Loose Canons

Let’s Ban Ivy League ROTC

Our military can remain the best on the planet without its precious help.

By 1.3.11

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Like the poor, those who hate the military will always be with us. In days of the Vietnam War, a lot of them chose to protest rather than learn, forcing the closure of classes so that they could use their colleges as stages to protest the war and the draft that threatened their comfortable existence. Too many of those who despise the military -- the protesters of the 1960s and their progeny -- have succeeded in taking over the faculties and administrations of some "elite" schools and thus can dominate the minds of their students.

Now that the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law prohibiting homosexuals from openly serving in the military has been repealed, some Serious People are pondering loudly if ROTC should be permitted back on campus. They pose all sorts of Important Questions, asking straight-facedly whether the military's warrior ethic should be allowed to taint the "intellectual purity" of academia.

First, let's set the record straight. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, and Columbia -- and pretty much all the rest of the Ivies -- tossed ROTC out not in response to the DADT law, but back in about 1969 at the height of the Vietnam antiwar protests. They latched on to the DADT law only as an excuse to continue their exclusion of the military after the enactment of the Solomon Amendment in 1996 threatened their federal grant money. (Rep. Gerald Solomon's law prohibits those colleges that ban ROTC and refuse to grant military recruiters access to their students from receiving federal grants which, in the case of many of these colleges, amounts to tens of millions of dollars a year. It's never been enforced, more is the pity.)

But the Serious People are asking the wrong question. The right question is this: Is it in the military's best interest to invest time and money to recruit and train young officers from among the denizens of the Ivy League? In short, it isn't.

Why would the military want to go to the expense and effort of establishing ROTC detachments at the Ivies where they are still unwelcome? Is it because the Ivy League students are so superior to everyone else that their intelligence and morals are essential to the military's success? That's what the Ivies, in their solipsism, want us to believe.

Only four years ago, when Yale allowed former Taliban spokesman Rahmatullah Hashemi to attend classes as a student (while still maintaining its ban on ROTC), I was guest-hosting a radio show and invited Yale President Dr. Richard Levin to come on the air to explain the college's position. Levin demurred, of course, but his flack sent an e-mail which is a perfect example of that solipsism. Part of the e-mail she sent stated, "While Yale does not host an ROTC program, the University does support those who wish to make such a commitment and we believe that the leadership these students provide is vital to our military."

Can you imagine our Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force without Ivy Leaguers in command? Well, yes. Banning ROTC at the Ivies is as damaging to the military as banning recruitment at Vassar would be to the NFL.

For four decades, we've managed pretty well despite the lack of ROTC at the Ivies. Our military -- by all accounts, even those rendered by hyperliberals such as our president -- is the best on the planet. Some of my best friends are Yalies, but it's absurd to say that the military would be measurably better were there bunches of youthful officers coming out of New Haven. Would they be good men and women? Probably. But would they be better than those coming out of the service academies and the nearly 500 colleges and universities that have ROTC?

No, and they'd likely be worse. The following paragraph is intended for young Americans between the ages of 12 and 17. No one else has permission to read it.

Okay, folks. Listen up. There are thousands of great colleges around the nation at which you can learn any skill or profession you choose. And in none of those colleges will you be so indoctrinated in contempt for your nation, its history and values as you will be in the Ivies. Give yourself a boost in life: for all the supposed benefits you'd get in an Ivy League school, you'll learn more and gain a more realistic view of your nation and the world if you attend a college that's not among the Ivies. Learn elsewhere, and graduate without having your nose so stuck in the air that you believe America isn't a force for good in the world. And trust me, guys: chicks dig the uniform, regardless of which college you graduated from.

We have no shortage of officers, so why would the military impose ROTC on any college that doesn't want it? And the strings that the Ivies want to impose -- not granting faculty status to ROTC instructors, refusing college credit for ROTC courses -- don't stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

Antiwar hacks such as the Washington Post's Colman McCarthy say that ROTC taints the "intellectual purity" of the schools, and insist that ROTC isn't worth academic credit because the courses don't meet academic requirements. Really? Do the Ivy League courses on "women's studies," "gay and lesbian studies" and such -- all of which teach political views, not history or sociology -- have more academic rigor than studying, as I did in Air Force ROTC, the history of air war and why civilian control of the military is essential to maintaining democracy?

The "academic standards" contention is risible. The Ivies indoctrinate their students in a left-wing ideology that will make their students' service in the military difficult for the young officers and all with whom they serve.

The best young officers are those who are well rounded in their academic and athletic training and their off-campus experiences. People such as they aren't likely to graduate from an Ivy League school where the unreconstructed hippies of the 1960s dominate the faculty and teach a political ideology that disdains America.

According to a Boston Globe report, only one Harvard freshman has joined Army ROTC in the past two years. That young man has to travel to MIT to take ROTC classes. People such as he should be welcomed into the military, not shunned. But -- for that reason and the others I've already described -- it's clearly not worth the military's time and money to establish ROTC at Harvard or any of the other schools that now ban it.

The Solomon Amendment should be enforced. Allow military recruiters on campus with effective access to students, and those who seek a military career can still enlist in ROTC programs at the more than 2,400 colleges and universities that host ROTC students from other schools.

And lest we be misunderstood, let's say it one more time: Ivies, we don't need you, and until you rejoin America, we don't want you. Capiche?

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.