Skip to content

Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars

After 9/11, the US Congress realized the need for in-depth knowledge of world affairs and advanced language proficiency and increased the Fulbright-Hays budget. This program "supports research and training efforts overseas, which focus on non-Western foreign languages and area studies."

Apparently the post-9/11 era is over now. A few days after Bin Laden's death, the 2011 Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowships have been cancelled due to budget cuts. $5,800,000 had been estimated, when the US Department of Education invited applications in September 2010, while pointing out that "the actual level of funding, if any, depends on final Congressional action."

It's a disgrace that this prestigious and important fellowship program does not have secure funding.

I am wondering how many fellowships would have been made possible with those 5,8 Mio US-$ and how much the US would have benefited from this increase in language skills and knowledge about these non-Western world regions, that will be most important and dangerous for the US economy and security in the future.

The same amount of money buys you less than four Tomahawk missiles. The United States fired more than 190 Tomahawk missiles against Libyan air defenses and command centers in the first ten days of the war. Besides, many national security hawks doubt whether the Libya mission is advancing US national security interests and the US Congress has not yet expressed approval of the war either. NYT:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Thursday [May 12th] that the air offensive in Libya had cost the Pentagon $750 million so far, more than originally expected for a conflict that Mr. Gates said he had never imagined the United States would enter. "If you'd asked me four months ago if we'd be in Libya today, I would have asked, 'What were you smoking?' " Mr. Gates told Marines during a visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Sean Guillory from the University of Pittsburgh comments on Killing Fulbright-Hays.

Prof. Mark Lynch tweets "Congress cripples future academic knowledge of world."

Other scholars want to do something about it: Has the Fulbright-Hays Cancellation Affected You? and Fulbright Hays 2011 is Cancelled. Do Something.

Endnote: I was told that some folks have problems commenting on this blog in Firefox. Drop me an email, if this affects you: wolf(ÄT)atlanticreview(DOT)org.


No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Joerg on :

Jared McBride, a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Dept. at UCLA, wrote a blogpost as well: Fulbright-Hays: The Newest Victim of Education Cuts [url][/url] There is now a Facebook Page Save Fulbright-Hays DDRA [url][/url]

David on :

Very short-sighted and devastating to our next generation of scholars. Yet another example of misplaced priorities in the US.

Dissertation Reviews on :

Has this decision affected you or someone you know? In an effort to keep tabs of how this announcement impacts the overall community, we’d like to hear from you. Please leave a comment at or contact us at and let us know your situation and your story. Our very best wishes to all students affected by this situation.

Pat Patterson on :

Well, there is a move to figure out dual use capabilities but so far the Fulbright scholars just make a mess when they hit and they don't go very far when launched.

John in Michigan, US on :

Those scholars are worse than scuds! I demand accountability! Semi-seriously, since the US is spending all this gold on Tomahawks to enforce Europe's sphere of influence in Libya (including immigration and oil interests), Europe should pay for these educational programmes. Only fair, no? Republicans recognized the need for these programs, why are Democrats letting these cuts go through? We know why : All spending must go to union jobs. The scholars failed to form a union. They are not only scuds, they are scabs! Seriously, I highly doubt these programs will be permanently cut. It is window dressing, the cuts will be restored during the dead of night (which in the case of Fulbright, is fine with me).

David on :

John, The German Government does fund American scholars doing doctoral research in Germany. My own work was funded very generously by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst).

John in Michigan, US on :

David, That doesn't surprise me. Whatever the funding level of DAAD and similar programs, the EU (particularly, Italy and France) should increase that funding in order to compensate the US for its Tomahawk and other Libya expenditures. Am I serious? Not really, but as long as Jorg is making symbolic linkage between guns and butter, I figure I might as well make symbolic linkages between butter and guns. Its all Karma.

Joerg on :

John, okay, let's play along. So what do you suggest? How many Fulbright scholars should Germany fund for each Tomahawk missile? Put a price tag on the usefulness of those Tomahawks in Libya and the Fulbrighters to US national security. Oh, tough one. Germany pays already about 2/3 of the German-American Fulbright programs, even though there are slightly more US than German Fulbrighters. 252 Americans went to Germany on a Fulbright in 2009-10. And 226 Germans went to the US in that academic year. The German-American Fulbright commissions received 7,3 Mio Euro in total in that year. The US government contributed with 2,2 Mio Euro. The German government paid 4,2 Mio Euro. The rest comes from other sources, incl 283.000 EUR from the ERP program, which is from the German government as well. [url][/url]

John in Michigan, US on :

In the case of Libya, that's easy: why not match the expenses Euro for Euro. Got any hard questions?

John in Michigan, US on :

By match the expenses, I meant: for every US dollar spent defending the Libyan rebels, convert to Euro and Germany spends that amount on scholarships. I didn't mean to imply that the existing Fulbright programme was unfair or that the Germans were not paying enough compared to the US. In summarize: it is the guns-butter linkage I am complaining about, I am not trying to complain that Germany doesn't contribute enough to the Fulbright programme itself.

Joerg on :

"it is the guns-butter linkage I am complaining about," I don't get your point. Look at how both issues do (or do not) advance US national security.

Pat Patterson on :

The the question would be the choice between a Tomahawk and a doctoral dissertation on the Ukraine during the war and the reimposition of Soviet control? The latter having no applicable interest for the general public or even among the specialists except as a resume builder.

Martin on :

The dissertation is not all. The scholarship enhances foreign language skills and area and cultural knowledge, which are crucial for many jobs, incl. State Department, CIA, Pentagon, and even US corporations who make tons of money around the world.

David on :

"The latter having no applicable interest for the general public.." Thank God we have scholars researching subjects that have no applicable interest for the general public.

