You don’t often see a piece about war, much less about the war industry of which ROTC is a part, as honest as this one by Colman McCarthy in, of all places, the Washington Post:
Now that asking and telling has ceased to be problematic in military circles, ROTC has resurfaced as a national issue: Will universities such as Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League schools be opened to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps since colleges can no longer can argue that the military is biased against gays and therefore not welcome?
The debate reminds me of an interview I conducted over parents’ weekend at the University of Notre Dame in 1989. I sat down with Theodore Hesburgh, the priest who had retired two years earlier after serving 35 years as the university’s president. Graciously, he invited me to lunch at the campus inn. During our discussion, he took modest pride at having raised more than a billion dollars for Notre Dame, and expressed similar feelings about the university’s ROTC program. More than 700 student-cadets were in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Few universities, public or private, had a larger percentage of students in uniform then. The school could have been renamed Fort Hesburgh.
When I suggested that Notre Dame’s hosting of ROTC was a large negative among the school’s many positives, Hesburgh disagreed. Notre Dame was a model of patriotism, he said, by training future officers who were churchgoers, who had taken courses in ethics, and who loved God and country. Notre Dame’s ROTC program was a way to “Christianize the military,” he stated firmly.
I asked if he actually believed there could be a Christian method of slaughtering people in combat, or a Christian way of firebombing cities, or a way to kill civilians in the name of Jesus. Did he think that if enough Notre Dame graduates became soldiers that the military would eventually embrace Christ’s teaching of loving one’s enemies?
Here, in my view, is the heart of the matter:
At Notre Dame, on that 1989 visit and several following, I learned that the ROTC academics were laughably weak. They were softie courses. The many students I interviewed were candid about their reasons for signing up: free tuition and monthly stipends, plus the guarantee of a job in the military after college. With some exceptions, they were mainly from families that couldn’t afford ever-rising college tabs.
To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home. …
Colman McCarthy is one of those rarities on both sides of the political spectrum who opposes ALL taking of human life, including abortion and the death penalty, on the grounds that these are all forms of legalized murder. I don’t agree with him on abortion — I think there is a clear distinction between governments sending their citizens to kill other human beings to carry out those governments’ geopolitical goals; or the cold-blooded state-administered execution of a human being; and a woman choosing to end a pregnancy — which obviously means killing the embryo or fetus — because that pregnancy endangers her mental or physical health or life. However, I respect and even admire McCarthy’s moral consistency — especially given the fact that he also is decidedly NOT someone who opposes abortion and simultaneously opposes all or most social programs that would reduce the number of abortions by addressing the reasons many women choose to have them.
Please don’t bleed on the Ivy – the WaPo disgraces itself with this op-ed piece by Colman McCarthy (to whom we give props, in a ‘spell the name right, any publicity is good publicity’ sort of way). His gist – Set aside any notion you might have that our nation’s educated elite ought to have some contact with our nation’s military. In his view, US soldiers should fight, bleed and die elsewhere but not sully our college campuses with their presence[.]
That’s Tom Maguire at Just One Minute. Although I certainly respect not just Tom’s opinion but the strength of his feeling, he is clearly mistaken when he says that McCarthy’s view is that “U.S. soldiers should fight, bleed and die elsewhere but not sully our college campuses with their presence.” McCarthy does not believe U.S. soldiers should have to fight, bleed, and die anywhere, nor that they should be put in the position of killing people who never did any harm to them. Tom may disagree with that viewpoint, but that is what McCarthy is saying. As well, McCarthy’s opposition to ROTC’s presence on college campuses goes to his belief that military recruiters are targeting — in effect if not in intent — young men and women who have no or few other choices. Why should those college students who can’t find a job or don’t know what they are going to do after they graduate not have access to other choices besides just the military? Is fighting and dying in war the only way young men and women can serve their country? Are there not other ways to serve your country — like the Peace Corps or Teach for America, for just two examples? McCarthy is saying that joining the military should not be the only option college students are presented with.