Elite Schools and the ROTC

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 1 month ago

Andrew Exum recently weighed in concerning “demonizing” so-called elite universities for not having ROTC programs (viz. Columbia University).  Quoth Exum:

Okay, there is one huge problem with this. It’s easy to demonize the “elite” universities for not having more ROTC programs, but the reality is that the U.S. military has been the one most responsible for divesting from ROTC programs in the northeastern United States. It’s hardly the fault of Columbia University that the U.S. Army has only two ROTC programs to serve the eight million residents and 605,000 university students of New York City. And it’s not the University of Chicago’s fault that the entire city of Chicago has one ROTC program while the state of Alabama has ten. The U.S. military made a conscious decision to cut costs by recruiting and training officers where people were more likely to volunteer. That makes sense given an ROTC budget that has been slashed since the end of the Cold War. But it also means that the U.S. Army and its sister services are just as responsible for this divide between the so-called “elite” living within the Acela Corridor and the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was one of two Army ROTC graduates in my class at the University of Pennsylvania, but it was not the fault of Penn or the ban on gays in the military that the U.S. Army decided to shutter the ROTC program at Penn after my freshman year and move us all over to Drexel’s program. (Go Dragon Battalion, by the way!) The U.S. Army made a decision based on a logical (if short-sighted) cost-benefit analysis … we need to ask harder questions about what kind of efforts we need to make to build an officer corps that best represents the American people.

Okay, that’s enough.  Then he goes on to give us the following update: “Cheryl Miller of AEI has a response to my post up on the Weekly Standard’s website, largely agreeing with what I wrote but adding more. Cheryl is the real subject matter expert on ROTC, so be sure to read what she has to say.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds a bit sarcastic, doesn’t it?  “The real subject matter expert?”  I sense the same, tired attitude displayed by CNAS that “I’m the expert, or if I’m not, then I know someone who is, and you should listen to him, and no one else is an expert because they aren’t my expert, and if you haven’t done what I’ve done and been where I’ve been, you aren’t qualified to speak on the issue, because I’m the real expert … and oh, did I tell you that I’m the real expert at almost everything, and if I’m not, my buds are?”

In fact, it isn’t at all obvious to me that someone would have to have been an alumni of an ROTC program in order to comment on what kind of people we want in ROTC programs.  Remember that civilian control of the military thing?  Many military experts commenting over the web (various sites) claim that they want civilian input, but that’s usually a ruse.

So someone tell me why it’s a good thing to “build an officer corps that best represents the American people?”  Why would I place positive value on such a thing?  Do we want mediocre students along with bright ones?  If the answer is no, we just want the best students who represents sectors of society, then we’ve already discriminated.  Discrimination.  It’s not a bad thing in the right context.  Discrimination helps to categorize red lights from green lights, and color blind people sometimes cannot do that.

Greyhawk comments thusly about this issue: “If the goal of the faculty of Columbia is to produce graduates unfit for doing the rough work of a workaday world, they’re demonstrably good at what they do. (I’m not sure why anyone, much less the military, should view their product as desirable employees.)”

I’ll be even a little more blunt.  I see no compelling reason whatsoever to care enough to start ROTC programs on the campuses of “elite” universities.  In fact, if offered a choice, I would prefer that we don’t.  Would we rather have students from the Ivy League universities who have been schooled in Jacques Derrida, or from Southern universities schooled in the sciences?  I mean no disrespect to those readers who have studied hard in the social sciences or other-than hard sciences like physics or math.  But I am saying that there is a qualitative difference in the result produced between the two approaches, and the products are intended for different ends.

I know.  I took literature too, and all of the social sciences, and I didn’t really learn to think about the humanities until I attended seminary and took historical theology and apologetics, and read things you won’t read in Ivy League universities such as “An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy” by A. H. Armstrong, Carl Becker’s “Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers”, Frederick Copleston, Ronald Nash, Gordon H. Clark, Alvin Plantinga, W. G. T. Shedd, Francis Turretin, Charles Hodge, William Cunningham and John Calvin.  Such writings would challenge the order of things.  The universities are cheating our students into thinking that they are learning something by teaching them deconstruction, race studies and feminism.

