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 Carre, 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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|Title Annotation:||R.I.P.; Harold William Rood|
|Publication:||Claremont Review of Books|
|Article Type:||In memoriam|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2011|
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