Bat Lessons

May 6th, 2011

I was startled by the irony in the March/April 2011 issue, in which the report on bat research at Brown ("Dispatches from the Bat Cave") was juxtaposed with the well-deserved adulation and remembrances of Richard Holbrooke '62 ("The Ambassador").

The notion that "bats could help us get bin Laden" contrasts sharply with the recollection by Catherine Karnow '82 that her father, when Holbrooke introduced him to General Stanley McChrystal, said "What I learned in Vietnam is that we shouldn't have been [in Afghanistan] in the first place." I was saddened at BAM senior writer Lawrence Goodman's image of bat-inspired drones navigating their way through Pakistan and Afghanistan to hunt down enemy combatants. It's bad enough that our president and generals can't learn the lessons of history and continue to kill innumerable civilians with anonymous drones and keep us involved in seemingly endless tribal conflicts that have less and less to do with "getting bin Laden." (As if that, not securing our oil supply, were the goal of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya).

Brown students and alumni, as well as the BAM writers who communicate the excitement of Brown, know better. Co-opting bats and the intellectual accomplishments of those who study them to make better tools of warfare—and choosing to highlight only those tools on the cover and on the table of contents—makes a mockery of what we learned at Brown and what we teach our students every day.

Aaron M. Ellison '86 PhD
Petersham, Mass.

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Related Issue
May/June 2011