But I took kinematics, statics and dynamics, calculus and fluid mechanics too (just not in seminary).  I can still think of no compelling reason at all to pursue the Ivy League schools.  Let me see.  Someone who studied the humanities from Columbia, or someone who studied fluid mechanics and calculus in a Mechanical Engineering major from Clemson University, N.C. State or Georgia Tech?  It seems pretty clear to me.  Who would you rather have commanding an M1A1?

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  1. On February 25, 2011 at 12:45 am, Rick said:

    I am with you on this one and would add if someone from an Elite school wants to join the military they have other avenues than ROTC. The Marine Corps has their Platoon leaders program the Navy has an OCS program for any college graduate. Graduates from the elite schools that seek the military out would be more of the exceptional ones that might actually be worth having in an M1A2.

  2. On February 25, 2011 at 8:45 am, bob sykes said:

    I would go further and exclude graduates of the elite schools from military service and from the foreign service. The basic issue is the loyalty of the elite school graduates.

  3. On February 25, 2011 at 11:15 am, Warbucks said:

    I would argue perhaps a little differently, that the workings of democracy are improved not diminished by enhancing the reach of our openness and understandings. A professional officer corp is likewise enhanced by the reach of its gene-pool of volunteer participants. The right stuff comes through and shines when it needs to be recognized for our best interests.

    Humility, respect for the constitutional supremacy of civil authority, is as likely to be found North of the Mason-Dixon Line, as South of it.

    The current rogue iconoclastic President is not proof that Ivy-League would produce rogue iconoclastic generals. Col. West on the other hand is a leader in war, and a Southern in all respects. Success in politics at the highest levels, may prove to require leadership characteristics not assured by Southern heritage vis. Jimmy Carter.

    I would argue the bigger the gene-pool the better our chances.

  4. On February 25, 2011 at 11:47 am, Burk said:

    Hi, Guys- It is a bit dizzying to see you compete in declaring how rogue, yet stupid, yet conventional, yet iconoclastic, the Ivy products are.

    Anyhow, the original point has merit- that it doesn’t behoove a democracy to compose its military forces from an unrepresentative sample of the population, even a hereditary caste of sorts. And the extent to which the old South is dominant in the armed forces is also troubling, after one sees stirrings of secession flaring up every so often from that quarter (Texas, most recently).

    And if civilian input is mostly a ruse, then it is even more imperative to compose the armed forces from a cross-section (politically, demographically, religiously, geographically, … not intellectually) of the population, so that its impulses don’t diverge too much from the population which it serves.

    Thankfully, the officer schools explicitly select from all states equally. What would I do with the ROTC? I’d take it out of schools (high schools and colleges) altogether and integrate it with the reserve / national guard system, which is more evenly spread across the country. That might make it a more professional operation as well.

  5. On February 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Burk said: “It is a bit dizzying to see you compete in declaring how rogue, yet stupid, yet conventional, yet iconoclastic, the Ivy products are.”

    I didn’t say any of those things. To whom are you speaking, and what are you talking about?

  6. On February 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm, Nathan said:

    would you not consider the usma and the usna elite universities (colleges). in fact both universities have set standards for the liberal arts. if it is more important for an officer to have had an education in the hard sciences, then why are the military academies staunchly liberal arts? why aren’t they tech colleges?

  7. On February 27, 2011 at 3:21 pm, Dave said:

    Bob. Well said. Let’s make sure we test our new officers on their loyalty before we allow them into our nations fighting forces. You’re so right. We don’t even need to consider candidates from those ivy tower liberal factories. The last thing we need is more diversity of ideas and approaches in our military. I think our boys have things under control over there and don’t need some liberal arts show off questioning methods and structures from within. If they were loyal Americans they would have gone to a real school, stopped questioning the way our heroes fight. Keep up the good work bob. Loyal Americans don’t ask hard questions. They definitely don’t attend schools with people who might disagree with them.

