The Corner

The Moral Mush of Pacifism

Colman McCarthy has a really exasperating op-ed in the Post today arguing that ROTC must remain banned from campuses, even after the DADT repeal. As I briefly mentioned in my column yesterday, the lifting of DADT is really inconvenient for peaceniks and other folks who hold anti-military views because it lends credibility to the military (among liberals and leftists).

If the point of the column was simply to honestly admit this, I’d find it admirable. But it gets worse. McCarthy adds this:

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. In recent years, I’ve had several Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans in my college classes. If only the peace movement were as populated by people of such resolve and daring.

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace. If a school such as Harvard does sell out to the military, let it at least be honest and add a sign at its Cambridge front portal: Harvard, a Pentagon Annex.

This is a riot of intellectual and moral confusion. First of all, the idea that any of the Ivies currently enjoys something that might be called “intellectual purity” is a compliment unearned (but such flattery will no doubt be eagerly accepted). Second, the notion that intellectualism is somehow at odds with military values or ethics is willfully dishonest (paging VDH!). Since when has “intellectual purity” or intellectualism of any kind been defined by its antipathy to the military?  Third, the idea that nations cannot wage war for peace is one of the most easily disproved and transparently silly utopian notions out there. The post-WWII peace was bought with a lot of killing and destroying, not with a seminar.

And, last, there’s this execrable bit of moral equivalence: “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 …”

This is the sort of obtuse even-handedness that drove Orwell crazy. Moreover McCarthy clearly doesn’t even believe it. Of course he’s anti-soldier. He believes they dedicate themselves to a “foul notion.”

Er, no. In America, they dedicate themselves to protecting America, her liberties and her Constitution. The Taliban’s priorities are very different and one cannot wave them away by prattling on about the “discipline” and “loyalty” of Jihadist murderers.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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