The summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine contains a superb essay by Andrew J. Bacevich titled “Lessons from America’s War for the Greater Middle East.” Bacevich is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, a Vietnam War combat veteran, a PhD in history, and now on the faculty at Boston University. In the essay, Bacevich explores 10 lessons that he believes should be derived from more than 30 years of warfare in the Middle East, three decades of fighting that he thinks should be regarded as a single long conflict. Here’s one graph that gives you the flavor:

Let me state plainly my own overall assessment of that war. We have not won it. We are not winning it. And simply pressing on is unlikely to produce more positive results next year or the year after—hence, the imperative of absorbing the lessons this ongoing war has to teach. Learning offers a first-step toward devising wiser, more effective and less costly policies.

When I heard that Bacevich was in Notre Dame’s magazine, I perked up. He taught for a time in the 1990s at Johns Hopkins’ international affairs school, and I’ve wanted to get him into my magazine for years. How did he end up in Notre Dame Magazine? He is a former visiting fellow at the school’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

For a lot of our magazines that would be too slender a connection. Overseers often want only subjects or writers who are on the faculty now, if they’re not alumni. More rare is the piece written by an author with no connection to the university at all. I see such essays in Portland Magazine, where Brian Doyle is the master at cajoling words out of Pico Iyer, Barry Lopez, and other fine scribblers. But otherwise, almost nothing.

Yet most, if not all, of our campuses feature guest lecturers and speakers and participants in colloquia, several per year. This seems to me like justification for publishing the occasional piece by a guest contributor who is not an alum, not on the faculty, not a former anything at your school. The speaker series brings in interesting people to speak on your campus in the belief that this broadens the discourse and provides something stimulating to students, faculty, and people in the community. Why shouldn’t the magazine follow the same reasoning and bring in guest writers to produce thought-provoking content for your alumni?

A tough sell for the conventional mind of the overseer. But worth a try.

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