Thursday, March 03, 2005


Today's Columbia Spectator had two pieces offering support to returning ROTC to Columbia. I think they are both very right headed, and I thought I could add to the discussion.

The ROTC program is a way to train officers for the US military. The officers take a regular curriculum of studies in college, and also classes that pertain to their military career. During the Vietnam era, many of the liberal campuses kicked ROTC off their campus. The government has been rather unsuccessful at forcing their way back on since then.

But it seems to me that liberal universities like Columbia ought to really want ROTC back on their campus. There are a number of reasons why. First, I think that by default a college ought to offer as many opportunities to its students as they can afford, providing they are within the bounds of what is legal and moral. If you think that having armies in general is immoral, then we really have nothing to say to each other. You may not like them, but sometimes we just need them. If you think a country can get on fine without one, . . . well, we are going to sit around and call each other naive. So ROTC seems like a wonderful opportunity for some students that want to see the military as a future career, or see being a reservist as a great opportunity.

So I think that it is incumbent on the anti-ROTC activist to defend why she is opposed to it. Here are the reasons commonly given.

1) The military has a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy about homosexuals. Thus it does not promote the progressive dogmas that academics espouse. Thus it is a force to be barred from campus.

This is true. The military does have this policy. Perhaps it is old fashioned. Perhaps it is necessary. The British military just gave it up. Perhaps the US military will too. Clinton tried, and the higher ups in the military hated him for it, and he spent a bunch of his presidency not being taken seriously by the military. There is a belief in the military that homosexuals will be bad for morale and unit cohesion and will make the US military branches less effective fighting forces. This is partially a matter for empirical study (to see if it is true), and partially a decision to see if the military wants to attempt to make people get over their homophobia, in the same way that they made millions of southerners get over their racism by integrating blacks in to the military.

One thing is certain. As long as the military officer corps is made up of people with theology degrees from Bob Jones Christian Bible College in Alabama (or whatever) there will be no gays in the military. As long as the officer corps is kept free of people who had liberal educations, as long as they had very homophobic educations, the officer corps will stay homophobic.

I have no real belief about what is better for the military - to allow gays in or not. But if you do, you should want officers who went to liberal universities represented. If your liberal university refuses to host an ROTC program, then you are contributing to the problem.

2) A second challenge to ROTC is always that liberal institutions do not like the government or the military, and thus wants no part of it, and does not want to be involved in training the future soldiers of the US.

This is a silly argument. No one thought to shut down the economics programs or Public Administrations programs because they do not like the economic systems or politicians in the US. On the contrary, if you want to change an institution, you do not let other people train the people who are in it and think it will then change to suit your needs because you are ignoring it. If you do not like the way something is getting done, train your own people to do it. Tell them how you want it done.

The military will not get better if you keep well trained people out of it. The army will also not disappear just because you don't like it. You have to learn to compromise. Work with the Army, and the Army will have to work with you, whether they want to or not. Work against the Army, and they will ignore you, and you will be irrelevant when it comes to decision making. Thinking you can fight this from the outside is ridiculous. The army will exist as long as other countries have armies or weapons. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

3) There is also a fear that the ROTC will be used as government mouthpieces on campus. This may be true. But of course I really do not see what is wrong with a government mouthpiece. In a world where the government does represent a large (at least 50%) part of the people, should their voice not be heard in Americas leading institution. Of course ROTC must not be used as government thugs, and that goes without saying, but outside the Academic catechism of Faith, there is nothing that says that we should not hear voices that are unpopular.

4) There are many complaints about racism in the military. This is not the kind where blacks or whites or Jews are mistreated or anything like that. I am sure that happens, but the Army deals with that. I have never see it though. But what I am talking about is that blacks make up a proportionate amount of the enlisted personnel. That is good. But they make up a disproportionately small number of the officer corps. That is bad. So of the real decision-makers, they are disproportionately white, and of the people who die in combat, blacks are proportionately represented. That is unfair. The reason for this is now obvious.

To become an officer, you have to have gone to college. The liberal universities which try to recruit minorities are also so liberal that they do not have ROTC. So the opportunities for becoming an officer are closed to blacks, not because of the military, but rather because of the liberal institutions themselves. The ROTC needs to follow the minorities. But the liberal institutions close the military to their students. Bringing ROTC back will reopen officer doors to minorities.

Arguments for ROTC exist too:

1) A program like ROTC may be one of the few ways for some people to afford college. Keeping ROTC off your campus is perpetuating a classist system where only rich people can attend, and it is yet another barred against poor people at your school.

2) The diversity that those training with a military perspective brings should also be tempting. I can tell you that the military and the university is a study in contrasts. Where else will you have such a wonderful and important clash of ideas over such fundamental issues we face as a society.

Return ROTC because you want to be the one to have educated the next secretary of defense, not some racist, homophobic, religious fanatic college down south.

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