  8. On February 28, 2011 at 1:45 am, BegPardon? said:

    “I see no compelling reason whatsoever to care enough to start ROTC programs on the campuses of “elite” universities. In fact, if offered a choice, I would prefer that we don’t. Would we rather have students from the Ivy League universities who have been schooled in Jacques Derrida, or from Southern universities schooled in the sciences?”
    1. We can make an assumption that students graduating from “elite” institutions are pretty intelligent. At the very least, there’s an extremely high barrier for entry, and many of the alumni from these institutions go on to become titans of their chosen fields. Why would a military power NOT want to draw from this highly intelligent pool? Would it rather *not* have these intelligent prospective officers?
    2. Further, does the study of Jacques Derrida (or a related field) imply the student is somehow less capable of comprehending military tactics and strategy? That seems to be a rather broad and baseless statement.
    3. These students may come from a more diversified background than those matriculating from say NC State. Wouldn’t bringing different life experiences and perspectives to the table add to an armed force? It isn’t clear from your argument how that detracts from a candidate’s fitness for command, or role within the service (assuming NOT wanting ROTC programs on their makes them less desirable). Further, isn’t it inherently better to have a larger share of the population bearing the burden of securing our ability to through our economic weight around as we please? Particularly as these graduates will generally reap more fruit of our military policies?
    4. Many of these elite universities are renowned for their humanities and social sciences departments. What about the excellent engineering programs most “elite” universities have? Would the Marine Corps rather have that Clemson engineer or the #2 undergraduate engineering program Stanford engineer?
    5. By introducing the military to many of these “elites” they go from “big scary baby-killers” to my friend across the hall, or that girl in my Lit section. When they see the uniforms on their peers, it exposes a greater swath of our nation, and in many cases a swath who go to positions of power, to the military. This is a good thing. Not so scary. It creates a dialog within an important sector of society that would otherwise never be engaged. Will Columbia students go to heckle war veterans when they have a semester or to to understand that veteran or cadets motivations? Maybe, maybe not. Dialog is good. Further, when the US shifted to an AVF, it gave America the license to apathy. If you didn’t like the war, you didn’t have to serve. If you don’t like the war, you don’t have to serve. This only reduces public action to possibly prevent inadvisable, illegal, and irresponsible intervention. Returning ROTC to more campuses increases dialog, increases the amount of people with “ties” to the military, and engages them in an administration’s responsible use of force.

    6. Admittedly, it costs more to go to Princeton than NC State. Costs the military incurs with scholarships. Less money for bullets and bomb and $600 toilet seats. Not such a good thing in this period of budget belt tightening.

    Why would it be a good idea? Whether you study nuclear physics, English Lit, or something in between, these elite universities are producing smart, driven people. Why would a military NOT want these cadets?

  9. On February 28, 2011 at 9:50 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Nathan and “BegPardon?” have asked questions. BegPardon? seems to have a legitimate e-mail address, so why not use a legitimate name to go with that?

    As for the USNA, it is heavily technical, and has to be based on sending people into highly technical areas such as the navy nuclear program and the management of ships and supporting structures, systems and components. So it is for the USAF Academy. As for the USMA at West Point, I cannot speak to that. Someone else could weigh in.

    As for what engineering program is better than the next, that wasn’t the point of my post. There is essentially no difference between Ga. Tech, NCSU, Clemson, Stanford, Purdue, U. Michigan, RPI or MIT. An engineeering program is an engineering program. I guess I picked Southern schools for the usually conservative bent in the South. I don’t happen to see it as a positive thing to send people into the armed forces who don’t believe in the defense of the nation. Here’s a good test. How many students at Harvard support the reliable replacement warhead program? Remember that nuclear weapons have contributed more to the peace of the world in the last half century than anything else. Search back through the “DoD” and “Nuclear” category archives here and read what the DoD itself has said about losing our warheads and the need to refurbish them in order to maintain our advantage. Now. Under what conditions is it ever okay to send someone into our armed forces who would disagree with that?

    I reiterate (and wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t believe it). Spending time studying Jacques Derrida isn’t a legitimate use of money, time, effort, or anything else, and especially not on the government’s dole. Such people learn nothing but pedantic, self-centered and meaningless circular reasoning. It’s worth nothing. People who spend time studying Newtonian physics can actually do something with what they’ve learned in school.

  10. On February 28, 2011 at 11:55 am, TS Alfabet said:

    I think one point that is being overlooked in the discussion here is that, for many of us, conservatives especially, we do not concede that the Ivy League schools (and their academic soul mates) are either “elite” or necessarily providing a good education.

