Protection for All

In today’s Impromptus, I note what Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard, has noted: that between 1969 and 2002, no Harvard president spoke at an ROTC commissioning ceremony; and that Harvard refused to allow students to record their ROTC service in their yearbooks.

I then indulge myself in a little explosion of venom and hyperbole: “You have to wonder whether these SOBs” — meaning Harvard administration, and all like them — “really deserved the protection of the U.S. military.”

Several readers have written to say, “The military protects all, no matter what.” Come on. Look both ways before you cross the street, too. And don’t swim on a full stomach.

In defense of my venom and hyperbole: I said “deserved” — “really deserved the protection of the U.S. military.” Often, it’s right to extend protection to people who don’t necessarily deserve it.

I remember back in the Reagan ’80s, when little places like my Ann Arbor, Mich., were declaring themselves “nuclear-free zones.” I used to think, “Yeah, but the American nuclear deterrent protects you regardless.” I also thought, “Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if places like Ann Arbor could actually exempt themselves? If there could be precise holes in the nuclear umbrella? Maybe Dr. Teller could set his mind to it?”

Yes, yes: The American serviceman, the American nuclear deterrent, and all the rest protect Noam Chomsky and your Betsy Ross-like great-aunt, regardless. Ain’t it grand?

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