The Return of ROTC

Great news!  Now that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited the open discussion or practice of homosexual behavior in the military, has been repealed, elite universities like Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford are talking about letting the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps back on campus.  They kicked it out in a spirit of righteous outrage, after Bill Clinton imposed the DADT policy in the 90s.

Wait, no, that’s not right.  A Washington Post article by Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins points out that most of these universities booted out the ROTC to protest the Vietnam War.  (Cohen, a ROTC graduate himself, notes Johns Hopkins was not one of them.)  He cites “the attenuated memories of Vietnam, a restoration of patriotic sentiment, a far less turbulent student body, and the trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001” as reasons they might be willing to reinstate these programs, but obviously none of those factors were sufficient.  It took the repeal of DADT to get them openly discussing it.

So… the moralistic fury of aging hippies over Vietnam will finally dissipate, because the military has demonstrated sufficient enlightenment by allowing gay soldiers to serve openly?  Whatever your stance on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I hope you retain sufficient patriotic spirit to join me in saying, “To hell with these arrogant jerks.”  Just wait until next week to say it.  It’s Christmas time, after all.

This should make it quite clear that repeal of DADT had nothing to do with the best interests of the military, at least in the minds of these academics.  Nobody at Harvard, Columbia, or Stanford gave a damn about the interests of the military, until it complied with their ideology.  At the signing ceremony for DADT repeal today, President Obama said it would “strengthen our national security.”  Our national security would have been far more enhanced if tenured radicals had stopped interfering with military recruiting thirty years ago.

I’ve leaned against repealing DADT because so many combat troops were against it, but my feelings were mixed, because some of the arguments in favor were persuasive.  DADT was unquestionably an affront to the dignity of gay soldiers.  A lot of what happens in basic training and deployment is an affront to everyone’s dignity, of course, but I thought the weight of this additional one should be measured carefully against military necessity.  The resistance of combat troops ultimately convinced me necessity did justify DADT, but I thought it was a close call. 

Apparently it wasn’t a close call for the faculty at elite universities, which couldn’t have cared less about military necessity, until America passed their sociology midterm exam and earned a pat on the head.  The media has been reporting the possible return of ROTC to elite campuses as a wonderful development.  I find it an outrageous reminder of three decades of miserable shame upon these universities.

Eliot Cohen thinks the military should accept the invitation and resume ROTC programs, because even though recruiting might not be tremendously productive at Harvard or Stanford, their presence will improve the lives of a student body increasingly divorced from military culture.  He supposes a few concessions in the traditional structure of the ROTC program will be demanded by the faculty.  I have a reciprocal concession from the faculty in mind: the inauguration of every new ROTC program should include a presentation from Vietnam combat veterans, relating the story of what really happened during that war.  Let the students understand the legacy of gallantry and valor their professors have treated with contempt.  Most of the professors wouldn’t attend, because they’re cowards who can’t deal with opposing viewpoints… but perhaps a few students will be inspired to enroll in the ROTC, and begin honorable careers of service.  Some of them might even be gay.  I hope that will be the happy ending of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” saga.