    Rather, if you follow Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit and Hot Air you will find a recurrent theme of the higher education bubble being the next to burst. A college degree used to really impart something to its graduates. Now, more often than not, colleges are imparting less and less real education and just filling the role of societal laboratory and inculcation factory— churning out drones who think along a certain, liberal/socialist/left wing path. Just look at how any speaker that dares to show up at a liberal campus to give a speech is shouted down, threatened or run out of town. And 99% of the time it is not only tolerated but encouraged by the campus faculty and administration. Competing viewpoints are no longer tolerated. The closing of the American Mind indeed. Sadly, a college degree is simply a social marker that tells prospective employers, spouses, colleagues etc.. where the graduate fits in the pecking order. It says little to nothing about actual brains, abilities, talent, leadership etc…

    So, no, alot of us do not consider a graduate of Harvard or Yale or Stanford, for that matter, to be a valuable member of society. If anything, they are handicapped by a lot of useless left-wing drivel that will take years, even a lifetime for them to unlearn in the school of reality. This is how people like Al Gore and John Kerry and Obama can be so stupid. They all have Ivy League degrees, but they know NOTHING about how the world really works. It is all theory and dogma. Ivy Leaguers are the modern equivalent of the Dark Ages priest: they cling to their ideology no matter what.

    So why would we want such people in the armed forces? They do too much damage running the country as it is. Is it just a coincidence that the U.S. military, made up predominantly of conservative, patriotic non-elites, is about the only federal entity that functions well? It is the entity that is constantly tasked with everything when the SHTF, as it did in Iraq in 2006. Combat, civil engineering, community development, educational projects, policing… the military has to do it all because nothing else in the elite-run federal government does anything.

  11. On February 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm, Kyle said:

    Formerly BegPardon?, I apologize, I used a different name in lieu of a subject title. My mistake.

    To discount the knowledge obtained within a humanities perspective as useless or drivel is inherently narrow-minded, and incorrect. It is painting with with an incredibly broad brush without any empirical backing. It’s easy to point to elected leadership with whom you don’t agree with and say “Look, they’ve got an ‘elite’ degree and (I personally believe) they’re screwing up! ‘Elite’ degrees are useless!” Huge sample and selectivity bias. You completely discount the many graduates who go on to become titans of industry and their respective fields, who do have a B.A. instead of a B.S. To say a degree other than an engineering one is both incorrect and narrow-minded.
    Smart people go to both state schools and elite schools. Smart people study humanities and engineering sciences. Why would a military not want smart officers?

    Further, (broadly I’ll admit) I’d imagine those students studying Jacques Derrida *probably won’t* be considering military service. Luckily, these institutions are not only comprised of those studying humanities. In a similar vein, there are many Southern ROTC programs at institutions that do not teach engineering exclusively. I have no figures on the Auburn University ROTC graduates and their respective majors, but lets assume at least some of those cadets are not receiving a B.S. Are they unworthy of a commission? Has the government’s money been wasted? Are they becoming the dregs of the officer corps? I don’t know for certain, but I doubt it. And if they are not, is it just because they were educated in the South that makes them fit for command, while an education north of the MD, makes a cadet unfit? That argument implies that a liberal political bent inherently makes one unfit for military service, AND that every student at these institutions are liberal. Is that true? No. Are democrats not patriots? Isn’t the military (officially) supposed to be apolitical?

    I gave Stanford as an example to show that while ‘Elite’ schools have the reputation of being bastions of the liberal humanities (of which the reputation is well deserved), this discounts the many highly trained engineers and scientists matriculating from these institutions, on par with engineers graduating a few hundred miles to the south. So okay, even if we bought into the idea that anyone not studying for a B.S. is encumbered by useless drivel and dogma, at the very least there is a wealth of students who are receiving the required training valued by this article.

    “I don’t happen to see it as a positive thing to send people into the armed forces who don’t believe in the defense of the nation.”
    Do ‘Elite’ universities have a liberal bent? Unequivocally. Does that mean all their students dislike America and would refuse to defend their rights? Absolutely not, and to assume so demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of that element of society, a dissonance that supports the greater dialog, exposure, and participation of that element. Those who don’t want to defend their rights won’t, and those who do want to defend will. Simple.

