Why the Military Is Cut Off From Our Political Elite

Banning the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C) in the Sixties had an unintended consequence--it cut off our political elites from having another connection to the uniformed military:

THIS is the 40th anniversary of the antiwar protests that led to the ban of R.O.T.C. at some of the nation’s most elite universities — Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Tufts. And yet, the attitude on these campuses today is hardly antimilitary. There are numerous signs of genuine respect for the soldiers who serve. An editorial last May in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, which for decades attacked R.O.T.C., praised classmates who had joined the program. “They demonstrate a commitment to service that should be admired and followed by the rest of the student body,” The Crimson said. The Yale, Columbia and Brown student papers have all published editorials in the recent past calling for the return of R.O.T.C. to their campuses.

R.O.T.C. members interviewed at Harvard, M.I.T. and Yale said they rarely if ever heard negative comments around campus, and a few said they had experienced the opposite problem.

“People stop me and thank me for serving,” said Gregory Wellman, an Army R.O.T.C. cadet at M.I.T. “It’s a little awkward because at this point I’m just a student and haven’t done anything.”

Last spring, the Republican club at Harvard sent e-mail messages asking all undergraduates about the ban on R.O.T.C. Of the 1,700 students who answered, 62 percent favored returning it to campus.

At Harvard, the attitude toward the military began to shift after the 9/11 attacks, which was about the time that Lawrence Summers became president. That November, as part of the university’s Veterans Daycommemoration, he had letters hand-delivered to all students in the R.O.T.C. program, thanking them for their “commitment to national service.” For years, students could not list R.O.T.C. as an activity in the yearbook because it wasn’t an official program, but that changed after Dr. Summers met with the yearbook staff.

By 2008, under President Faust, Harvard was allowing the Army to land two Black Hawk helicopters on campus to transport Army R.O.T.C. members to Fort Devens, Mass., for weekend training.

Do you think the undercurrent of tension that the civilian leadership currently has with the uniformed military right now over policy has a connection to the fact that those campuses threw the R.O.T.C. under the bus? It was a ridiculous decision then, and the current separation of the uniformed military from the rest of America (yes, it is a sub-culture) has led to what we have now--a political elite that thinks nothing of permanent war.