ROTC At Columbia:

Barack Obama has given his blessing for ROTC to return to Columbia:

A vote to gauge the opinion of the entire student body on a repeal of the 40-year-old ban could come as early as this week.

A Columbia junior who is a marine officer candidate, Austin Byrd, said that the campus is abuzz about Mr. Obama's opposition, which he discussed at a forum on community service held at the university last week. He said he was surprised by the Democratic presidential candidate's "unabashed support" for allowing the program back on campus.

Other students said that the crowd of 7,500 that had gathered to watch the speech outside was similarly shocked.

A junior at Columbia, Jordan Hirsch, said that Mr. McCain was booed by students when he voiced his opposition to the ban, but that when Mr. Obama expressed a similar sentiment, the crowd had a different response.

"Almost everyone's expecting him to say no, because he's on our side, right? So then you heard him say 'yes' and everyone's mouths opened in stunned silence. It was absolutely priceless," Mr. Hirsch said.

The story reports that Columbia President Lee Bollinger voted to oppose ROTC's return in the Faculty Senate.

The Washington Post echoes Obama and McCain's views and also slips in an endorsement of Obama's views on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Via Dartblog and Dartlog.

Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Oh, the SOB says that now...

"Almost everyone's expecting him to say no, because he's on our side, right? So then you heard him say 'yes' and everyone's mouths opened in stunned silence.

Well, he's on his side, you see.
9.17.2008 11:57am
Sarcastro (www):
Obama: Super Liberal!

-When he's liberal, it proves he's super liberal.
-When he's not, it's too late and just an exception to his super liberalness!

Could he BE any more of a Marxist!
9.17.2008 12:04pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Could he BE any more of a Marxist!

To be any more of a Marxist, he would have to be more deceitful... and I fear he has that in him.
9.17.2008 12:08pm
Mikeyes (mail):
We have pointed out in the past that banning ROTC is not a reasonable point of view when you consider that the military is not responsible for the ban on gays and that a wide range of views in the officer corps of the military is a good thing.

I suspect that Senator Obama is thinking more like a president (i.e. we need good officers) than a liberal senator who has no stake in the issue from a practical standpoint.
9.17.2008 12:13pm
Cornellian (mail):
We have pointed out in the past that banning ROTC is not a reasonable point of view when you consider that the military is not responsible for the ban on gays and that a wide range of views in the officer corps of the military is a good thing.

The military is partly but not wholly responsible for DADT. However, DADT is headed for the dust bin of history, sooner rather than later. In the meantime I don't see a problem with having ROTC on campus.
9.17.2008 12:31pm
Think that there's any possibility of a McCain - Obama forum at Berkley? They can be asked the same question about ROTC on campus.

Sorry, Mikeyes:

I'm a bit more cynical. I suspect that Sen. Obama is thinking for like a candidate for President -- knowing that saying "No" to that question would lose him every vote of every "Reagan Democrat" household. And, if he'd said "No" I would have concluded that either he's completely clueless or a complete ideologue -- and in neither event could be a suitable President.

Maybe this is a harsh way of thinking. However, it was LBJ as Senate Majority Leader and later as President who got all the meaningful civil rights legislation pushed through and enacted. To do so, he had to ditch the support of many of his party's senior Congressmen and use every parlamentary trick to out maneuver them, and to line up the votes necessary to pass the laws from Republicans in Congress. At least part of his motivation was to secure the Black Vote for himself (in the 1960 primaries and for the 1964 election). Still, "don't look a gift horse in the mouth." LBJ got this critical legislation enacted at a time that, without it, the US might have otherwise been ripped apart. So, whatever his motives, the US benefitted.