  12. On February 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm, Kyle said:

    To Exum’s point, if the Army decides it’s more cost effective to have less ROTC programs in the North, fine. Does it make sense to put an entire separate battalion at say, Harvard, where only a handful of students graduate via ROTC per year? No, clearly not. But should these institutions recognize ROTC on their campuses? Yes. Would these cadets be less valuable to the military if they studied political science, or had a minor in Spanish Literature? I don’t see why.

  13. On February 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm, TS Alfabet said:

    I think you make at least one, valid point, Kyle.

    I do not think that a liberal arts degree is an automatic disqualifier or necessarily worse than a hard science degree, particularly where the military is looking for leadership and not specific, technical knowledge (i.e., an engineering battalion vs. combat infantry). So I, for one, do not dismiss a humanities degree as useless or drivel per se.

    On the other hand, as you seem to concede, the near-universal, left wing bent of the Northeastern and similar “elite” universities presents a definite handicap. It is not too much of a generalization to say that graduates of Ivy League colleges have a tendency to consider themselves to be smarter and better than non-Ivey Leaguers. That is, afterall, the reason that *most* of these people decided to attend a school that costs more each year than the homes that many people live in. They didn’t go into a mountain of debt to graduate without some feeling that they were getting a better education than the rest of us.

    “That argument implies that a liberal political bent inherently makes one unfit for military service, AND that every student at these institutions are liberal. Is that true? No. Are democrats not patriots? Isn’t the military (officially) supposed to be apolitical?”

    I think it can be objectively demonstrated that those with a left wing bent suffer from disconnects with reality, dogmatic adherence to beliefs that fly in the face of truth and experience—for example, an adherence to socialism long after it has been proven to be a failure everywhere it has been tried, a refusal to consider other points of view that contradict the Left Wing view and, further, a tendency to silence– often by unethical or illegal means– those contrary views, or to lie, embellish, manipulate or twist facts to fit their Left Wing Narrative.

    So, in answer to your statement, yes, I think a Left Wing “‘bent” does, in most instances, render someone unfit to serve as an officer or even an ordinary grunt, for that matter. While not *every* graduate of an Ivy League school is Left Wing, the overwhelming majority are and, from a cost-benefit analysis, that is ample reason to avoid those schools for recruiting purposes. Even graduates of Ivy League schools who are not Left Wing are probably damaged goods— closet conservatives by necessity– who would take too much time and effort to repair. There are surely some who are a credit to the armed forces, but they bear the burden of demonstrating it; they do not get the benefit of the doubt.

  14. On February 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm, Kyle said:

    TS Alfabet, without going too far off-topic, Socialism is working pretty well in the European union. Many socialist countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, etc) have the highest standards of living and happiness as measured by a number of metrics. Not that I would trade good ol’ American capitalism for anything, nor do I think it would work in our particular socio-economic state, but that statement is incorrect.

    Further you’re statements about those left-leaning are both incredibly general, and only accurately describe as small contingent on the edge of the political spectrum. In truth, our nation is one largely of those politically apathetic, where our political discourse is dominated by those most loud and vitriolic on both ends of the spectrum. The same description “dogmatic” can just as easily be applied to those fringe Conservatives. As far as lies, embellishment, twisting facts, it is done by both sides. And it’s wrong and unethical in both instances. But three words: Glenn-freaking-Beck.

    “A definite handicap.” A broad statement without any reasoning to support it. What has yet to be answered is how an education at an “elite” school makes a cadet somehow a worse leader. “Damaged goods?” Baseless, uninformed, and narrow-minded. You’re applying the same arrogance to your political belief as you assert the ‘elites’ do with their education. And personally I’m a right leaning Centerist. Do they think they are getting a better value for their increased tuition? Obviously. Is the value commensurate with the cost? I don’t know, but there is no base to the logic that because they believe they are getting a value commensurate with higher tuition, they will become worse officers. And again, should not our military be apolitical, as an instrument of our civilian government, whoever is in office? Shouldn’t those ‘elites’ who will be benefiting most from our strong defense policy via strong economy be sharing the burden of defending that economy?

