Phi Beta Cons

The Importance of ROTC in the Ivy League

Over at The American Spectator, Jed Babin argues that the military should shun the Ivies, even if invited back on campus after DADT’s repeal:

But the Serious People are asking the wrong question. The right question is this: Is it in the military’s best interest to invest time and money to recruit and train young officers from among the denizens of the Ivy League? In short, it isn’t.

Why would the military want to go to the expense and effort of establishing ROTC detachments at the Ivies where they are still unwelcome? Is it because the Ivy League students are so superior to everyone else that their intelligence and morals are essential to the military’s success? That’s what the Ivies, in their solipsism, want us to believe.

. . . 

For four decades, we’ve managed pretty well despite the lack of ROTC at the Ivies. Our military — by all accounts, even those rendered by hyperliberals such as our president  – is the best on the planet. Some of my best friends are Yalies, but it’s absurd to say that the military would be measurably better were there bunches of youthful officers coming out of New Haven. Would they be good men and women? Probably. But would they be better than those coming out of the service academies and the nearly 500 colleges and universities that have ROTC?

I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Jed’s argument. After all, we do have the world’s best military, and we’ve done it without much input from the Ivies. Unfortunately, during that same time period, our so-called cultural elite (which really isn’t all that elite) has become almost completely divorced from our warrior elite. I’m not sure that anyone has credibly argued that this is a positive development for our politics, policies, or culture. While we’ve thankfully elected some outstanding vets to in recent congressional elections, if you looked at the upper reaches of most of our culturally significant institutions, you’ll still find few vets — even after almost one full decade of war. 

It’s a sad fact that the Ivies — regardless of the merits of their education programs — will continue to be feed their students into the halls of power. These students need increased exposure to the military. Many of my own Harvard Law School classmates, some of the brightest people I’ve ever known, are shockingly ignorant of military matters. With more cadets on campus, that ignorance gap will close, and our future leaders in government, business, and entertainment will hopefully be a bit wiser and — who knows — even more willing to join themselves. If ROTC is at the Ivies, the military will get a few outstanding recruits — not necessarily better than what they’d get from, say, the University of Kentucky, but outstanding nonetheless. Students often come to college with their career plans ill-formed, and they choose from the options before them. If one of those options is ROTC, you’ll see a steady stream of recruits (not a deluge, but a steady stream). Had there been a larger military presence when I was in law school, I may have had the wisdom to join before I got old.  

After all, even at Harvard or Yale you’ll find students who possess the patriotism, physical courage, and selfless spirit necessary to lead men in combat.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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