As I support having ROTC offered at elite colleges (among other reasons, a ROTC Scholarship paid my way at a name university -- something a poor kid from the rural South otherwise couldn't have afforded), I don't really care why Sen. Obama supports ROTC at Columbia. The result is more important.
9.17.2008 12:39pm
Eli Rabett (www):
It really does not matter much if ROTC is at any particular school in a metro area. Increasingly the services are centralizing at one place and having the students from other local universities travel, for example, Washington DC
has Army at Georgetown, Air Force at Howard and UMd College Park and Navy at GWU. Among other things this limits the number of relatively senior personnel that have to be deployed by the services.
9.17.2008 12:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Given the professoriate at "elite" colleges, and their (they hope) effect on the students, would it be a good idea to have officers from elite colleges?
9.17.2008 12:52pm
the far left doesn't just dislike the DADT policy. I think their hatred for the military is far deeper than that. I don't see how one could doubt that, given the statements that sometimes seep out from the finest at such institutions. remember the good old days of one million Mogadishus.
9.17.2008 1:01pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Ha Ha. Are these smart students at an elite school really that stupid?

As wfjag points out, Obama wants to be president. The anti-ROTC students will vote for him anyways (he's on their side!) but opposing ROTC has zero benefits. Does not take an Einstein to predict Obama's response.
9.17.2008 1:27pm
Think that there's any possibility of a McCain - Obama forum at Berkley?

They should do a forum at Berklee. The military needs a good bands too.
9.17.2008 1:49pm
Sarcastro (www):

Does not take an Einstein to predict Obama's response.

Especially in retrospect!
9.17.2008 1:49pm
Houston Lawyer:
I find the Obama response unremarkable. It is the students' response that is amusing. I wish I knew how to write the Barney Fife stutter. You know things must be pretty good when the best the students' can do is to protest the possible reinstatement of the ROTC.
9.17.2008 2:03pm
Mikeyes (mail):
Given the professoriate at "elite" colleges, and their (they hope) effect on the students, would it be a good idea to have officers from elite colleges?

One advantage of having ROTC officers in the service is that they are not products of the professional schools. While the service academies are very good schools, they do produce a cookie-cutter product (much like Berklee, by the way, but that is another issue) that can narrow the views of officers in the services and affect overall policies.

ROTC officers tend to be more like civilians as their formative years are not in the total immersion of the service academies. Whether the student goes to Harvard or Weber State, there will be a broader set of influences than in the service academies. It is not likely that the followers of a radical professor will seek out ROTC and more likely that those who volunteer for the service will hold more conventional values, but they will still bring in a knowledge set and a way of thinking that is not the same as the Academy graduates.

So yes, why not have ROTC at the "elite" schools? In WWII Harvard hosted the communications school for the Navy and many of the graduates of that school went to academically elite universities before joining the Navy (my father being one.) The Ivy League has a long (although distant) history of supporting ROTC and producing outstanding officers. Colonels and Flag Officers often go to elite level schools for graduate work. Having ROTC at Columbia is not a disconnect.
9.17.2008 2:08pm
I trust that Armed Forces personnel are allowed to carry arms on campus?
9.17.2008 2:12pm
The River Temoc (mail):
God, the naivete of these Columbia students is stunning. They actually expected a presidential candidate of either party to oppose ROTC?
9.17.2008 2:23pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Especially in retrospect!

All my predictions are made that way. I have never been wrong.
9.17.2008 2:35pm
James Gibson (mail):
I took the time to check this before I commented but did you all know that John F. Kennedy went to Navy ROTC before he took command of PT109. Of course he took it after he graduated from Harvard.

The policy against ROTC on Campus's is so old many of the Ivy league schools have forgotten why it even started (if they ever truly knew). Today the Politically correct statement is its because of Don't Ask, Don't tell, but Columbia's policy predates that by over two decades. The real reason was to attack Selective Service during the Vietnam war.