    Most importantly, you instruct a soldier (or sailor or airman or Marine) to carry out an assignment that supports the defense of our nation. How does a liberal political belief, or any political belief interfere with carrying out whatever assignment necessary? There is a mission, and a chain of command. Where does this interfere? Our military in WWI and WWII cut across all classes and political beliefs. Worked out all right for the home team.

    The last sentence I’d agree with, but the rest, particularly the 5th paragraph is subjective and baseless. Portrays a fringe of a party as the beliefs of an entire population, and somehow believes the conservative fringe is immune from such follies.

  15. On February 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Well, here’s the deal Kyle. I’ll provide a more comprehensive response later but for now I want to stop one thing in particular. A recurring theme in your responses to me and to others is this statement that something someone has said is “subjective and baseless.”

    Let me try to explain my utter hatred of that style of debate by giving an example, and then you’ll have to go read the book for details. See Gordon H. Clark, “Religion, Reason and Revelation.” He discusses in the very first chapter of the book the notion among some liberals that the Christian revelation is myth, fairy tale, or fantasy (speaking obviously to the source, form and redaction critics), and that it’s religion rather than logic or a system of thought. Over the course of the next dozen or so pages he completely disembowels that argument by showing that when someone says that s/he has to first posit category definitions by which they either include or exclude the very thing they are trying to categorize. Thus saying that such-and-such as mere fairy tale is saying nothing more than you do not assign positive truth value to it. It’s a subjective statement.

    Likewise, you offer many subjective statements yourself while charging others with that same thing. From now on, stick to the facts, cite data and leave the charges out of it. No one cares that you find that a proposition someone believes “baseless.”

    Of course you do. Why else would you disagree with it?

  16. On March 1, 2011 at 1:29 am, Kyle said:

    In response to the point on Socialism as failed, I give nations where it has not. According to the human development index, the top 10 countries with the highest standard of living are “socialist”. Again the top 10 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality-of-Life Index are “socialist”.

    TS Alfabet paints with an incredibly wide brush describing all Liberals in paragraph 5. I call him on this, and make an assertion that it describes a fringe of the political group. Is this objective? No. But it doesn’t make a subjective, blanket statement qualifying over 100 million people. I’m not fitting a narrow, specific definition to a group of over 100 million people spanning all socio-economic backgrounds. I say that the description fits a fringe on both sides of the political spectrum, and evidence this with Glenn Beck.
    “a definite handicap” which I categorize as broad and baseless. There was no support given to the statement, and it attempted to categorize a large swath of population. Broad. Baseless. Unless the logic that all liberals are stupid, so all liberals have handicaps is going to be accepted as ‘sound’ logic. Similarly, ‘damaged goods.’ A statement applied to millions without any shred of evidence. Broad. Baseless. I’m not making the subjective assertions, but asking for some support, *any* support for those claims. I’m not saying ‘you’re wrong’, whatever my beliefs, I’m saying “you made an incredibly broad statement without any evidence or proof to back it up, other than your personal feelings on the matter”

    Back to the questions I’m asking but have yet to be answered. How an education at an “elite,” northern school makes a cadet somehow a worse leader? The response given has been because all liberals are stupid and thus even the more conservative of them are “damaged goods.” Broad. Baseless. In a military climate where we do not want our officers to be robots, but to think outside the box, how does a degree other than a B.S. make a cadet less qualified? The answer so far: liberal arts = useless drivel. Broad. Baseless. When I say baseless, I’m asking you to qualify. When you assert a truth, the burden of proof falls on you. None has been provided.

    I ask a question, “Shouldn’t those ‘elites’ who will be benefiting most from our strong defense policy via strong economy be sharing the burden of defending that economy?”
    Another question, “How does a liberal political belief, or any political belief interfere with carrying out whatever assignment necessary? There is a mission, and a chain of command. Where does this interfere?” I evidence genesis of question with example: an armed forces cutting across all classes and political beliefs in WWI and WWII.

  17. On March 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm, Warbucks said:

    I accept without due-diligence research your reported observation that ROTC’s are being supported in the Southern States over the Northern, but I think its a simple matter of cost effectiveness and nothing more.

