Green Light

Posted by lex, on December 22, 2010

Back in the day, Ivy League schools provided the services with gifted officers for the front lines, many of whom served heroically in combat before coming home, tempered by both experiences, to build a great nation. It also provided undergraduate students who lacked the money and connections a fully-funded opportunity for a first rate education at our country’s flagship universities. All of that ended at certain Ivies during the culture turmoils of the late 1960s. The victors of that struggle traded peace signs for PhDs (while, one suspects, still clutching at their bongs) and began their long, Gramscian march through the institutions. Safely nestled there, away from the outer world and all of its pedestrian concerns, they connived to extend the ROTC ban to the present day on the pretext of opposing President Clinton’s “Don’t ask/don’t tell” compromise, which prevented gays and lesbians from openly proclaiming their sexual orientation (and commanders from asking.)

Now that the dreadful discrimination of DADT has been swept into the ash bin of history, the rationale for the prohibition against on-campus ROTC has lost whatever veneer of plausibility it once held. The question, as Johns Hopkins Professor Eliot Cohen perceptively asks, is whether, after a long separation, there is any desire left for that remarriage:

This moment of apparent reconciliation between academic gowns and uniforms, however, will yield little unless all concerned realize how difficult it will be actually to return ROTC to elite campuses. The two cultures have, over more than a generation, grown apart. Neither relishes the idea of coming back together.

Let’s consider the players: Except for a tiny minority of the professionally discontented, students will not oppose ROTC. Faculty of a certain generation are more likely to have reservations. Some will stereotype those stiff-backed, austerely groomed young men and women in uniform, many of whom will not embrace the politics of the modern campus. The military is, in the nature of things, conservative; and for some time , elite universities have been liberal. (That, by the way, is an excellent reason to force them to interact.) As any dean knows, faculties are masters of passive-aggressive behavior, and while they may not overtly reject ROTC they can find ways of containing, obstructing or subverting it. Tussles for office space, refusal of excused absences for training or merely a stream of disparaging remarks can make it clear that ROTC may be present but it is not welcome.

More serious resistance, however, may come from the military. As has become distressingly clear to me in numerous conversations with serving officers, many really do not want to return to the Harvards, Stanfords and Yales of our country. They fear that going back to the Ivies will prove inefficient – too many cadre for too few cadets – and doubt they can recruit many elite undergraduates. Some officers and sergeants will feel uncomfortable, if not downright insecure, dealing with Ivy League professors. The services will have to give up some (silly) rules, such as requiring that the military appoint a voting member of the host university’s faculty or insisting on course credit for military training. And deep down, some officers simply do not want all that many young people who belong to a class that is now unfamiliar with military service and out of touch with – and possibly hostile to – military culture.

The latest census results show that it is not just the military who have shifted south (and west). The country is doing so, or at least those who can afford to; those who are not immobilized by joblessness or the paucity of after-tax income traceable to Ivy League social and economic theories. Both the working and entrepreneurial classes have seen what modern day political liberalism has to offer and are voting with their feet. The heart of America is shifting south, and it does not much surprise that the military is moving with them.

As for the Ivies, it appears the rest of us have decided that, when it comes to building and defending our nation, we might just have to do it without them.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Military

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