Under the terms of the original SSA (1917) the men conscripted into service were to be officered by the graduates of the ROTC programs. Thus, by ending ROTC on campus's, academia was reducing the yearly number of ROTC graduates, and by theory limiting the number of men who could be conscripted per year. Its hard to show this ever had any effect since most of the schools ended ROTC after Vietnam and after the draft was suspended. But considering the number of people who seem to be advocating a return to the draft to democratize the military services, one has to wonder how the Ivy league can continue to support a policy whose original goal was to make the draft impossible even in time of war.
9.17.2008 2:45pm
Dave N (mail):
DADT is the current figleaf for leftists to oppose ROTC. I suspect if DODT was repealed, the opponents would find another excuse, then another, then another. . . .
9.17.2008 2:50pm
Sarcastro (www):
All leftists hate the military. I know this because of a number of reasons

1. I am a mind reader
2. There are no liberals in the military.
4. Liberals say they hate the military all the time.
5. Liberals that deny hating the military are all well known liars.
6. A few liberals say they hate the military. I assume these are the few that are telling the truth.
9.17.2008 2:56pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
WW II was different, and the elites were far more honorable than today.
I am aware of the need for broad outlooks, although the academies might object to "cookie cutter". When I was in OCS, we were told that, whoever we might have been as a scum-sucking, bottom-feeding sillyvilian, when we graduated, (if), we would be Infantry second lieutenants, olive drab in color, one each.
It was said, with what truth I know not, that commanders liked a mix of OCS and ROTC. ROTC guys might be more inclined to think of a way around, but if you needed somebody to take a unit up the middle, you wanted an OCS guy.
My point is not all colleges vs. the academies. My point is the influence of the "elites" on their student bodies. Perhaps we can presume they don't have much.
Or, perhaps the ROTC detachment will be allowed not only on campus, but to operate in peace.
There will be no grade punishment for cadets (see Kim Curtis and Duke lax), no mere wrist slaps for those harassing cadets and damaging facilities. Now that I think about it, I don't think, say, Columbia would do.
9.17.2008 3:06pm
Dave N (mail):

You didn't respond to my post (where I also used the word "leftist"). However, I feel compelled to respond because I do not think all liberals are "leftists"--though the current state of political discourse is such that we demonize our opponents by calling them names: "leftist," "right-wing," "Socialist," "fascist," etc. etc., ad nauseam.

Apparently, the theory is that if you call your political opponents names, then anything your opponents say can be discarded as unworthy of debate.

That said, I used the word "leftist" in my post to describe a certain subset who actively dislike the military and capitalism (among other things), and stand either on the left-most edge of the Democratic Party or are so far left (think Ralph Nader) that they consider the Democratic Party to be "conservative."

I have no doubt there are liberals in the military--though few, if any, true leftists. And leftists (as opposed to liberals in general) do hold the military and those who serve in a certain disdain.
9.17.2008 3:51pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Dave N isn't your post a bit circular then? "I can tell the people who hate the military will totally hate the military no matter what!"]
9.17.2008 3:54pm
Zywicki (mail):
I once asked a senior Pentagon official about this and he said that the value of having ROTC at the "elite" schools is not so much in the education (although that is part of it) but getting access to the talent pool of students who attend there. As you might expect at any competitive organization (such as a Fortune 500 company or elite law firm), the top ranks of management are drawn from the brightest and most ambitious group of people. Although those students can be found at any good university, they are more highly concentrated at the most conpetitive schools. Thus, the top officers of the military are disproportionately drawn from the talent pool of the top univerisities (including presumably the military service academies as well).

One would expect to see the same correlation for Fortune 500 corporations or top law firms, which likely reflects correlation (smart kids go there) at least as much as causation (those schools have a lot more value-added).
9.17.2008 3:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So the ROTC hopes to get the top kids and immunize them from various lefty indoctrination?
I like that.
Presuming they can pull it off.
However, the grads from those schools could enlist if they felt like it, absent ROTC. Most guys do.
Would having ROTC on campus increase the number of "elite" grads enlisting?
9.17.2008 4:05pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

To be any more of a Marxist, he would have to be more deceitful... and I fear he has that in him.