Pat Patterson on :

But this cut was only the dissertation program for doctoral candidates. How many of these dissertations actually contribute to the knowledge of man especially as they are for the most part ignored? To say or imply a broader cut is simply not true as the rest of the Fulbright programs will see a slight increase in funding. Do we really need another dissertation on the treatment of the Ukrainians when we all ready have Conquest's book on the same subject. Maybe the president shouldn't have hired some of the almost 3,000,000 Federal employees. A 5% increase in two years. And if this is such a crisis then why hasnt the President or Mrs Clinton pushed for full funding. Probably because the cut this program to save some of the others.

John in Michigan, US on :

David, I actually agree about the value of Ivory Tower or "useless" science, and similarly, other "useless" academic pursuits like humanities, philosophy, art, etc. On the other hand, I do feel that the Ph.D. credential has become somewhat watered down (diploma mill). I think this is somewhat the US's fault (not sarcastic this time), at some point we decided to favor quantity over quality. Not sure if this complaint applies to the Fulbright...

Marie Claude on :

uh, PHD dissertations in Germany are the medias jokes since a while

Pat Patterson on :

The only thing cut, actually announced that there were no applications being accepted, was in the dissertation program. All other Fulbright-Hay programs will receive slightly more than last year. And since this program and the entire Fulbright program is under the aegis of the Department of State they have show little interest in protecting the funding.

Joe on :

Forget the cruise missiles, do you know how many votes $5800000 will buy? I mean NATO is just so "patriarchal," so why not turn down a few applicants? Besides, this idea that they're the eyes and ears there to "teach America about the world" as if the entire nation is some sort of dim-wit is rather rich. This is not a case of [i]guns vs. butter[/i] unless you believe that the Department of Education buys Tomahawks. Based on Germany spending less than 1,4% of GDP on defense, I think you chose the wrong metric.

Kevin Sampson on :

Let's make it simple, continue to fund the schaolarship program and tell Europe to fight it's own war. That should give the scholars something to study as well. It's all good.

Juls on :

I see a lot of people here complaining and using Germany as a point of reference, but the Fulbright-Hays doesn't go to German scholarship. You'll all notice in the article that the F-H goes to "non-western" regions: places that may not, in fact, have matching funds, or may have no funding at all--does that mean that they are unworthy of study? Would someone say that about Afghanistan--a little more study there could have been really helpful. I know several people who have benefitted endlessly from their F-H experiences, which also promote a good image of Americans abroad. I would love Europe to fight its own war here, but since they don't help us fund the F-H, it's irrelevant. I'm sure that many Europeans would have said that about Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a difference between the Fulbright (full disclosure--I was awarded a Fulbright in 2005 for Spain) and the Fulbright-Hays. And John in Michigan, while you make some interesting points, until you actually get a Ph.D., and realize how much work and effort it takes, please refrain from calling Ph.D. programs blanket "diploma mills".

John in Michigan, US on :

@Juls: Thanks for writing. 'please refrain from calling Ph.D. programs blanket "diploma mills".' I only claimed that the credential has been "somewhat" watered down. I did not mean to suggest that all Ph.D.s were watered down...but some of them clearly are. It depends on the programme and the subject. No one questions that it is a lot of work (and a lot of money!). But, does the work actually make them a better scholar? Sometimes, it does, particularly in fields like physics, biology, humanities. I make a glaring exception for most of the critical studies, ethnic studies, area studies, etc. movements which span history, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, economics, etc. I find these fields to be militantly anti-intellectual, a form of erudite nihilism masquerading as knowledge. Climate Science is 90% junk science. Scholarly and ethical standards are virtually non-existent, although here and there, one can find some good climate scientists in the field. Also, in fields like economics, or education, a MBA/Ph.D/Ed.D. is useless, or worse than useless. I would much rather learn economics from a business(wo)man (or even a long-term profitable trader. See [url=]Nassim Taleb[/url]) than a from an MBA or Ph.D. I would rather children learn from a subject matter expert with good teaching skills, than from a Ed.D. So I am not against Ph.D.s, in fact I quite like them. But the diploma mill phenomenon is quite real, and a huge problem. Please interpret this post in the spirit of sweeping generalization, there are always exceptions.

David on :

"I make a glaring exception for most of the critical studies, ethnic studies, area studies, etc. movements which span history, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, economics, etc. I find these fields to be militantly anti-intellectual, a form of erudite nihilism masquerading as knowledge." Wow, I'm writing to President Faust at Harvard University that these disciplines should be phased out immediately (she herself is a respected historian and will no doubt despair about your verdict, John)

John in Michigan, US on :

David, while you're writing, ask her to have her economists, the best in the world, explain the state of the Harvard endowment 2008-2010, which they BLEW UP. Be sure to cc me on her response, should be a fun read.

Kevin Sampson on :

“I would love Europe to fight its own war here, but since they don't help us fund the F-H, it's irrelevant” They don’t help us fund cruise missile acquisitions either, which makes the whole cruise missile vs. scholarships whine equally irrelevant. The point is we fund both, so if we curtail spending on one, it will make the other to fund. I would have thought that was blindingly obvious.

Joerg on :

Good: Teachers instead of Tomahawks ;-) "The Fulbright Scholar Program is now accepting applications for awards to teach and/or carry out research in the Middle East and North Africa in the 2012-2013 academic year, for periods of/from 3 to 10 months. Approximately 50 awards will be offered to scholars in any field of the arts, humanities, sciences, technology, social sciences, law, business and education. A PhD or terminal degree, a record of teaching and research and U.S. citizenship are required. Foreign language proficiency is not required for most teaching. Deadline for applications is August 1, 2011. For more information, visit "

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options