    We might even discover a similar pattern for ordinary recruiting centers. If so, that too would most likely reflect cost effectiveness during tight budgets.

    But to align our entire democracy under your hypothesis: “I see no compelling reason whatsoever to care enough to start ROTC programs on the campuses of ‘elite’ universities,” seems fatally tribalistic and divisive.

    See Gordon H. Clark, “Religion, Reason and Revelation.”
    What is knowledge?
    How is knowledge acquired?
    How do we know what we know?

    I’m Gnostic-mystic. My core truths that support what I do, how I act, and my perceptions of reality are derived from personal inward meditation, revelations and statistical probabilities: http://tinyurl.com/4knlbzj

    My believe system is not oriented to helping me dominate the rest of this world but to find nonviolent methodologies that bridge perceived differences among viewpoints and experiences peacefully. This is often read by others as liberal and/or evil, but is instead simply a state of compassion and love…. and it’s a phase.

    But even from that state, when one chooses to be part of society, one accepts overriding duties to sometimes war, to father, to sacrifice. We all seem to go through our own cycles at our own pace. I reject your thesis as not serving an outcome to a world I would vote for. I see your world as being fear-based only.

    Mutual Assured Destruction is a passing phase of humanity; moving beyond it is no harder than giving up a life long opium habit. Usually something very special has to happen inside us first.

  18. On March 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    This conversation is hitting on about one out of eight cylinders, and it isn’t my fault. Kyle, everything you say is subjective and baseless. Subjective and baseless. Subjective and baseless. A thousand times, subjective and baseless. There. Now do you feel bad about your positions?

    No, I didn’t think so. You see, I gave you the chance actually to engage in logical rhetoric and persuasion, but you want to continue the adolescent rantings. To have an @Harvard.edu e-mail address, you should be a little more cautious in your debates (or at least, to hear you tell it, since Ivy Leaguers are so smart).

    Let’s go back to the beginning and try again. I’ll give you one more chance, and that chance shall not be occupied with “your claims are subjective and baseless.” You prove absolutely nothing when you argue that way, and I won’t contribute band width to it.

    I am actually a bit surprised that you haven’t caught on to one very important aspect of this conversation, and I have given you adequate chance and hints to help you along. But let’s clear one thing up before we begin. I don’t grant the point in reality that students at Ivy League schools are “smarter” (whatever that means) than any other students. I could share conversations I have had about entering freshmen in the University of Texas engineering program and their test scores, but that’s a bridge too far right now. Suffice it to say that I am not convinced – until someone shows me incontrovertible evidence – that, say, someone at Texas A&M or U. of Texas is not as “smart” as someone at an Ivy League school. But for the sake of argument I am willing to concede the point just so that I can proceed (since I will not get you to concede the contrary point, in order to engage in debate I must concede something so that we launch the conversation from a common presupposition – and thus, I am being gracious and you are not).

    And speaking of presuppositions, or axiomatic irreducibles, that’s where the conversation really needs to begin. You take it as axiomatic that the U.S. military should be seeking the “smartest” people. I do not. This has nothing to do with “subjective” or “baseless,” but rather, reflects a value judgment. Look back in your text books, “Kyle.” Somewhere you studied this, and yes, even you have and make numerous value judgments that start the reasoning process as axioms rather than themselves being the production of a syllogism. It’s the way logic (and mathematics) works.

    You see, to me, if someone asked “what are the most valuable qualities that the U.S. should pursue in its fighting men,” being “smart” wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of my list. “Kyle,” it’s a value judgment. I might respond something like, (1) patriotism, (2) dedication, (3) propensity to hard work, (4) adaptability, (5) leadership qualities, (6) compassion to fellow men, etc., etc. I would have to think about a comprehensive list, but rest assured, being smart would be low on the list.

    I value an engineer who, while he could rehearse his second order differential equations, when faced with a system he thinks, “Whew, I really don’t want to relive my matrix math right now. Besides, my employer doesn’t want to spend the time and money. I know a better way. I can spend five minutes, estimate the answer, and get within 96% percent. And that’s good enough.”