Ready the fainting couch.
9.17.2008 4:32pm
Dave N (mail):

No, I do not think it is circular at all. Leftists will hate the military regardless. Abolish DADT; they will find another reason. They will look for a reason to do so.
9.17.2008 4:39pm
David Warner:
As an anti-leftist, I'm nonetheless concerned by the relative approval levels of the military vs. our elected representatives. History is not so sanguine about where such attitudes lead.

Perhaps greater familiarity with the military via ROTC could breed a more meaningful contempt on the left that would sway more of their fellow citizens to a healthier level of skepticism.
9.17.2008 4:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Problem is, civil society is more and more frequently stepping on its necktie. Incompetence, corruption, selfishness.
The military either has fewer of these issues, or hides them better.
Thus, it looks better, and the worse civil society does, the better the military looks.
Might be better to work on improving civil society so that it looks as good as the military.

If the balloon went up, exploded and crashed and we were picking up the pieces, who would you want running the nation until things "got better", Biden or Petraeus?
Who would you want in charge locally, an experienced company commander or one of the county drain commissioners?

Those are scary questions. We can either discredit the military, or take action to make it work less well, or we can improve civil society.
Until we do, the view of the citizenry as to the general merits of the institutions is going to favor the military.
9.17.2008 5:50pm
Russ (mail):
I taught ROTC at UC Davis until a year or so ago, when I finally returned to the MTOE Army. The reflexive disgust of many folks on campus is confined to a small but very vocal minority. The attitude of most students is apathy - they don't care, b/c they won't sign up. But for those who are interested, they like having the choice to join.

Based on some of the admittedly limited run-ins I had with folks who didn't care for me due to my uniform, I'd have to agree that DADT is a smokescreen. The people like the professor who told me that he wanted to know how many more DC Snipers and Tim McVeigh's we were going to produce wouldn't want us on campus regardless of our social policies.
9.17.2008 6:18pm

They should do a forum at Berklee. The military needs a good bands too.

Excellent suggestion PC. All that John Phillip Sousa music is -- hmmm -- "dated". Even the Star Wars theme is getting long of tooth.


Featured Faculty

Michael Bierylo has completed film, video, and multimedia scores for clients like Hasbro Interactive, Nintendo, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, VH1 and Universal Studios.

If we're going to go to joy-stick wars, obviously we need the correct music and sound effects.

And, there appears to be student interest in the military:

Featured Student

Bonica joined the Marine Corps at the age of 18 and while he continues to be proud of his decision to serve his country, Berkleemusic has allowed him to pursue studying what he truly loves, music.

I also see potential great commercial use for the next generation of war songs. The "Bomb Tehran Rap" could sell well. U.S. Army Recruiting Command is already licensing logos and other items.

Sen. Obama wants to make government service "cool." Which do you think more 18 year olds would think of as "cool": Sitting 85 feet up in a tree for a year, or learning to make a 500 meter head shot in a cross wind with words and music downloadable onto an MP3 ?

While I suspect you were trying to be snarky, it's a suggestion that might actually work. Moreover, musicians tend to have above average math aptitude. That's not a bad group to recruit from.

Hi Houston Lawyer. Was worried that Ike had put you off line for an extended period. Glad to see that you're back. Hopefully not to much clean up an inconvenience was experienced.
9.17.2008 6:39pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Is there some reason to think the elite schools have anything special to contribute to the military? Any reason to think a Harvard grad would make a better officer than a guy from Georgia Tech or UC Davis? These folks have chosen to separate themselves from the military. So what?
9.18.2008 12:51am
Russ (mail):

The "so what" is that we need a diverse officer corps from across the spectrum of America. While I come down on the conservative side of most issues, I think it would be very dangerous to have a homogeneous military commanded by nobody except those from West Point and The Citadel.

