille. As many Rood students know, The Charm School is a stand-out Cold War novel that, though not quite at the literary level of John le Carré, better understands the meaning of the conflict.
Dr. Rood was a great teacher, seductive in his way, and we political philosophy students were forced to think about the hard questions of reality, and hence the necessity of strategy, war, and statesmanship. And so we learned that politics is the organization and application of power to accomplish some purpose, and that the survival of constitutional and democratic regimes does not lie alone in the elegance of their principles but in their capacity to apply power to those who would destroy them. "The price of freedom is resolute vigilance; the cost of blindness, defeat."
Matthew Spalding is the Vice President of American Studies at the Heritage Foundation.
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Brian T. Kennedy
Words cannot adequately express my affection and admiration for Bill Rood and my eternal gratitude for having been one of his students. Once on a trip we took to Northern France he suggested I call him Bill. That lasted about an hour. He was Dr. Rood and even that was not enough to show the respect I had for the man.
He was a patriot and that was apparent in how he spoke and how he thought. He believed we Americans a blessed people. Blessed to be here in North America, blessed to have been the heirs to the men who wrote Magna Carta, blessed to have forefathers who had fought and died for our freedom. His essential teaching was that we Americans—as a superpower dedicated to human freedom—will always have enemies and these enemies seek our destruction. War, after all, was not a theoretical matter. And in war it is good—indeed critical—to be the winner. For, as he would say, no one ever had to accommodate a loser. To lose would mean becoming a slave or subject to some other power.
Bill Rood set an example for the young men and women of Claremont McKenna College of what a man should be. He made everyone around him better, smarter, more interesting, and more interested in the world around them. He loved his family, his country, and his friends.
What a fine life he led, and how lucky we were to have known him.
Brian T. Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute.
For more reflections by J.D. Crouch, Christopher Flannery, Christopher C. Harmon, Peter W. Schramm, Colleen A. Sheehan, and William R. Van Cleave, please click here.