    I don’t even necessarily want my primary care physician to be the “smartest” man alive. I want a doctor who loves me, works hard to stay abreast of the latest developments, and is conscientious. My doctor does love me, and he is a hard worker, and conscientious. He is smart too, but that’s not the point. I value other things above that.

    Your fixation on seeking the “smartest and brightest” people alive has no merit with me. I see no reason that we should pursue such a thing. It isn’t obvious, and you haven’t made a case for it. All you’ve done is shout “BASELESS” and “SUBJECTIVE.” Until you make your case and persuade me, it is your claims that are baseless. But then again, you haven’t attempted to persuade yet. Perhaps you don’t think you can make that case?

    “Kyle,” what to you seems baseless or subjective is because of value judgments, and the reason that some of the commenters have trouble with some of the things you say is because of your very own value judgments.

    As for whether the grand social experiment has worked in old Europe, I’ll leave that to TSAlfabet since he brought it up. I suspect you learned all about the raving “success” of it in “elite” universities, and you probably even paid good money for it. But that’s a discussion (for me) for another time.

    On to a few other odds and ends, I didn’t bring up Glen Beck, and I’m not sure why you did. I agree with some of what he says, not all of it, but dislike his presentation and find it annoying. But again, why you brought him up is unknown to me. Do you often get lost in conversations like this and bring up irrelevant things?

    Earlier you described yourself as a “right leaning centerist.” You might have meant “centrist.”

    Now. It’s time for you to take a deep breath and think. No more shouting “baseless” and “subjective.” In fact, no more shouting at all. This is my forum, and I grant the privilege of writing comments, but not for the purpose of harrassment. I want people to be able, respectfully, to engage in persuasion. Try this. Try to persuade. Consider what I have written and if you feel that there is a case to be made for the military seeking the “smartest” people around and that means engaging the Ivy League schools to the exclusion of others, then make that case. Others will engage your points. But it’s too easy to pick on what someone else has written. There is no intellectual work in that, and frankly, when that’s all a person does, it’s rather cowardly. It’s your turn to work some, respectfully, and thoughtfully. Persuade. Have some courage and do some work for yourself.

    Rich, sigh, truth is not one thing to one person and another to another. If there are 100 beliefs on a given subject, then logic dictates that at least 99 of them are false, and maybe all 100. But don’t too wrapped around my reference to Clark. It had to do with trying to point “Kyle” back to presuppositions. Kyle didn’t do his homework, and Clark remains unstudied in this conversation.

    EDIT: This comment is incomplete, and so I am adding to it. Back to one original point in the post, Kyle raised the issue of language. I think that it’s good and necessary for everyone to have taken at least some math and physics. But in fact, if someone has studied Spanish or Arabic, I see that as highly valuable to the armed forces. And that’s the point. I reiterate. Someone who understands fluid mechanics and hydraulics is better suited to command an M1A1 than someone who has studied Jacque Derrida. And thus do I value not only the things I discussed above, but actually having learned something that is applicable and useful to a prospective employer, including the armed forces. Translation: Studying Jacque Derrida has no useful application in the armed forces. Studying fluid mechanics does.

  19. On March 1, 2011 at 8:08 pm, Nathan said:

    “Translation: Studying Jacque Derrida has no useful application in the armed forces. Studying fluid mechanics does.”


    i have never read derrida. don’t even know who he is. however, for millennia generals (and military leaders in general) studied what we would consider the liberal arts. they read caesar, the aeneid, marcus aurelius, ptolemy, thucydides (in the original latin and greek), along with various works of science.

    did clausewitz study fluid dynamics? did washington? napolean?

  20. On March 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Good grief. Napolean didn’t have M1A1s or Amphibious Assault Docks. And no, if you actually think that reading Jacque Derrida is worthwhile, then you never have read him.

  21. On March 1, 2011 at 10:22 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Additional perspective:


  22. On September 6, 2011 at 10:52 am, Charles Holmes said:

    Great article about ROTC.

    Lots of great schools don’t have ROTC. And some great schools do.

    I think it’s much more important to be selective about WHO we let enter the ROTC program, rather than where we have ROTC programs.

    Good officers (and bad officers) come from just about every demographic.

    Thanks for the great post.


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You are currently reading "Elite Schools and the ROTC", entry #6409 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) ROTC and was published February 24th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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