Such diversity helps keep us grounded in what we do and who we serve - our civilian leadership. Rare are the things I can think of more dangerous to the Republic than an Army of mostly all one mind. What happens at that point if we began to think our "liberal" leaders were all out of touch?
9.18.2008 4:03am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The question is whether those guys at the "elites" would join if ROTC were available. We presume a bit of initiative in our officers. So if we presume these guys would be all King Gustav if only ROTC had been a leeetle bit more convenient, we don't have much evidence of initiative.
OCS is still out there.
When I was in college, Army and AF ROTC were active. They impressed me as four years of having a sore toe. I chose to skate through without the obligation and go to Ft. Benning instead. And I didn't go to the Citidel, VMI, or Texas A&M. Nor did the hundreds of other guys at Chattahoochee High. More diversity than I have encountered anywhere else in my life. Ever.
If they want to join, they'll be there, if they don't, making ROTC easily available won't help.
IMO, it's evidence of the mindset of the university.
What I did miss was the opportunity to make faces at hippies who mocked my uniform and watch them wet their pants. Can't have everything.
9.18.2008 11:33am
Russ (mail):

I disagree. There are those who are interested in serving. UC Davis is not exactly known as "Patriot Central." But having it available as a choice allowed those who wanted to join sign up. Not all who attend these places are "elites."

And diversity is not in skin color - it's in thought and philosophy. Being present in such an environment allows us to interact and talk to each other, which happens more frequently than you think. It's easy to demonize someone you've never met, but views soften when you see folks as real people.
9.18.2008 3:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I think it would be very dangerous to have a homogeneous military commanded by nobody except those from West Point and The Citadel."

I agree. However, we have lots of schools with ROTC programs from which officers are drawn, and nobody is suggesting limiting them to West Point or the Citadel. They are all over the country.

Exactly what does someone from an elite school bring to the military that is not already reprsented by the people coming from the existing ROTC schools? In what specific way is the military deficient because it doesn't have a Harvard grad? What can the Harvard grad contribute that a UC Davis grad can't? What specific characteristic of a Harvard grad is so unique that it would enhance the diversity of the military?
9.18.2008 4:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Russ. As has been pointed out, some schools have ROTC detachments attended by, among others, miscreants from the "elites". The opportunity exists. It is taken or not taken.
And I didn't say a single, solitary, effing word about skin color diversity. You just presumed it.
Let's see. These guys were in my OC company. Professional photographer. MBA in finance. Alaska DNR guy (honeymoon was taking parasite counts on caribou) pre-med guy from Mercer. Double major psych and philosophy. Phys ed. Ranger SFC. Cuban immigrant. Psychology major with background in civil rights. Business major. Pre-med from Wofford who published poetry (he insisted it rhyme and scan because that was a challenge--no Rod McKuen for him ) AG warrant officer. Infantry staff sergeant with two tours in 'nam. Paratrooper enlisted men--2 or 3. Puerto Rican guy with fifteen years in--staff sergeant, i think (we called him the Maximum Leader).
Had a marching song including "sherman came to our town, burned it all to the ground". Switched it to "Hammond came to our town, land values went down". Hammond, being an African American, was left rolling on the ground in helpless laughter.
So, while I think it would be a good thing to expand the demographic from which we draw the military, the Harvard grads seem to have made their interest clear. SCROOM.
9.18.2008 5:44pm
Russ (mail):
Negative - Harvard grads have definitely not made their preferences clear; the administration has. There is a clear difference. Additionally, the diversity to which I am referring is about thought and philosophical difference. Too often we have officers who show group think about politics and society, and that leads down a dangerous road. One of the best guys I know if an out and out flaming liberal who thinks we have no business in Iraq. I disagree with him, but he helps provide a different perspective. He is also a rarity amongst our officer corps.

I am floored that an officer would be ok with limiting the sources from which we draw our leaders. We should expand our sources and let it be known the benefits, not just to God and country, but to the private sector as well. Being a JMO opens all sorts of doors to employers upon exit from service, a benefit we do not make clear when we try to re-open doors at Harvard and other "elite" institutions. To exclude some schools based on the attitudes of a few is to further divide our society and creates an "us vs them" mentality that does no one - our leaders, our military, or our society at large - any good.

I cannot believe I am having to argue the "liberal" position on this. If only my friends could see me now!
9.18.2008 6:21pm
Dear Richard and Russ:

The irony of your argument (whether "elite" colleges should allow ROTC on campus so that future military officers will have the opportunity to attend an elite college) is that the Military Academies meet all the requirements of being "elite" schools, except cost.

On Aug. 14, 2008, released a report "America's Best Colleges," ranked West Point, The U.S. Military Academy at West Point as the sixth best in American colleges on the quality of the education provided and student achievement. West Point was also ranked as the "best public college."

Also in August, U.S. News and World Report announced their 2009 America's Best Colleges Rankings and ranked West Point the "Top Public Liberal Arts College." West Point also was named the 5th best "Undergraduate Engineering Program." The U.S. Naval Academy tied for 6th and the U.S. Air Force Academy tied for 8th.

As far as diversity, see "Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point" by David Lipsky (2003). Lipsky spent 4 years with the West Point Class of 2002. Normally he writes for Rolling Stone. His foreword makes clear that when first assigned to do interviews and profiles of students there, he resisted the idea and did all he could to get out of it. However, he was so impressed with the Cadets, he rented an apartment in a nearby town so that he could be with the Cadets as much as possible, and essentially became a cheerleader for the Academy. He found much greater diversity of all kinds (including encouragement of the faculty towards independent thought) there than at any of the liberal arts or "elite" colleges he had covered.

I suppost the issue becomes why someone who is good enough to be admitted to one of the Military Academies would want to take an academic (and diversity) step down to attend one of the "elite" colleges?
9.18.2008 6:56pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I was making the point that my OCS buddies were diverse as hell. Many different world views. However, due to exigencies, all were the kind who would work their butts off to become Infantry officers, which sort of excludes some folks.
I sure hope you aren't thinking of getting the people who don't want to be Infantry officers running rifle platoons.

It isn't the military creating the us-them mentality. You'd have to get with the faculty and administrations of the elites to find those culprits.

Harvard students have the opportunity. They can change schools. They can attend a ROTC program at a different school. Upon graduation they can go to OCS. They, as a group, choose not to. Which is to say, they've made their choice clear.
9.18.2008 7:36pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Additionally, the diversity to which I am referring is about thought and philosophical difference."

What is different about the thought and philosophy of Harvard grads compared to the thought and philosophy of grads from other universities?

In what areas of thought and philosophy are the grads of UC Davis deficient, and the grads of Harvard proficient?
9.19.2008 12:23pm
Russ (mail):

Thanks for trying an insult that doesn't pass muster. No one is suggesting anyone is deficient in some way, but that by adding a further multitude enhances the officer corps as a whole. Harvard grads usually come from a different background than those at Clemson or UAB, and it is the inclusion of all those points of view that makes us stronger.

BTW, I notice you try to exclude UC Davis from the ranks of the "elites." Have you been out to that school recently?


Richard, I agree that leading an infantry platoon or company is the height of what I came in the Army to do, but it is not for everyone. Just as the Army needs knuckledraggers like me, it also needs signal officers, artillerymen, aviators, and chaplains. And I would hope that those who end up in those specialties wanted to be in them from the get go, since it's likely to make them better officers.

And while I agree that it isn't necessarily the military creating "us versus them," we don't help the situation by retreating into our hidey-holes and mumbling, "Well I didn't want to play with those guys anyway." The students that wish to become officers should not have to find their options more difficult after they realize an interest just b/c they're at Harvard. As an Army, it is our responsibility to reach out to them and let it be known we would welcome them. Otherwise we play directly into the very stereotypes we are accused of by the "elites."
9.20.2008 4:22am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Harvard grads usually come from a different background than those at Clemson or UAB, and it is the inclusion of all those points of view that makes us stronger."

Can you tell us the point of view of someone from the Harvard background? How is it different from the points of view of the grads of the other ROTC schools?

If Harvard grads actually bring no thought and philosophy which grads of other ROTC schools lack, then how does the Harvard grad enhance diversity?
9.20.2008 12:53pm